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Today is Victoria Day of the long weekend, which happens to be very important for Canadians because it is the May Two-Four Weekend: Queen Victoria’s birthday, cottage opening, garden planting, and the first outdoor BBQs and patios!! It is also the weekend that JT and I tied the knot! Yes indeed, we hitched up on the holiday Monday of a long weekend. Now, now, don’t get your knickers in a knot, the wedding ceremony started at 3pm on the holiday Monday, so people realistically could still get up to the cottage, open and get back in time for the wedding. Not everyone was happy about our decision, but it wasn’t really our fault, you see it was our first time and we had no idea how far in advance you had to book your venue for the reception (we found one venue that was taking bookings 3 years from the date), so when we found one available on the holiday Monday only 5 months after we got engaged, we went for it.

The weeks leading up to our wedding were lovely; gorgeous, warm, spring weather, three beautiful bridal showers, and the shear excitement every time a parcel arrived at the door! I had everything planned out, it would be a glorious day and everything would be perfect. I should have known things don’t always go as planned.

The night before the wedding, I tried on my dress and Mom and I decided we really didn’t love the neckline, it was far too high; fortunately, the dress was lace and I was able to trim away the bits we didn’t care for, using manicure scissors, and it worked out perfectly. I went to bed that night with my hair in rollers and I said a little prayer for my Dad who had passed in 1981 and crossed my fingers and toes that it would be a beautiful, sunny, spring day.

I awoke Monday, May 19 to a cold, dark and dreary, rainy day. I honestly thought I would be devastated but I wasn’t, I was absolutely fine. Things would go on with slight modifications. No big deal. And because the rain persisted ALL DAY, people were not that upset about having to leave the cottage early (we had a lot of cottager guests). After the ceremony, we were going to take photos in my In-Laws’ garden but since we couldn’t, we moved it inside (they had a lovely mansion), everything was just fine. The strange thing about that day was that it rained constantly, without stopping ALL DAY with the exception of the few times I stepped outside — to get into the limo from my Mom’s home, to get out of the limo at the Church, and to and from my In-Law’s home and finally to and from our reception! It stopped EVERY SINGLE TIME! I didn’t use an umbrella and I did not get wet! Thanks, Dad! We had a typical dinner for a wedding of that time (caesar salad, roast beef, Yorkshire puddings, and steamed veg) but considering the cool day, we sure could have used some soup and this soup would have been perfect. (click on the photo below for a short slide show). Please forgive me, the eighties were unforgiving style-wise!

To celebrate our 31st wedding anniversary (I was a child bride ;-)), we took a little road trip to Stratford, Ontario to see Guys and Dolls and stay overnight. Stratford is aptly named for the city in England and its primary mandate is to present Shakespearean plays but also includes a variety of Greek tragedies and Broadway-style musicals (wiki) to broaden its reach. It was a great weekend, although the weather went from 30° C (86° F) to 10° C (50° F) with high cold winds, we enjoyed walking around this pedestrian-friendly town with an excellent food scene. Here is a little slideshow of our trip.

As I mentioned, the weather turned on the morning of our trip (and our actual wedding day) and we were basically back in November! I had a huge soup craving and this one would have certainly hit the spot. I have made these grilled cheese croutons, again and again, they are excellent in a caesar salad too (use Parmesan instead of cheddar)!

Creamed Broccoli Pesto Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1 L or 4 cups soup

Ingredients:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 100 g (1 medium size) sweet onions, chopped
  • 300 g (2 stems) broccoli, including the stems, chopped
  • 20 g (3-4 cloves) garlic, roughly chopped
  • 45 ML (3 tbsp) basil pesto (I used this recipe but used ground almonds instead of pine nuts)
  • vegetable or chicken stock

Directions:

  1. Using a splash of olive oil, caramelize the onions, about 15 minutes.
  2. Add the broccoli and garlic and cover with stock and cook until softened (about 30 minutes).
  3. Add the basil pesto and cook for an additional minute.
  4. Using an immersion blender, blend soup until very smooth, adding more stock to achieve desired thickness (I did not need to). Press through a fine sieve.
  5. Serve with Grilled Cheese croutons (recipe below).

These are crisp, cheesy croutons.

Grilled Cheese Croutons

Ingredients:

  • 1 slice of seeded bread (we like this one)
  • 30 mL (2 tbsp) Mycryo
  • 50 g (1/2 cup) shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F (177° C).
  2. Cut the bread into bite-sized cubes and coat with the Mycryo. Bake, stirring often until bread has become dried croutons. Toss with the shredded cheddar and return to the oven and bake until cheese melts and caramelizes.
  3. To serve the soup, ladel soup into warm bowls and toss the grilled cheese croutons on top and serve piping hot.

If you love crispy cheese, you will love these croutons.

When JT and I were first married, we lived in our first home in Stouffville, a bedroom community Northeast of Toronto. JT would drive 30 minutes to an hour to work and I would take the hour long GO Train (Government of Ontario commuter train) downtown. Fortunately, the downtown train station was connected to an intricate underground system called PATH, Toronto’s Downtown Pedestrian Walkway that I would take all the way to work in the Financial District. Of course, these underground paths were always lined with stores, tempting you to buy, buy, buy!! There may have been one or two instances when I may have picked up a new outfit on the way to work, and I would change into it at the fitness club after my workout!

There were also several food courts along the way, so if one became a little famished from the long journey to work, one might pick up a nibble or two along the way! That is when I became addicted to Bran Date Muffins. These overly processed, moist and sticky muffins were sold at a “healthy” eatery along my walk to work. I usually don’t go for the ready made treats but there was something so moreish about these muffins (texture and taste) that I bought one or two every week (that’s when I had a metabolism!). These days, I wouldn’t dare eat that type of muffin, knowing what I know about the ingredients they use to make them so moreish so that is why I decided to try to recreate my obsession using healthy ingredients. I also decided to make them mini so that I could have a small treat without committing to a regular-sized muffin.

They are not the same as the ones I had so many years ago, but they are quite tasty and not nearly as bad for you so I’m pretty happy with the outcome. The bran and nuts provide great texture, the apples and the dates give it some moistness. Next time, I think I will reduce the flour component and increase the apples and fruit juice.

JT was quite surprised that there is no processed sugar in these babies, just dates, apples and fruit juice to sweeten.

Apple, Bran and Date Mini-Muffins revamped

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 30 mini-muffins

Ingredients:

  • 250 mL (1 cup) fruit juice
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 375 mL (1 1/2 cup) peeled and shredded apple
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) chopped dates
  • 250 mL (1 cup) bran buds
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) chopped pecans
  • 2 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 30 mL (2 tsp) cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F (190° C). Spray 24 mini-muffin pan with non-stick spray. Set aside.
  2. Combine the whole egg and the egg white and beat until well mixed, add the milk and stir to combine.
  3. In a large bowl, add the bran buds, shredded apple and dates, stir until combined. Pour the egg mixture over the top, stirring it in. Allow to stand 5 minutes.
  4. Sift the flour with the baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
  5. Fold the flour mixture into the bran mixture until everything is combined. Stir in the chopped pecans.
  6. Divide batter into 30 mini-muffin cups evenly (24 first, then 6). Bake for 20-22 minutes or until cake tester comes clean.

Notes:

  • If you’d rather make regular-sized muffins, this recipe will produce 12.
  • The bran buds I use are rather hard so soaking is important, your bran cereal may be loser and not need as much time to break down. I like a little bran texture so I didn’t soak my bran very long.
  • I used fruit juice instead of milk so that I could eliminate the 1/4 cup sugar from the recipe. I used Mango because I had it on hand, use whatever you wish, apple juice would work equally as well.
  • You may use 3 whole eggs instead of 1 whole egg and 2 egg whites, someone over here used up the whole eggs and forgot to write it on the shopping list. I wonder who that was?
  • These were pretty moist, even without the use of oil. Next time, I will reduce the flour to 1 1/2 cups and increase the fruit juice and shredded apple by 1/4 cup each.

A new Italian resto moved into the outskirts of the village (Bloor West Village) and we have hesitated to try it because it’s a small chain (currently 2 in the GTA) but we were on one of our long walks and it was lupper-time and we were a bit peckish so we decided to go for it.

It’s a well-designed Italian-like interior with stonework and wood finishes in a contemporary rustic feel. The food was very good as was the service

JT ordered Tagliolini alla Carbonara ($16.00 Canadian) which is described on the menu as “Long pasta, pancetta (Italian bacon), organic eggs, Pecorino Romano cheese, black pepper and extra virgin olive oil“. We prefer a slightly drier carbonara but I must say, it was delicious. The over the top crispy-fried pancetta really made the dish.

TAGLIOLINI ALLA CARBONARA $16.00

I ordered the appetizer portion of the Carpaccio di Vitello ($17.00 Canadian, currently removed from the menu due to lack of sales) which was described on the menu as “Thinly sliced veal drizzled with fresh lemon juice, baby arugula, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and shaved Parmigiano – Reggiano cheese”. It was wonderful. It wasn’t quite as bountiful as the Carpaccio I had in Arizona, but the perfect size for lupper (that’s Lunch and Supper combined)!

CARPACCIO DI VITELLO $17.00

Compared to the one I had in Arizona, which was SO MUCH FOOD! To give you an idea for size, the plate at Goodfellas was about the size of a dinner plate whereas the plate in Arizona was the size of a serving platter (you can see the size difference of the salad plate at the back, it was HUGE!)

Go big or GO HOME!

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

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

Goodfellas “Wood Oven” Pizza

1 Old Mill Drive,
(Bloor & S.Kingsway), Toronto

Telephone: (855) 433-5527
Email: info@goodfellaspizza.ca
Hours, Every day: 11AM–11PM

Cinnamon Buns

Warning: there is nothing healthy about this.

Ok, sometimes it happens: I make a totally unhealthy recipe. We had a friend stay overnight because he and JT were heading down to Buffalo first thing in the morning, to see a hockey game so I made cinnamon buns. We had some for tasters and one each for breakfast, then I froze the rest. Now these damn things will be calling my name every time I open the freezer!

I was down in Florida last week for a bit of girl-time with one of my dearest friends. It was a wonderful break and the weather was amazing! Might have done a bit of shopping too!!! Sorry I was MIA on comments, will catch up this week. XOXO

Cinnamon Buns

Please click here for the original recipe

Makes 12 buns

Ingredients for dough:

  • 250 mL (1 cup) warm milk
  • 8 g 1(2tbsp) quick yeast
  • 590 g (about 4 1/4 cups) all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 55 g (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 3 g (1 tsp) cinnamon
  • 6 g (1 tsp) salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 76 g (1/3 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature

Directions for dough:

  1. Combine yeast and warm milk and stir to dissolve yeast.
  2. In the large bowl of your KitchenAid mixer fitted with the scraping cookie dough hook, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt, eggs and butter, blend until thoroughly combined.
  3. Add the milky yeast and switch to the dough hook. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes or until it comes away from the sides and is soft and silky.
  4. In a greased bowl, in a warm place, allow to rise until doubled in bulk (about 1 hour).
  5. Roll the dough into a rectangle about 0.5 cm (1/4 inch) thick, about 60 x 35.5 cm (24 x 14 inches).
  6. Spread the filling evenly over the rectangle to all side but one long side.
  7. Roll from the long side with filling to the edge into a tight roll, pinching the final side closed. Cut into 5 cm (2 inch) slices and place into a lightly greased pan 26.5 cm (10.5 inch) springform pan.
  8. Pre-heat the oven to 175° C (350° F). Let rest 15 minutes.
  9. Bake for 40-50 minutes until light golden brown and it has baked through (an internal temperature of 88–93°C (190–200° F ).
  10. Ice only right before serving.

Ingredients for Filling:

  • 245 g (1 cup) packed brown sugar
  • 18 g (2 1⁄2 tbsp) cinnamon
  • 76 g (1/3 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature

Directions for Filling:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients to make a smooth paste, set aside.

Ingredients for Icing:

  • 20 g (1/4 cup) butter, room temperature
  • 70 g (1/4 cup) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 200 g (1 1/2 cups) icing sugar
  • 3 mL (1/2 tsp) clear vanilla
  • 2-4 tbsp cold water
  • Pinch of salt

Directions for Icing:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients to make a smooth paste, set aside.

Notes:

  • I reduced the sugar by half in the dough from the original recipe as I find these things usually super sweet. I increased the flour to make up for the sugar.
  • I also added cinnamon to the dough.
  • I added water to the icing as I prefer it to be drizzled instead of dipped or smeared.

Last month we hosted dessert for our fifteenth(?) progressive dinner. Our neighbour, John selected Georgia State as the theme because of the Golf that was going on (what golf?) at that time so food had to be a Georgia favourite or something connected to the PGA. Of course, I went straight to the expert, my dear friend Betsy of Bits and Breadcrumbs for her advice and she really came through for me, Thank you, Betsy. I made three mini desserts, one of which, the Chocolate Pecan Pie is traditionally served at the Open, the other two were Southern favourites, Peach Crumble (recipe below) and Chess Pie, that I really just wanted to make. All of the desserts are miniatures because we always tend to over do it at these progressive dinners and I served them all in the living room at the coffee table, take as many or as few as you wish. I followed some tried and true recipes for the Chocolate Pecan Pie and the Chess Pie (see links above) and I loosely followed Betsy’s recipe for the crumble. Hope you don’t mind, Betsy, I combined a few ingredients from various southern recipes on your blog and I think I scored a hole in one! And that concludes my golfing puns!

So, let me tell you about our dinner! For the first course, Tom and Iona (read Iona) did a bunch of things, we began with an Arnold Palmer (with vodka)! I’d never heard of this concoction before this past February when we were in Arizona visiting friends, it was very tasty! Then, the food: Iona made Pimento Cheese sandwiches (OMG, so GOOD!), jalopeño Poppers (baked) and a wonderful bean and rice dish served in a glass. Then we had the main course, it was Mike Weir’s (Canadian) signature Master’s Dinner (I had no idea the winner can choose the dinner menu!) It was Elk and Arctic char (that’s a fish), with Canadian beer (I had some of his wine!). And, of course, there was dessert! We also set up a little putting green for fun!

 

Mini Chocolate Pecan Pies and Mini Chess Pies. How many would you have?

The putting green was quite successful!

Bourbon Peach Crumble: Progressive Dinner #15(?)

Makes 4 60 mL (2 oz) ramekins and 4 30 mL (1 oz) ramekins

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups roughly chopped peaches (I used frozen because it is not peach season)
  • Bourbon, to cover peaches for soaking
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar (reduce if your peaches are sweet, mine were not)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp soaking bourbon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of salt

Ingredients for the crumble:

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp toasted pecan pieces
  • 1/4 cup oats
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp Skor® bits
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Chop the peaches into wedges and then into thirds so they fit better in the ramekins.
  2. Add the peaches to bowl with a cover, and pour the bourbon over it so it covers all of the peaches, Soak peaches overnight in the fridge.
  3. The next day, strain the liquid from the peaches reserving 30 mL (2 tbsp), reserve the remainder for another use.
  4. Preheat the oven to 175° C (350° F).
  5. Spray the ramekins with non-stick baking spray.
  6. Combine the flour, cinnamon, reserved bourbon from soaking liquid, vanilla and salt and mix well. Sprinkle over the strained peaches and stir well to coat.
  7. Add roughly 15-30 mL (1-2 tbsp) of the coated peaches to each prepared ramekin.
  8. Combine the brown sugar, toasted pecans, oats, flour and cinnamon and mix well, cut in the butter until the butter is well mixed. Top each ramekin with about 15 mL (1 tbsp) of the crumble and then sprinkle about 1.5 mL (1/4 tsp) Skor bits over the top.
  9. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Allow to cool slightly to serve or reheat when ready to serve. Serve with stabilized Bourbon Whipped Cream (to stabilize whipping cream, please click here).

Oozy, boozy goodness. I intended for the sauce to drip and bake down the sides. No, really, I did!

Notes:

  • For the mini tarts, I used Martha Stewarts cream cheese pastry recipe, but I doubled it. You can freeze left over pastry dough.
  • I made 1/2 of this chess pie recipe and I netted about 20 tarts various sizes (although I only show the tear-drop shape in the photo. If I make this again, I’ll make half of the recipe.
  • I made 1/4 of this pecan pie recipe (I melted 10 g of semi-sweet chocolate, allow to cool, into the recipe) and netted about 14 small tarts (muffin tin-sized).

We added a few tee’s and golf balls but it was too dark for a pic.

MiniMeringueTarts_Rev

This shot is part of a creative collaboration I recently did with a professional photographer and prop stylist for our portfolios. I also served the little bite-sized lemon curd meringues for the progressive dinner just because you can’t have too much dessert! Photograph by Paula Wilson and Props by OK Props, Oksana Slavutych.

 

 

 

Gluten Free Crêpes

I have been perfecting my gluten-free crêpe recipe for a few months now and I have finally landed on a very good one! These don’t have the coarse texture that gluten-free crêpes usually have, they are slightly chewy too which I really like and they have an innate sweetness even without the addition of sugar. Although I usually try to avoid the addition of unnecessary fats, I think it is the Olive Oil in this batter that helps emulsify the grainy ‘flours’. In my humble opinion, these crêpes can easily pass as their gluten-containing cousins, although, JT did comment that they weren’t quite as sturdy as a regular crêpe.

Gluten Free Crêpes

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 2 crêpes

Ingredients:

  • 40 mL egg white (about 2 large egg whites)
  • 80 mL (about 2.5 oz) soda water
  • 35 g (about 1/4 cup) gluten-free flour mixture (see below)
  • 15 mL (1 tbsp) EVOO

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in the container of your immersion blender and blend for about 1-2 minutes. Set aside for about 3-5 minutes.
  2. Heat a large non-stick pan to medium hot (do not spray with oil or add oil to the pan, the batter sticks better this way). Pour half of the mixture into the pan and quickly roll around to cover the entire bottom of the pan, without going up the sides. Cook until golden and most of the batter has set on the top side.
  3. Carefully lift the crêpe and turn it to cook the other side until golden. Repeat for second crêpe.
  4. Keep warm by covering.

Gluten Free Flour Mix

Ingredients:

  • 6 parts brown rice flour
  • 3 parts yellow corn flour (not meal)
  • 1 part white corn flour (not meal)

Directions:

  • Mix well and use as required.

These crêpes have a very similar texture and mouthfeel as glutenated crèpes.

Notes:

  • These crêpes have a tendency to dry out and turn crisp very easily, so keep an eye on them whilst cooking.
  • The crêpe will start out the size of the pan but will shrink due to the high water content.
  • My Mom always used soda water in her crêpe, saying that it made them lighter and thinner but you could substitute milk like a traditional crêpe batter, note that they will be thicker.
  • I changed the gluten free flour mixture because I was out of tapioca flour and to be honest, I liked the way this version worked in this recipe.
  • I used the T-Fal Induction Non-Stick 30cm frying pan and although I am normally not a non-stick lover, this material is not surface coated, it is all the way through which makes me feel it is safer to use than traditional top coated non-stick pans. I have tried my cast iron pans but find them a bit heavy to twirl around to spread the batter evenly.
  • Crêpes are great for desserts or mains, we used these to wrap pulled pork with a mustard béchamel. Because we are still trying to eat healthily, I omitted the sugar and ketchup from the BBQ sauce and used apple preserves and about 15 mL (one tablespoon) of maple syrup to sweeten. The béchamel was a rice-flour based sauce with a splash of milk and loosened with chicken stock.

Mediterranean Sriracha Fish

Recently, I worked on an on-location two-day motion shoot. I was one of four food stylist employed for the two days. We worked from the compact, professional, mobile kitchen called Maindish, it was rather cosy! They were 15 hour days with few opportunities to sit down (who said food styling was glamorous?). I’m always amazed at the shear number of people it takes to make a commercial happen, 60, in this case! By the way, on location also means cramped, because you’re having to squeeze in everyone and everything into relatively small spaces, it really is quite the orchestration! 

I found this recipe on Epicurious; I chose it because I had most of the ingredients at home (along with an inordinate amount of sun-dried tomatoes). It was absolutely delicious, so I decided to document it for the future, plus, I made a few changes.

Mediterranean Fish in a Tomato Sriracha Sauce

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • splash of EVOO
  • 70 g (1/2 medium) sweet onion, peeled and finely sliced
  • 90 g (~1/2 medium) fennel bulb, finely sliced
  • 1/2 tsp sriracha sauce (add more if you like heat)
  • 250 mL (1 cup) tomato purée from fresh or canned tomatoes (I used homemade)
  • 30 g (~1/4 cup) sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 2oo g white fish fillets
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • A handful of baby spinach
  • Black olives (I used Niçoisse)

Ingredients for the topping:

  • 2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley
  • Small handful of spinach
  • 2 tbsp sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 small clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped or grated
  • Zest of 1 lemon, plus a squeeze of juice

Directions:

  1. In a medium-sized, frying pan (I used cast iron), heat a splash of olive oil and sauté the onion, fennel and sun-dried tomatoes for 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Combine the tomato purée with the sriracha sauce and stir well. Add the tomato purée to the frying pan and simmer for 4 to 5 additional minutes. Season to taste with a little salt and pepper.
  3. Place the fish on top of the tomato mixture, spooning a little of the sauce over the fish. Cover and simmer on medium-low for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the fish is fully cooked.
  4. Meanwhile, in the small bowl of a food processor combine the parsley, spinach, sundried tomatoes, garlic, lemon zest and juice and process until chopped and well mixed. Set aside.
  5. When the fish is completely cooked, carefully stir in the olives (putted and sliced, if you’re using larger olives) and baby spinach and warm through (spinach should wilt).
  6. To serve, place the fish on a spoonful or two of cauliflower mash or polenta and dollop the tomato sauce over the hot fish. Dot the herb topping over the fish and sauce to finish.

Notes:

  • This combination of vegetables and tomatoes would work very well with chicken, but you’ll need to increase your cooking time.
  • I used Tilapia for this particular recipe, but haddock, cod, sea bass or monkfish would also work well.
  • The first time I made this recipe, I did not have fennel so I substituted 2 stalks of celery, it was equally as delicious.
  • I used sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, you may use dry but you might need to soak them in water so they are not chewy.
  • To reduce calories, omit the olives and use non-stick spray instead of olive oil.
  • If you use ordinary black olives, pit them and cut them into thirds.
  • The weights I suggest in the recipe are not carved in stone, just gives you an idea of proportions for two.

 

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