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In late March/early April, we spent two glorious weeks in Arizona. We stayed with friends for this duration because we had offered to puppy-sit (Jordan) while they took a quick 7 day holiday in Ireland. We had never puppy sat before but their beautiful black lab, Jordan is quite possibly one of the laziest dogs we have ever met so she was really no problem at all. We did get her used to three walks per day, that is, until we bumped into a woman carrying a black light, walking her dog after dark. I had to ask and yes, it was to detect scorpions. That was the end of our after dark walks. Period.

I like to arrive with gifts in hand and these basil Parmesan Straws were the perfect hostess gift because I had a bunch of basil that needed using a couple of days before our departure. Plus they are pretty tasty. Jordan thought so too.

Sun-dried Tomato, Basil and Parmesan Straws

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 75 pieces

To print this recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 290 g flour
  • 10 g Fresh Basil, finely chopped
  • 50 g sun-dried tomatoes in oil, roughly chopped
  • 10 g garlic, finely minced
  • 110 g unsalted butter (cold)
  • 30 g  grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten separately
  • 15-30 mL water or milk
  • Sea salt

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°F.
  2. Put all dry ingredients into a food processor, including the basil, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic, and process to mix well.
  3. Add the butter and process to coarse granules.
  4. While the blades are running, pour in the egg and process until a soft ball forms. If this does not happen, drizzle little bits of water until a soft ball forms.
  5. Remove from processor and using a small amount of flour, roll out the dough to about 1/2 cm thickness. Cut into 8cm x 7 mm straws and position evenly on a cookie sheet. Brush with second egg and sprinkle with sea salt.
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden.
  7. Remove and allow to cool. This will store well in a cool, dark place or freeze.

Notes:

  • I like to use a plastic ruler to cut the straws evenly. My ruler is a dedicated food ruler that never is used with pens or pencils or markers!
  • This type of rolling pin gives you evenly thick dough, but as I have mentioned previously, it is a pain to unscrew the disks and I inadvertently have to wash all of the disks each time I use it.
  • This dough is a bit wetter than some of my other recipes because of the sun-dried tomatoes and fresh garlic.
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In the Spring edition of the LCBO’s (our liquor store) Food & Drink magazine, they featured a Turmeric, Miso & Ginger Soup that immediately caught my attention. In mid-March, we were still craving soups, believe it or not, so I thought I’d give this colourful soup a go in my humble kitchen. The flavours were earthy, brightened by the lemon juice and sweetened by the peas and corn, everything one could want from the spring soup.

An Earthy soup to warm and ward off any spring colds.

Turmeric, Ginger, Miso Soup with Peas and Corn

Makes 1 L soup

For the original recipe, please click here.

To print this recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 15 mL EVOO
  • 70 g sweet onion (such as Vidalia), finely chopped
  • 50 g celery, sliced
  • 1 L vegetable stock, divided
  • 20 g ginger, roughly chopped
  • 2 g garlic, roughly chopped
  • 5 g turmeric powder
  • 20 g white miso
  • 15 mL freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 70 g each, frozen peas and frozen corn

Directions:

  1. In a medium stock-pot, heat the olive oil and add the chopped onion and cook until translucent. Add the celery and cook for a minute or so longer.
  2. In a small measuring cup fitted for your stick blender, add about 125 mL vegetable stock, the ginger, garlic, turmeric and miso and blend until smooth.
  3. Add the turmeric mixture to the celery and onions and cook for a few minutes, until you can smell the garlic. Add the remainder of the vegetable stock and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Add the frozen peas and corn and stir for a minute.
  4. Serve hot.

In mid-March JT and I went to the large National Home Show at the Enercare Centre. I found discounted tickets on Groupon AND I also found a Groupon discount code, which made the two tickets $17.80; that was an awesome deal because the regular price of the tickets are $20 each! These shows are getting more and more expensive and I really don’t understand why, the vendors pay through the nose to exhibit, AND the public pays a hefty entrance fee. The kicker was parking at $21! The Enercare Centre is not located downtown, it is slightly west but still within the city, but there is not much else around it — total money grab! And that completes my rant.

While at the show, there are always a few food vendors exhibiting and one of my favourites is a shortbread company who generously hands out samples. JT and I sampled one of their savoury shortbread cookies and I knew I had to make a batch. On the drive home, we brain-stormed the possible flavours and I knew the moment JT said caramelized onion that it had to be the one. We bought a very special sharp cheddar to accompany the sweet flavour of the caramelized onion, they were absolutely perfect!

Caramelized Onion and Cheddar Shortbread Cookies

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 75 cookies that are about 3 cm in diameter.

To print recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 114 g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 80 mL caramelized onions, slightly dried out, see notes
  • 120 g sharp cheddar, grated
  • 5 g sea salt
  • 120 g “00” flour
  • 90 g cornstarch

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Cream the butter, caramelized onions and grated cheddar until light and fluffy (about 5-8 minutes).
  3. Sift the salt, flour and cornstarch into the creamed butter mixture and mix until well combined but do not overmix.
  4. Create two disks and wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for 15 minutes or refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  5. Turn out to a lightly floured surface and roll about 4 mm thick.
  6. Cut with 3 cm round cookie cutter. Continue until the dough has been used up. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool on a wire rack.
  7. Serve with wine or your favourite cocktail.

Notes:

  • We used the KitchenAid Flex Edge Beater, it creams the cheese, butter and onion beautifully.
  • We always keep caramelized onions in the freezer in ziplock baggies for such uses. I use this recipe.
  • Spread the caramelized onion on a piece of parchment and allow it to sit for 10 minutes, this allows some of the moisture to wick out and will allow the shortbread its melt-in-the-mouthfeel.
  • The cheddar we used today was a Welsh cheddar.
  • The “00” flour we used was an imported Italian flour.
  • The rolling pin we used was this one. To be honest, I don’t love it, it’s a pain to unscrew the disks that are not required but it does roll the dough out evenly.

The flavour of the caramelized onion shines in this delicate little savoury cookie.

Strawberry Sauce

Recently I purchased too many strawberries because they were 3 packages for three dollars! We ate most of them, but I had one package left over that I needed to do something with. My dear cousin and her family were scheduled to come for dinner and they had requested vanilla ice cream for dessert so I decided to make a strawberry sauce as a garnish; who doesn’t love home-made strawberry sauce?

Strawberry Sauce

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 300 mL

To print the recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 340 g strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped
  • 47 g coconut sugar
  • 3 mL freshly squeezed lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Stir the ingredients together in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and simmer for 3 minutes.
  2. Lightly blend with an immersion blender, leaving some bits. Cool. Refrigerate or freeze until required, bring to room temperature before use.

A quick and easy recipe if you have too many strawberries.

The bits of strawberries in this sauce, sets it apart from the store-bought strawberry sauces.

Lentil Hummus Soup

Many years ago, I made a hummus soup that was so luxurious and flavourful that it felt decadent, but it wasn’t! It was all the bright flavours of typical hummus with fewer calories and fat. You already know that I love using lentils for quick and flavourful soups and sauces so this recipe will come as no surprise. It can be made as thick or as thin as you choose. I used roasted garlic instead of fresh garlic to tone down the garlic hit but also provide a beautiful nutty background flavour. I also added freshly grated turmeric, which is not in traditional hummus but added a lovely earthy tone.

Lentil Hummus Soup

Makes about 1 L, but it depends on how thick you make the soup.

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

To print recipe, please click here..

Ingredients:

  • 120 g red lentils
  • 375 mL vegetable stock, or to taste
  • 50 g tahini (or natural peanut butter)
  • 20 g roasted garlic
  • 10 g turmeric, freshly grated
  • 4 g toasted cumin
  • 15 mL lemon juice
  • 50 mL olive oil
  • sea salt, to taste
  • 10 g feta, per serving, for crumbling

Directions:

  1. Cook the lentils in the vegetable stock until very soft. Add the tahini, garlic, turmeric, cumin and lemon juice and stir well until the tahini has melted into the soup.
  2. Transfer to a glass stick blender container and blend until very smooth, adding more stock if you see necessary. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil as you are blending. Season to taste.
  3. Serve hot garnished with crumbled feta cheese.

A deliciously velvety hummus-style soup.

We had just completed a gorgeous hike one weekend in February at Kortright Centre for Conservation. It was a warmer day and the sun was beaming beautifully throughout the hike. There were some muddy spots and some icy spots but it was totally manageable. This park is not manned this time of year, but, fortunately they leave the gate open for visitors like us. The park is not maintained during the winter but a good pair of hiking boots and you’re good to go. Click down to the end to see a few pictures of our hike.

Unfortunately all of the service buildings are closed this time of year, and after an hour-long hike and ingesting 500 mL of water, one might need facilities, so we decided to stop at a Starbucks on our way home. I usually like to purchase something when I use the facilities in a place but it was well into the afternoon and I really didn’t want a cup of regular coffee and ordering a decaf at Starbucks is about the most painful experience I have ever endured so I avoid it at all costs. Instead, we ordered an oatmeal cookie which they had unfortunately sold out of so, we shared one of their Ginger Molasses cookies. It was so delicious that I wanted to replicate the recipe and bake some at home. JT and I are HUGE ginger fans and I prefer to use fresh ginger whenever I can, so in this lovely recipe, I quadrupled the ginger and used fresh and I added a small amount of candied ginger chopped roughly. These definitely satisfied my ginger craving! Do you ever feel obligated to purchase something if you use a restaurant’s facilities?

Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies

Makes about 72 x 20 g cookies.

For the original recipe, please click here.

To print this recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 284 g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 450 g white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 125 mL molasses
  • 20 g fresh ginger, finely minced
  • 570 g all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 3 g salt
  • 23 g baking soda
  • 6 g ground cinnamon
  • 1 g ground cloves
  • 50 g candied ginger, chopped
  • 50 g white sugar for rolling

Directions:

  1. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
  2. Add the molasses and fresh ginger and beat well.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves and whisk to combine well.
  4. Add to the butter mixture and beat until well combined.
  5. Refrigerate the batter for 1 hour.
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 350° F.
  7. Make 20 g balls and roll in the sugar and position on the parchment lined baking sheet leaving about 5 cm between each cookie (don’t be tempted to flatten, it will flatten out on its own in the heat of the oven). Bake for 10-11 minutes, remove from the oven but leave them on the baking sheet because they will finish baking on the sheet. Remove cookies from the baking sheet once they have all but cooled completely.
  8. Enjoy with coffee or tea or a glass of bubbly!

Notes:

  • 11 minutes was absolutely perfect in my oven, the cookies hardened up perfectly sitting on the hot cookie sheet on the counter.
  • I always test-bake 1 or 2 cookies before I decide on how big to make the entire batch, it also gives you a solid idea of how long to bake them perfectly.
  • Weighing the cookie dough will give you more evenly-sized baked cookies. I can almost eyeball them after making a few balls, but I still like to weigh them for consistency.

Black Forest Cake

Black Forest Cake is JT’s favourite cake. It’s been his favourite since he was a little kid. In fact, it was our wedding cake! We didn’t have that traditional fruit cake, it was Black Forest Cake all the way. In late February, we were invited to dinner at friends’ and I offered to bring dessert so JT asked me to bake a Black Forest Cake. I chose this recipe because of the unusual cake recipe, to be honest, it turned out a bit dry because I did not soak the layers in the cherry kirschwasser syrup as indicated;  I didn’t want to use the full strength Kirschwasser as there was a teenager but I would definitely do it if I were to bake this cake again, I might even omit the kirschwasser so it’s not as boozy. Or maybe I’ll double it!

Black Forest Cake

For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 70 g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 200 g sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 150 g flour
  • 105 g cornstarch
  • 45 g cocoa powder
  • 5 g salt
  • 250 mL jarred, canned or frozen (see notes) sour cherries, drained, reserving 12 cup cherry juice from jar, plus 16 cherries, to garnish
  • 125 mL Kirschwasser

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F (I used the convection setting).
  2. Prepare two spring-form pans about 20 cm (8 inches) diameter by buttering and flouring the bottom and sides. Cust a piece of parchment to fit the bottom and butter and flour it too.
  3. Combine sugar and eggs in the large bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whisk on medium speed for about 8 minutes or until tripled in volume.
  4. Combine the flour, cornstarch, cocoa powder and salt and whisk. Sift into the egg and sugar mixture and fold until combined. Pour in the cooled melted butter and stir until just combined.
  5. Pour about half of the batter into each pan and bake for 30-45 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
  6. Cool completely.

Kirschwasser syrup:

Ingredients:

  • 250 mL  jarred, canned or frozen sour cherries, drained, reserving 125 mL cherry juice and 12 cherries for garnish
  • 30-75 mL kirschwasser (I was making this kid-friendly so I barely used any)
  • 100 g sugar

Directions:

  1. Combine cherries with the kirschwasser and allow to macerate for 30 minutes. If using frozen cherries, just marinate the cherries in the kirschwasser until defrosted and reserve the liquid as indicated in the ingredients.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the reserved cherry juice with the sugar and bring to a boil until sugar dissolves.
  3. Drain macerated cherries and add the liquid to the cherry syrup. Set aside. If using frozen cherries, skip this step.

Whipped Cream Frosting:

Ingredients:

  • 10 g unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 250 mL milk, divided
  • 65 g 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 45 g sugar
  • 500 mL 2 cups heavy cream, chilled
  • 5 mL 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 50-60 g dark chocolate, melted and piped onto paper, see notes below.

Directions:

  1. Sprinkle gelatin over 90 mL milk in a bowl; let sit until gelatin softens, about 5 minutes. Whisk cornstarch and sugar in a medium saucepan and add remaining milk, heat over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly to thicken the mixture.
  2. Using a stick blender, blend this thick mixture with the softened gelatin and blend until very smooth (if you choose to skip this step, your whipped cream will be lumpy. You can also press it through a fine seive if you don’t want to blend). Set aside to cool a bit.
  3. Beat the whipping cream with the vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk until soft peaks form.
  4. Add about 13 of the whipped cream to the gelatin mixture and stir until smooth.
  5. Add gelatin mixture to the remaining whipping cream in the stand mixer bowl and whip until smooth.

Assembly Instructions:

  1. Crumb-coat the cake with the whipped cream mixture. Place in the freezer for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate and drizzle onto parchment like this. Refrigerate the drizzled chocolate on a flat surface until set (you don’t want it super stiff).
  2. Add a thicker coating of the whipped cream to the cake and smooth out. Leave enough whipped cream to decorate with cherry florets.
  3. Decorate the top of the cake with the remaining chocolate and then add florets, press one cherry into each floret.
  4. Lift the hardened drizzled chocolate from the base parchment and carefully wrap all-the-way around the cake; remove the outside parchment slowly. Refrigerate until required.

Notes:

  • The whipped cream is a bit like French Pastry cream but not as rich. It is far thicker and richer than stabilized whipped cream. I loved the whipped cream.
  • This is not a sweet cake by any stretch of the imagination, but it is flavourful and our friends loved that it wasn’t sweet.
  • For the chocolate drizzles, measure the diameter of the iced cake and not the pan, I measured the exterior of the pan and came out too short because I didn’t account for the extra thickness of the frosting. It was easy to fix but why fix if you can do it right the first time.
  • Do not skip soaking the cake layers in the syrup, otherwise, the cake is very dry.
  • If I were to do this cake again, I would make fewer drizzles on the chocolate wrap so that the creamy texture of the cake below it comes through.
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