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TilapiawithMangoSalsat_First

Summer is coming. That’s what I’m told, I hardly believe them though. But with the warmer weather on the horizon (possibly as far away as Europe) I have again begun to think about lighter dishes. Fish seems to be a four-letter word, not for me, of course, I love the stuff. But some people in this household don’t love it as much as I do, so selling it on the plate becomes a thing. I simply broiled this tilapia, seasoned with salt and pepper and wanted a little something tasty to dress it up and my Mango Salsa recipe was born. Like many savoury recipes on this blog, I urge you to make it your own, volumes are simply suggestions — you hate cucumber, omit it! Hate mango, try pineapple instead! It’s pretty darn tasty and quite easy to prepare — I like my salsa cubed into even little cubes, but you may like yours another way…GO FOR IT!

Tilapia with Mango Salsa

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup ripe mango, cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup red pepper, cut into small cubes
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 200 g of cooked white fish (we used Tilapia but cod, halibut or monkfish would also work well)
  • a few handfuls of massaged kale (my dear friend Kelly at Inspired Edibles shares a very compelling story about getting intimate with your food, 50 Shades of Green-style!)

Directions:

  1. Combine the mango, cucumber, red pepper, cilantro and mix well. Pour the white balsamic into the mix and stir to combine, season to taste.
  2. Serve over broiled white fish on top of massaged kale leaves. Enjoy!

Notes:

  • This salsa would be lovely on BBQ chicken breast or even a steak if you’re feeling like red meat.
  • A mix of greens would be fine instead of the massaged kale but I love kale so I use it where I can.

SweetChiliSauce_First

Has spring arrived where you are? It sure hasn’t over here, in fact there is very little sign of it. Yes, we can be grateful that the snow has finally melted and that it hasn’t snowed in any measurable quantity for a few days, but these temperatures are killing us. Since I’ve begun my morning walks through High Park again (8km most mornings) it’s been so cold that I’m still wearing my long down-filled coat, hat, gloves and a balaclava around my neck at the ready when the howling wind rudely slaps my face. I’m ready for spring. With these cold temperatures, I’m still craving warming foods like my dear friend Sissi’s Dried Apricot and Chili Jelly. If you don’t know Sissi, she is an experienced cook with a passion for the Far East. Her recipes are uncomplicated and her writing style is elegant and beautiful and that’s something because English isn’t even her first language! I’m always drawn to Sissi’s recipes because she combines flavours that hit my palette perfectly. And she enjoys similar foods and textures that I do. Please visit Sissi’s blog for the original recipe because she has generously provided more details than I am providing.

Sweet Chili Sauce with Dried Apricots

Makes 250 mL sweet chili sauce

Ingredients:

  • 175 g dried apricots
  • 150 mL +100 ml cider vinegar
  • 100 g red Thai chili peppers
  • 200 g sugar
  • 50 mL water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 package pectin in powder (25 g)

Directions:

  1. Bring 150 mL vinegar to a boil and add the apricots to soak for 30 minutes.
  2. To a small food processor, add the hot peppers (discard the stalks and seeds) and the soaked apricots and pulse to chop reasonably finely.
  3. Combine the remaining ingredients (including the additional 50 mL vinegar) and boil 20 minutes,stirring constantly.
  4. Sprinkle the pectin over the surface and cook 10 more minutes, mixing well.
  5. Transfer the hot jelly into the sterilised jar or jars and cover with lid(s). Allow the jar to cool and refrigerate. If your jars are smaller (I used one 250 mL jar) you will want to process them as you would any canning project. I popped my single jar into the fridge and will use over the next month or so (or I will freeze for later use).
This is a very hot sauce.

This is a very hot sauce.

Notes:

  • I had intended on reducing the sugar but believe me, it NEEDS the sweetness because these peppers are HOT!
  • This is an excellent condiment but use conservatively as it is VERY HOT.

 

BourbonStreetMudPie_1

We had another Progressive Dinner a short time ago and because it was in such close proximity to Mardi Gras, we decided it would be a perfect theme! JT and I had dessert so I experimented with King’s Cake, a brioche style pastry roll with pecans and sugar, decorated with yellow, green and purple sanding sugars, but honestly it tasted like breakfast to me and not dessert (sorry Southerners), so back to the drawing board I went. JT suggested Mississippi Mud Pie and after a little research I agreed. Definitely decadent enough for a Mardi Gras dessert and it can be classed up, restaurant style. I found a delightful warm chocolate tart recipe on Anna Olson’s website and altered it a bit to include some of the warm spices reminiscent of King’s Cake. OK, I am fully aware that mud pie is usually made from ice cream and whipped cream, but hey, I’m taking artistic licence!

This was our 9th progressive dinner, we’ve been having them since 2012! It’s the BEST group of neighbours and everyone gives it their all to make the evening fantastic, which often lasts until the wee hours of the morning…

Here is the menu from this time around, everything was incredibly DELICIOUS!

House #1 Appetizers:

  • Spicy Cajun Shrimp
  • Fried Andouille Sausage
  • Crab Cakes

House #2 Main Course:

  • Blackened Chicken Thighs
  • Corn Maque Choux
  • Rice and Beans

House #3 Dessert:

  • Bourbon Street Mud Pie with Bourbon Whipped Cream
  • Limoncello
  • Late night snack: homemade potato chips with sour cream (Greek yogurt) and onion dip
BoubonStMudPie_2687

It’s a tasty, chocolate tart.

Bourbon Street Mud Pie

Makes 8 servings of 10 cm or 4 inch mini tarts. Original recipe can be found here.

Ingredients for the pastry:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 80 g icing sugar, sifted
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 160 g cake & pastry flour
  • 24 g Dutch Process cocoa powder
  • 20 g cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp bourbon

Directions for the pastry:

  1. Cream the icing sugar and butter until smooth, then add the yolks and bourbon all at once and beat until fully encorporated.
  2. Sift the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, cornstarch and salt) into the butter mixture and stir by hand until evenly combined. The dough is much looser than most pastries. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap and freeze for 30 minutes.
  3. Roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment until just less than 2mm (¼” thick). Cut circles of the pastry to line eight 10 cm (4-inch) fluted tart shells with a  removable bottom, pressing the dough into the shells and trimming away any excess. If the dough softens, just pop it back into the freezer to harden up for a few minutes. Prick the pastry with a fork. Chill the tart shells for at least 20 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the chilled tart shells onto a baking sheet and bake them for about 15-18minutes, until you see that the pastry has an even, dull finish. Allow to cool while preparing the filling.

Ingredients for the filling:

  1. 3 large egg separated
  2. 112 g sugar, divided
  3. 1 tsp finely grated orange zest
  4. 1 tsp cinnamon
  5. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  6. 12 g Dutch Process cocoa powder, sifted
  7. 86 g bittersweet chocolate, melted (but still warm)
  8. 30 bourbon

Directions for the filling:

  1. Whip the remaining 3 egg whites until foamy then slowly add ¼ cup of the sugar and continue whipping on high speed until the whites hold a soft peak. Set aside.
  2. Whip the 3 egg yolks with the remaining ¼ cup (112 g) of sugar, the vanilla and orange zest until pale and thick. Fold in the egg whites and gently whisk in the cocoa powder, melted chocolate and bourbon. You may refrigerate this overnight (I did for 1 night and 1 full day and it was fine).
  3. Pour the filling into the cooled tart shells and bake for about 8-12 minutes at 350°F until the tarts just begin to lose their shine around the edges, but the centre is still dark and glossy. Allow the tarts to cool 2 minutes, before carefully removing them from their shells to serve warm or allow to come to room temperature. Serve with whipped cream.
BourbonStreetMudPie

You may have noticed that this one has ganache on top…we determined was a bit excessive as it’s a very chocolatey tarte.

BoubonStMudPie_3 copy

This was my first try for a friend’s dinner but it turned out way too rich.

 

GlutenFreeCheeseSauce_1

Whether you’re gluten intolerant, just want to cut back or perhaps you have friends who are — this is a perfect sauce to have in your back pocket. Toss it on some pasta, zucchini ‘pasta’ or dress up some steamed cauliflower, you’ll be surprised at how good it is! I’m using my tried and true lentil purée for the thickener and boy does it thicken! And the cheese creams up with it perfectly — I used cheddar, but you can use whatever cheese you prefer. You’ll have to watch this sauce because it thickens very quickly and can become too thick when it cools down, so serve it hot. I hope you love this sauce as much as I do.

Gluten Free Cheddar Cheese Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup cooked puréed lentils
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 60 g grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp salt to taste
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

Directions:

  1. Cook milk and puréed lentils until smooth, thick and creamy.
  2. Add cheese and stir until smooth and melted.
  3. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne to taste.
GlutenFreeCheeseSauce

This is a really creamy sauce

Serving suggestions:

  • Serve over cooked macaroni garnish with Parmesan and broil for a minute until cheese is melted and bubbly. Garnish with chopped green onions and enjoy!
  • Pour over steamed broccoli or cauliflower.
  • Use as a base on pizza.
  • Make this into cheddar soup (although that would be very decadent!)
Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 11.16.26 AM

Based on 4 servings

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 11.17.40 AM

GuinessOnionSoup

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! 

Do you have any St. Patrick’s Day traditions? Years and years ago, my friend Barb (Profiteroles and Ponytails, on hiatus right now) used to drag us and a bunch of her buddies to some Irish pub uptown. It became quite the tradition, each year a different venu, drinking beer and getting silly (and by getting silly, I am specifically referring to the particularly exuberant cheers when we smashed our beer glasses and broke a few!). When she moved out west, we just stopped celebrating. Then about 6 years ago (actually, 6 years and 2 weeks), my dear friend and colleague Andy and his partner Mark opened an Irish Pub in Leslieville called The Roy Public House (named after Mark’s dad who passed a few years earlier) and ever since we’ve been celebrating this holiday with a beer or two there (I might add, with mature calmness!). I just love heading over to the east end of Toronto, the pub is always filled with locals and friends and it’s a great spot to catch up over a pint. The food is pretty tasty too, the Cobb Salad and the Half Pound Beef Dip are a couple of our favourites. If you’re ever in the big smoke, you MUST drop by and have a pint and grab a bite. This particular St. Patrick’s Day will be no different…sometime tomorrow afternoon we’ll pop over to The Roy and raise a glass or two in honour of St. Patrick.

Have you ever had a recipe in your head for months and months? This Irish inspired soup was something I had at a rather unassuming Irish pub in Barrie last fall…we were heading up to my brother’s cottage for Thanksgiving and our normal Sushi lunch place, just off the highway had unexpectedly closed down so we needed a new place, fast. We had been running late and were very hungry so we literally stopped at the first place we found in old downtown and what luck that we did. They have a chef who insists on house-made menu items and the Guinness Onion Soup is one of her specialties so I had to try it. It actually floored me on how delicious it was! The Guinness caramelizes the onions beautifully and brings a rich (not bitter) flavour to the soup — dare I say, even better than the traditional French Onion Soup. I had this soup in my head all winter long and knew eventually a recipe needed to be developed so what better time to develop it than for St. Patrick’s Day. Other than a little slicing, it’s a pretty easy recipe, I even made my own no knead bread (because JT was up at Limerick Township doing his Councillor duties!).

The recipe makes 1.75 L and it’s totally freezable (or you can have it for three lunches and three dinners like we did — I liked the soup THAT much).

GuinessOnionSoup2

The broth is a bit richer than traditional French Onion Soup

 

Guinness Onion Soup with Cheddar and Croutons

Makes 1.75 L (depending on how much you boil it down)

Ingredients:

  • 650 g sweet onions, finely sliced
  • 200 g leeks, finely sliced
  • 440 mL Guinness draft
  • Quick spray of canola oil
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup unpasteurized Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 L beef stock
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup grated old cheddar per serving
  • Salt

Directions:

  1. Sweat the onions and leeks in a large oven proof Dutch oven until translucent and have begun to caramelize (about 30 minutes).
  2. Pre-heat oven to 300° F (149° C)
  3. Add the Guinness and apple cider vinegar and bring to a boil. Add bay leaves and give it a stir.
  4. Cover with a loosely cut piece of parchment with a hole in the centre like the illustration and place in oven until onions are richly caramelized and Guinness has cooked down about 30-45 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and add 1 L of beef stock and bring back to a boil on the stove, taste and season now (keeping in mind that the cheddar will also add some saltiness).
  6. Create large homemade croutons from a couple of slices of no knead bread (cut into 2-3 cm (1″) cubes and toss with a little canola oil, toast until crispy all over.
  7. Ladle about 1 cup of soup into each pre-warmed bowl with a generous serving of cooked onions. Add broth to cover and sprinkle some grated cheddar over the onions. Add a few croutons and add more cheddar. Broil on high until cheese melts and is bubbly. Serve immediately, don’t stop to take photos.
parchment2

Notes:

  • There are a lot of onions in this version because I was looking for a hearty soup.
  • Notice I didn’t do the calorie calculation, there are some things we just don’t need to know.
  • The vinegar adds a little bite and bit of sweetness, if you don’t like my Onion Confit then omit it or add less (or even substitute a good, rich balsamic vinegar).

TunaCasseroleMakeover_1This past week was International Women’s Day and I was generously invited (by my dear colleague and friend, Andrea) to the City of Brampton’s 2015 Women’s Day Event and the keynote speaker was none other than celebrity chef Anna Olson! I’ve been a long admirer of Chef Anna’s work from the very first time we dined at Inn on the Twenty in Jordan, Ontario where she and her husband Michael were the executive chefs, more than 15 years ago! These days Chef Anna works with Food Network Canada and is currently starring in Bake with Anna Olson as well as authoring cook books, managing her website, blog and social media outlets not to mention the presentation gigs. On Thursday, Chef Anna recounted her path on how she arrived at where she is today and it was inspirational! She was engaging, funny and interesting, the time just flew by. The audience of 140 were primarily comprised of entrepreneurial women and some young ladies from a local high school. Thank you Andrea for the invitation and the reminder that these networking events are worth every minute because you never know who you’ll meet and where that will lead (of course, I gave Chef Anna my contact info ;-)).

IWD_AnnaOlson

Chef Anna speaking at Lionhead Golf and Conference Centre in Brampton.

Eva_AnnaOlson

That’s me after I had my lovely new cookbook signed by Chef Anna!

Chef Anna’s primary food influence was her grandmother and as I reflected on who my primary influence was (my dear Mother, of course) I also thought about other influences I’ve had over the years, like JT’s mother. JT’s mother was a typical North American cook of that era, not overly adventurous but she made a tuna casserole in the 80’s that was a family favourite. Canned cream of mushroom soup (or cream of celery), a can of tuna, some cooked noodles, perhaps some chopped onion and the pièce de résistance: crumbled salted potato chips on top! Bake in a casserole dish until thoroughly warmed through and serve immediately. Being raised in a Hungarian home, I had never had tuna in this way (or canned tuna any other way for that matter) and having potato chips on top was such a treat. Of course, these days we don’t buy canned soups (too much sodium) nor do we indulge in potato chips, but I wanted the flavour of this retro meal so I reinvented it in a slightly healthier way. I got the thumbs up from JT. Definitely a keeper!

TunaCasserole

Tuna Casserole Makeover

A Kitcheninspirations Original Recipe!

Ingredients for Creamed Mushroom Soup (yields 300 mL):

  • 60 g little button mushrooms
  • 125 g chopped onion
  • 20 g dried wild mushroom mix (rehydrated in 375 mL (1 1/2 cups) water, reserve liquid)
  • 20 g red lentils (thickener)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Sea salt

Directions for the Creamed Mushroom Soup:

  1. Rehydrate the mushrooms in 375 mL of hot water (you can microwave this for a couple of minutes to get it going faster). Strain into a fine sieve (I use a dedicated coffee filter) and reserve liquid. Wash the mushrooms thoroughly. Chop mushrooms into smaller bits (allows for the really chewy parts to hydrate faster) and set aside.
  2. Cook the onions with a spray of canola oil until translucent, add garlic and stir until fragrant. Add lentils and 375 mL of mushroom broth and rehydrated mushrooms. Cook until lentils are completely cooked and mushrooms have no chewy bits, season with salt. 
  3. Pulse with an immersion blender until smooth and silky. You may push this through a fine sieve if you’d like, but I didn’t think it was necessary. Set aside 250 mL (1 cup) and freeze the rest, it’s great for soups, gravy or even a base for pizza.

Ingredients for the Tuna Casserole:

  • 120 g drained albacore tuna in water
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 150 g green beans, washed and cut into thirds (bite-sized pieces)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions for the Tuna Casserole:

  1. Pre heat the oven to 350° F (176° C).
  2. In the same pot as you made the creamed mushrooms, toast the pearl barley in a little oil, add about 250 mL (1 cup) water and cook the barley until about 3/4 done (it will continue to cook in the casserole) until almost all of the water has been absorbed and what’s left is thick. The barley should still have quite a chewy texture.
  3. Combine the cleaned and cut green beans and roughly separated, drained tuna with the barley, add the creamed mushroom soup, 1 cup of water and give it a good stir. You may keep everything in your pan if it’s oven proof, I transferred it to two small oven proof casseroles that I lightly oiled.
  4. Combine the Greek yogurt, bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese and dollop on top. Bake for 30 minutes or until the internal temperature is 160°F (71° C). Serve with a small green salad.
TunaCasserole_2

This is the Greek yogurt topping before I baked it.

Notes:

  • You may, of course use canned soup and not make your own creamed mushrooms.
  • We prefer to use Albacore tuna in water, but the choice is yours.
  • Don’t like green beans? Use celery instead (I had green beans on hand).
  • We are trying to cut back so I used this recipe for four servings. JT said he could have easily eaten one small casserole on his own (even though I did serve him 3/4 of it!).
  • I have a double oven and I baked this in the top, smaller oven so I was able to get a little browning on the topping without turning on the broiler. If you bake these in a large oven, you may wish to broil the tops for colour and texture!
  • Substitute quinoa or bulgur to lower the calories and carbs a bit (makes it 5 points in WW). Leave out the Parmesan and bread crumbs to bring the WW points down even further to 4!
Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 11.18.32 AM

Weight Watchers Points

Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 11.15.47 AM

For fun I did the original recipe as comparison. WW points for the original recipe would have been 12!

 

 

 

 

El Catrin

Recently, we had brunch at a relatively new Mexican Restaurant in the Distillery District. El Catrin is what I would call a contemporary Mexican restaurant, it’s not the run-of-the-mill antiqued hub caps, large neon flickering signs, rusty metal or garish tiles no, El Catrin has taken all the familiar elements of Mexican design and incorporated them into a contemporary style that is clean, fun and unquestionably Mexican. The striking two-story mural painted by artist Oscar Flores spans the entire width of the grand cathedral-like space and its subject matter and colours awaken your senses as soon as you set foot inside, preparing you for the sensation you had hoped for. There is a wall of hand painted skulls strategically lit giving the space an aura of macabre (click here for more interior photos). The lighting is tasteful incorporating oversized barrel shades with lace-like cut outs and the inside of the shades are painted yellow which cast a beautiful warm glow over diners. Although the space is enormous, it’s warm and inviting and not as loud as I would have expected.

InteriorElCatrin_1

It’s a tastefully decorated Mexican Restaurant

It was not busy when we dined there so our experience may not be normal because I understand that this is quite the happening place at night. Our server was friendly and attentive. We started with the guacamole but it was a misunderstanding that it was ordered. I thought the waitress had asked us if we wanted ‘drinks to start’ with but infact she had said “guacamole to start?” (I guess it was noisier than I thought). JT heard it right and just about fell off his chair when I said “yes”. When the guacamole arrived the truth came out. Usually when it’s just the two of us, we don’t order guacamole because it fills us up too much and we overeat. Not with standing, we ate the entire order and thank god they didn’t offer to replenish the chips because we would have polished them off too. I don’t know about you, but I find guacamole in restaurants quite expensive and this one was no different ($11 for the small). It was a traditional recipe and the waitress brought it out in a mortar and pestle and finished squashing the avocados and doing the final mix at the table. We ordered the plain version made with avocado, tomato, onion, fresh cilantro and serrano chili but for an extra $9, you could order a version with Crickets. Yes, you read that correctly. Definitely not my cup of tea, but go ahead and order if you dare.

We ordered two smallish plates of soup and a salad; I adored my choice, Sopa de Tortilla ($8), a tomato and chili broth bursting with flavour served with crispy corn tortillas, avocado chunks, queso cotjia garnished with crema fresca and lime. JT was not as thrilled with his choice, Ensalada Tomatillo ($8) which had onion, fresh cilantro, radish, serrano chili, fresh cheese dressed with a flavourful tequila lime vinaigrette — I tried it and liked it a lot, I think the tomatillos threw him a bit. We both chose soft tacos (me flour and JT corn) and our plan had been to eat only one or two of the three tacos and save the rest, but it was so good, neither of us could stop (we had popcorn for dinner that night!). JT’s Pollo Con Mole ($15) made from pulled chicken cooked in a light mole, crema fresca, cotija cheese, xni-pec, toasted sesame seeds nestled comfortably on a fresh corn tortilla. JT said the mole was good but not nearly as rich as some of the other moles he has experienced. I had the Gobernador ($15) which had succulent and perfectly cooked lobster and shrimp stuffed into a soft and tender flour tortilla with black bean purée garnished chipotle aioli; I was pleasantly surprised with the quantity of lobster in this dish. The plates were full of the bright flavours associated with Mexican cuisine and were absolutely delicious. I have to say that the quantity wasn’t nearly as generous as some of the other Mexican restaurants in Toronto that we have been to, but having said that, we still did not have room for dessert :-).

SOPA DE TORTILLA

Sopa de Tortilla $8 Canadian. This soup was very tasty

ENSALADA DE TOMATILLO

Ensalada de tomatillo $8 Canadian. I enjoyed this salad and would consider ordering it even though JT wasn’t a fan.

PulledChickenMole

JT’s Pollo con Mole $15 Canadian

GOBERNADOR

This is my Gobernador $15, it has a decent amount of lobster

In more pleasant weather (we were there when it was -20°C (-4°F)) there is an interior courtyard patio, lit with similar barrel shades as the inside, there are also several heat lamps as well as a gorgeous gas fire pit burning in the centre; will have to come back in the summer as I love a patio that is no where near a road.

ElCatrin_Patio

The fire pit gives an amazing ambiance, even in the winter!

 

Overall rating of El Catrin: Decor 4.5/5, service 3.5/5, food 4/5, Value 3/5, Noise: 3.5/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

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

 

El Catrin Destileria

18 Tank House Lane in The Historic Distillery District
55 Mill St. Toronto (street address).

Hours:

Lunch:
Monday – Friday 11:30am – 4pm

Dinner:
Monday – Thursday 5pm – 11pm
Friday – Sunday 4pm – 11pm

Contact

416.203.2121

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