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Archive for September, 2013

The days are getting shorter and the nights chillier, fall is definitely upon us in Ontario; you can feel it, see it and even smell it. We had a fire last night in our wood burning fire place! I even put closed toe shoes on today. I say it every year: I’M NOT READY!!! Is it just me or do you also feel that time is even a bit faster these days — where did the summer go?
Several friends and family have now gone gluten free, some by choice and some by necessity. Even at our house we try to limit our Gluten intake, so I’m always on the lookout for new gluten free, beautiful and tasty dessert recipes.
My friend Charlie at Hotly Spiced made this wonderful Gluten Free Sour Cherry Cake a while back and I knew I had to make it as soon as I saw her post! Thanks Charlie! The cake is moist, and the texture is perfect. It reminded me a little of a semolina cake, but with a finer texture. I usually have a dislike to the flavour of gluten free flours, so I made a few alterations which worked out famously; I added lemon rind, lemon essence and because I was short on butter, substituted cream cheese for the missing weight — I hope you don’t mind Charlie! It was absolutely wonderful and it’s going on my list of ‘Go-To’ Gluten Free desserts!

GFCherryCake_0925

I only put 1/2 cup of cherries into my cake, next time it will be a full cup (recipe is adjusted already).

Gluten Free Cherry Cake

Serves 6-8 from an 20 cm or 8″ spring form pan

Ingredients:

  • 75 g softened butter
  • 25 g softened cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup castor sugar (super fine sugar, but not icing sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 lemon rind
  • 1/2 tsp lemon essence
  • 2 free-range eggs at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup GF flour
  • 3/4 tsp GF baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 37 g almond meal
  • 1 tbsp buttermilk (or cow’s milk)
  • 1 cup cherries

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180° C (375° F).
  2. Prepare a 20 cm (8 inch) spring form pan by spraying with non-stick cooking spray and lining the bottom with parchment paper.
  3. Beat the butter and cream cheese together until they are as white and fluffy as can be (this takes several minutes). Once you’ve reach the light fluffy consistency, gradually add sugar. then add the vanilla and continue to beat until incorporated.  Add the egg and beat in until well combined.
  4. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together and using a wooden spoon, mix into the butter fluff. Then fold in the almond meal and buttermilk.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and smooth the surface.
  6. Drain the cherries then scatter across the top of the cake.  (No need to be decorative as they will sink during the cooking process).
  7. Place in the oven for 30-40 minutes or when your cake tester comes out clean.
  8. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the tin.
  9. Serve with dusted icing sugar and cherry sauce (or ice cream, whipped cream etc.
GFCherryCake_0924

It’s a delicately flavoured moist cake, the sauce isn’t really necessary,
but it’s darn nice!

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We survived another Doran weekend; these weekend are full of gluttony, laughter and somewhat excesses but most of all, they are full of friendship, love and stories. And laughter, A lot of laughter. We decided to spend this weekend at the cottage because our dear friends hadn’t been up for quite some time, plus we wanted to share our new found excitment in the renovations with them! September weekend weather can be hit and miss and we had both this time around. Sunny or not, it was damn chilly and we had the heat on more than the windows open. Fall is definitely the the air. And as luck would have it, I forgot my shoes at home, so the majority of the weekend was spent in flip flops and borrowed socks, thank you T!

I always like to serve a little nibbly with cocktails; drinking on an empty stomach can be dangerous so when I came across these flavourful little nibbles, I was all over them. A touch of heat, a touch of sweetness and a lot of texture, these will surprise you with how easy they are to eat!

Spiced Nuts_0930

They are not sticky at all.

Honey-Spiced Almonds

Makes 3 cups (recipe adapted from Epicurious)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cups whole almonds, skin on
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • pinch of cayenne
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp black and white sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 300° F (XXX° C). Line a baking sheet with a silpat® sheet or parchment.
  2. Sift the spices and salt together and set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a large pan, add the almonds and roast for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.
  4. Add the honey and stir well. Sprinkle the spices over the sticky almonds. Add the sesame seeds and stir well to combine.
  5. Turn out the almonds onto the prepared cookie sheet and flatten to one layer of almonds. Bake for approximately 15 minutes (watch so it doesn’t burn), turning at least once in the process.
  6. Cool completely and serve.
Spiced Nuts_0932

The sesame are a nice little touch.

Spiced Nuts_0933

The almonds crisp up very nicely.

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We usually have a lot of fishermen at the lake because apparently it is a good fishing lake. The past couple of years someone has caught something big in our bay and word got out, so we usually have a couple of fishing boats trolling our bay for fish every weekend. As you can well imagine I am not fond of this activity particularly when it infringes my privacy. The lake at the cottage is spring fed, which means that it’s reasonably cold for most of the summer, in fact it’s usually August by the time I feel it’s warm enough for a refreshing dip! Over these same last few years, it  seems that every time I dip into the water, smallish fish surround my legs; it wouldn’t be bad but these little devils actually try to bite my legs! They’ve obviously heard about the good fishing in the lake and have launched a protest in the form of attacking my defenseless legs! Since I don’t like to fish (obviously, they haven’t heard!) but I do like to eat fish (well, maybe they have a point!) I usually get my fish from our fish monger or the grocery store.

Recently we had some friends for dinner who are vegetarian (the fish-eating kind) and I wanted to make a fish based Paella; I’ve made this dish before but found it a bit lacking without the use of chorizo so I was thinking…what if I made chorizo from fish using similar spices? The texture isn’t the same, but it did add the punch from the spices that I was looking for. It worked out so well, that I will use this method for other  ‘sausages’ in the future.

VegPaella_0973

A delightful combination of cod, bay scallops, shrimp and salmon chorizo

our-growing-edge-banner

I am participating again in Our Growing Edge Monthly blogging event; I’ve participated before because I had made the Indonesian Thousand Layer Cake which was pretty out there for me, but since then, I can’t say that I’ve made anything quite so awesome, until now.

Salmon Chorizo

makes three ‘sausages’ about 10 cm long each

Ingredients:

  • 120 g drained canned salmon, skinless and boneless
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbsp panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Saran wrap or thick plastic wrap made for cooking (not microwave as they may contain small holes)
  • 3 tbsp canola oil

Directions:

  1. In a small food processor, add all the ingredients except the plastic wrap and canola oil and process until it is well mixed.
  2. Lay out one piece of plastic wrap about 30 cm x 30 cm (12″ x 12″). Pipe a length of the mixture into the centre of the plastic wrap and fold over one side and smooth out so that it’s taught to the salmon mixture. Now roll the ‘sausage’ up on the plastic wrap.
  3. Take each end of the wrap and roll the ends until it is very tightly wound, tie a knot in each end. Repeat until you have rolled all of the ‘sausages’.
  4. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat about 10 cm (3″) of water until it is almost boiling. Add each ‘sausage’ to the simmering water and cook for about 10 minutes (you don’t want to boil the water, just simmer).
  5. Remove the sausages from the water and drain. Allow to cool completely in the wrap and when cool remove the wrap. The ‘sausage’ should maintain its shape well. Slice into 1 cm (1/2″) thick slices.
  6. In a large frying pan, heat the canola oil and fry each side of the ‘sausage’ until desired colour is achieved. Now you are ready to use you salmon chorizo in your recipe.
SalmonChorizo_0953

The egg is the binder in this sausage

VegPaella_0971

The sausage stands up very well in the paella

 

 

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Hello everyone! Hope you are enjoying the definite fall weather of late. I won’t even mention the spring weather our friends from below the equator are experiencing. Yes, that’s the green in me!
I’m just going to hop right back and tell you more about our stop in Grand Rapids while traveling to Wisconsin and Illinois in late July and I wanted to share another really cool thing to do in Grand Rapids: the Frederik Meijer Gardens. The weather wasn’t great, a little unseasonably cold and rainy, but it didn’t stop us from exploring and I’m sure glad we did. I definitely recommend this little outing; the gardens are beautiful to walk through and the sculptures throughout are captivating. There are even a couple of August Rodin and Henry Moore pieces; both artists are dear to me because I have seen quite a few of their pieces (Rodin Museum in Paris and in the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto). And there were several moments that I thought of my dear blogging friends: Norma from Garden to Wok (because of the frogs she collects in her garden), Celi, the Kitchen’s Garden (because of the cows and the pigs she has on her farmie), Genie, Bunny, eats, design, because she has the beautiful and mischievous Tofu the bunny rabbit. So if your ears were burning in late July, you now know that it was because of me!

The Frederik Meijer Gardens are a bit of a drive from down town and admission is a reasonable $12 for adults and $4 for 3-4 years old and $6 for 5-13 — parking is free; it’s a long walk through the gardens, so wear comfy shoes (famous last words, eh ladies?)! The weather was a bit iffy, so we did a brusque walk completing the tour in about two hours, so a gentle stroll will last at least three to four hours. They even have some lovely green houses holding some very exotic plants, in case you need a break from the chill outside. There is also an interactive kids section which we passed on.

I hope you have a chance to watch the slide show below, and to perhaps some day visit the Frederik Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

We were not compensated for this review, it is strictly our opinion.

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
1000 East Beltline NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49525
(616) 957-1580 | Toll-Free: 888-957-1580

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Continuing on our trip to Michigan this past July, we spent one lovely afternoon and evening in Grand Rapids to help break up the driving time to Wisconsin. After a delicious but unfortunately quick dinner at Grove we decided that the night was still too young to be packed in so we checked out Reserve, a lovely wine bar in the heart of down town. We were very pleasantly surprised to end the evening off so well.

I don’t know about you, but JT and I check reviews and sometimes we get lucky and choose a good place on a good night and sometimes it’s an epic fail. This little spot, we got lucky! We sat at the bar and chatted to Cory the Mixologist who turned out to be a fantastic spokes-person and historian for his humble city. When he wasn’t attending to other customers, Cory spoke very highly of Reserve’s dining experience (that we’ll have to return to try!). With just over 100 wines by the glass, there isn’t a shortage of libations to choose from, priced from a sampler size to a full 9oz glass these folks have everything your heart desires. They have a very sophisticated system of storing and serving the wines (the system extracts the oxygen and seals each bottle after use) and they are said to keep for 30 days, although I wouldn’t think they’d need to as the place was hopping! There were a variety of prices and non of them seem exorbitant.

Reserve is located in the down town area of Grand Rapids, by the Grand River. It’s cool, contemporary décor is a perfect stage for the trendy business crowd. It’s not a huge place and where we were sitting the noise level wasn’t too bad. Lighting was a bit harsh particularly beneath the centre area but at the bar it was very flattering. If the quality of service could be gauged by Cory’s level of attention and friendliness, I would say it’s excellent! Definitely deserves a return visit.

Reserve

201 Monroe Ave. NW

Grand Rapids, MI 49503

616-855-9463

Hours

Monday – Thursday 11:30 AM – 11:00 PM

Friday 11:30 AM – 12:00 AM

Saturday 4:00 PM – 12:00 AM

Sunday Closed

 

Overall rating of Reserve, Grand Rapids (in my opinion): Decor 3.5/5, service 4/5, food n/a, Value 3/5, Noise: 3/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

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

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ButtermilkCheddarScones_0906

Rich and flaky, just as it should be.

You may have noticed that I’m not around much lately and I do apologize. In fact, I missed posting on Monday! Can you believe it? In the 7 years I’ve been blogging and have had a schedule to post, this was my first unintentional miss. What have I been doing? Well, some of the time I’m at the cottage but that’s mainly weekends, mostly I’m in the city scouring the internet, networking and such to find something new to do. It’s not that easy selling yourself when you’ve been doing what you’ve been doing for so long, it’s more instinct and natural reaction and to put that into words and make yourself sound amazing is more difficult than I thought. I can sell you someone else, or something else, I can always find the words to make it look and sound amazing, but to have to weave the words about one’s self is another story. So I’ve been putting off creating a new post because I thought my words had had it and that my stories had dried up, but au contraire, there are stories galore and the words are now flowing, I just need to find the time to write them down.

Would you care for one or two?

Would you care for one or two?

We are expecting our good friends Paul and T up from Illinois for a weekend to frolic at the cottage. Our weather has been fall-like but yesterday was unseasonably hot (not warm but hot) and in another unlikely change the weekend is expected to return to the autumn temperatures and we’re expected to pull on our boots and sweaters and enjoy the chill. Bah humbug. I’m not ready for boots. My pedicured toes are holding out for the sandals and flip flops! So for this menu plan for the weekend is based on comfort food with a lot of soups, chowders and a roast chicken which will turn into another delightful meal. Most of the meals have been recycled blog posts so I won’t be sharing them again, but I have made a few things in the last week or so that are new to the blog, so I thought I would share them with you, starting with these delicious scones.

These cheese biscuits were created to pair with a split pea soup with ham that will be served for our very first lunch. I treated myself to a slow cooker that lives at the cottage so this baby is getting assembled in the morning and will slow cook until lunch time. I’ll reheat the biscuits and if it’s sunny, we’ll eat with sweaters and long pants on the porch (but no boots), otherwise we’ll turn up the heat and eat at the dining room table wearing flip flops! Either way, I’m sure we’ll be laughing and enjoying each other company.

The recipe is adapted from Jean Pare’s, Company’s Coming Cookbook

Melty butter is the icing on the scone!

Melty butter is the icing on the scone!

Flakey Buttermilk Cheese Scones

Makes 12 8 cm or 3 in biscuits

Ingredients:

  • 2 c all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 cup cold butter
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, 1 2 tbsp for top

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450° F.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients and mix well.
  3. Cut in the cold butter and the cheese until it resembles a coarse meal.
  4. Add the buttermilk and stir just to combine.
  5. If it’s really warm in your kitchen, it’s best to refrigerate the dough. Roll into 1 cm thickness (half inch) and use your favourite cutter to cut even shapes.
  6. Place each round onto a silpat® or non-stick surface and brush tops with buttermilk.
  7. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until lightly golden.
  8. Serve warm.

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As you may recall, JT and I took a little road trip down to Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois to meet up with old friends and make new friends. To make the drive a bit more manageable we decided a stop in Grand Rapids, Michigan was in order so we booked a night into a nice hotel downtown and did a few touristy things (to come).

We chose Grove for dinner from the reviews on Yelp and Trip Advisor and it was certainly spot on; an unexpected culinary experience in Grand Rapids, who knew? And even more so surprisingly it was not expensive at all!

The restaurant is nicely decorated in a contemporary style but if you ask me, it had a few too many hard surfaces making it rather noisy for a quiet, romantic dinner. I also found the TVs in the bar area distracting because they are visible from the dining area and although I understand why they have them, I personally feel it takes the dining experience down a notch.

Service was prompt and efficient, our server was enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the food, but dinner lasted only an hour and I would have liked it spaced out a bit more.

I ordered the bouillabaisse ($11) and it was OUTSTANDING! My only complaint is that that there was not enough broth! It is a rich saffron, tomato seafood broth generously filled with fresh shrimp, scallops and a variety of fish. It was almost as good as the one I had in Marseille, but then again we were in France eating outside! For the reasonable price of $11, I could have easily had another bowl, it was so tasty!

The bouillabase was full of tender, perfectly cooked seafood.

The bouillabase was full of tender, perfectly cooked seafood.

JT enjoyed the sweet corn soup ($6) but kept dipping his spoon into my bowl of bouillabaise! As you can see from the soup’s colour, it had A LOT of cream which diluted the sweet corn flavour a touch. It was not nearly as lovely as the one at Toca JT recently had.

This corn soup had A LOT of cream.

This corn soup had A LOT of cream.

An interesting take on an old favourite. The hard cooked crumbled eggs were a lovely change.

An interesting take on an old favourite. The hard cooked crumbled eggs were a lovely change.

For my main I had the steak tartare ($12 also a starter) which was very nicely seasoned and had a twist of crumbled hard boiled egg on top and some bread and butter gherkins on the side. It was roughly chopped and I generally prefer a finer chop it was seasoned perfectly to my taste and I enjoyed it very much.

JT had the Chicken Confit ($10) which compared to my bouillabaisse seemed a little lack-lustre although there was nothing technically wrong with it. Sorry, forgot to take a photo :-(.

All in all an excellent experience we’ll tuck away for our next visit to Grand Rapids.

Overall rating of Grove, Grand Rapids (in my opinion): Decor 3/5, service 3.5/5, food 4/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 2/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

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

Grove, Grand Rapids, Michigan

919 Cherry Street S.E.
Grand Rapids, MI 49506
P: 616.454.1000

Hours of Operation

Sunday – 5pm-9pm
Tuesday – Thursday 5pm-10pm
Friday – Saturday 5pm-11pm

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