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Archive for February, 2016

Dumplings_First

Fibre is always a good thing to add to your diet and as we age it becomes more and more important. With the weather being chilly (because it’s February and we live in Toronto, DUH!) I’ve been craving a lot of soup, and my favourite is a broth soup. Every week I make a large batch of compost stock (well-washed vegetable trimmings) and my dinner is usually the vegetable broth with chopped vegetables but sometimes I crave something more. Recently JT was away for some councillor meetings so I was able to experiment freely without judgement and I came up with these high fibre dumplings. The egg adds the protein and the dumplings add more than 3.5 times the fibre a regular dumpling would have. They remind me of matzo balls but a tad firmer, which I prefer anyway. So if you’re trying to add a bit more fibre to your diet, give these gems a go, I think they’re pretty tasty.

HighFibreDumplings_8460

The parsley adds delicious flavour so don’t skip it.

High Fibre Soup Dumplings

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup all bran cereal
  • 1/4 cup all purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 tbsp flax seeds
  • 2 tbsp water
  • a good fist of parsley leaves
  • 1 extra large egg

Directions:

  1. Add all the dry ingredients and parsley to the bowl of a small food processor and pulse until mostly powder.
  2. Add the egg and 2 tablespoons water and mix thoroughly and let sit 5 minutes to allow mixture to thicken.
  3. Drop by teaspoon-full into the boiling soup and cook thoroughly (usually when they rise to the top).
  4. Serve immediately.
DumplingNutValue

Based on 2 servings

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AmarettiCookies_1

Ever since we recently had our Jura Espresso Machine serviced, we have been indulging in an espresso after lunch. We stock our coffee maker with decaffeinated espresso coffee beans so we’re not worried about being kept up at night with caffeine. Every time I have an espresso in the afternoon, I always feel like a little something to have with it, a biscotti (like this, this or this) or in most recent times, an amaretti cookie. Having just the right amount of ground almonds on hand, I decided to whip up these traditional but super easy cookies for our afternoon espresso.

Did you know that the first amaretti were made with crushed apricot kernels and almonds? You can read the story here.

They are deliciously almondy.

They are deliciously almondy.

Amaretti Cookies

Original recipe may be found here, I had to modify it because the cookies were flattening too much with the original proportions.

Makes about 44 cookies

Ingredients

  • 410 g ground almonds
  • 410 g granulated sugar
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 tsp almond flavouring
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 44 whole almonds, skin on

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 325° F  (163° C).
  2. In small portions, add the ground almonds, granulated sugar and lemon zest to the small container of your NutriBullet and using your milling blade, grind to a fine consistency. Run through a coarse sieve to avoid the almond bits sticking together.
  3. Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry, add the almond flavouring and mix well.
  4. Add the sugar and almond mixture to the beaten egg whites and gently combine. It should have the consistency of a thick paste.
  5. Spoon by generous teaspoons onto a parchment-lined baking sheet about 5 cm (2 inches) apart and top each cookie with a whole almond, pressed gently into it. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool slightly on the sheet and gently remove to a wire cooling rack. Store in an air-tight container separating rows with parchment paper. Or freeze.

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LemonyCookies_First

Recently we travelled to Arizona to visit our very dear friends Paul and T at their new home where they plan to spend the winter every year. I always like to arrive with a little thoughtful, but useful gift. Of course, folks our age have everything we could ever want, and if we don’t, we simply go out and get it. So buying a gift for their new home is becoming increasingly more difficult so I usually default to baking. After all, who doesn’t love home baked goods?

Our national grocery chain Loblaws’ private label brand PC (President’s Choice) has many great products in their lineup (you may be familiar with PC Chocolate Chip Cookies — I know that particular product was distributed nationwide in the U.S. Did they capture the market in the UK, Europe and Australia too?) and one particularly wonderful product was a Lemon Sandwich Cookie. Sadly this cookie has not been available for some time now (years, really) and our dear friend Paul LOVES them. Like, he really, really LOVES them. What set this cookie apart was its strong lemony flavour, in both the sugar biscuit and the creamy butter icing, sandwiched in the middle.

My usual MO is to make a couple of baked goods that are favourites below the 49th, but just like my Christmas baking, this list can get out of control over time. Cue JT to roll his eyes.

Now this one came about quite innocently, at least, to me it did (but then again, I can justify virtually anything!). You see, I was at Dollarama, picking up a few little things (never food) and I spotted the Wilton Sandwich Cookie Pan. Oh dear.

  • I did not go over and touch it.
  • I did not stop to look at it.
  • I did not even spend more than a split second thinking about it.
  • I simply passed by it and went on my merry way.

Of course, the memory of this specialty cookie pan tucked itself into a far corner of my brain, only to exert itself in the wee hours of the night as I was desperately trying to sleep. By the morning, I had already decided to go back and purchase one. They were only $3 so I got two and that way I could bake in tandem, my logic is that it uses less electricity if I could have a tray ready to go in the oven when the other comes out. You see? That’s justification! Cue JT to roll his eyes, again. But in all honesty, $3 is really quite reasonable for a quality Wilton product, particularly when it’s on their website for $8.99!
I used the Wilton recipe for the cookie that is on the packaging because I figured it must be tried and true and, for the most part, it worked out well. The only thing I would suggest is to add a bit of lemon zest to the cookie dough and not spray the pan with non-stick spray because the pan is already non-stick and I had no issues with the cookies releasing easily.

 

Lemony Sandwich Cookies

Makes 24 sandwich cookies.

Lemon Sandwich Sugar biscuit ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp natural lemon extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/3 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • a very small bit of yellow gel food colouring (optional)

Lemon Butter Cream Ingredients:

  • 94 g butter, room temperature
  • 360 g icing sugar
  • 2 tsp natural lemon extract
  • 3 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 lemons, freshly grated zest
  • a very small bit of yellow gel food colouring (optional)

Lemon Cookie Batter Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the oil and egg and beat until combined.
  2. Add the extracts, sugar and salt and beat for 1 minute.
  3. Add the flour a bit at a time, beating well to incorporate.
  4. Add the colouring a bit at a time until the desired colour is achieved.
  5. Create little round balls about 8 grams or 1/2 teaspoon each and put into the centre of each form (no need to spray with non-stick spray), press down evenly (I used a press like this cookie stamp without the silicon bit, make sure you press the bottom into flour first! You could also use an espresso tamper).
  6. Bake for 9 minutes or until no longer soft in the centre but not beginning to brown. Allow cookies to cool in the pan for a few minutes then gently coax out. Cool cookies completely before filling.

Lemon Butter Cream Filling Directions:

  1. Beat the butter until fluffy. Add the icing sugar a little each time, beating well.
  2. About half-way through the sugar, add the flavouring and lemon zest.
  3. Continue to add the sugar and beat until a desired consistency is achieved.
  4. Freeze unused buttercream in an airtight container. To use, defrost in the refrigerator. When ready to use, whip for a few minutes to ensure it is consistent.

Assembly:

  1. Using a Wilton #12 tip, fill a piping bag with the creamy filling and pipe onto one cookie at a time about half-way to the edge. Place a similarly sized cookie on top and gently squeeze. Repeat until you have 24 sandwiched cookies. In the unlikely occurrence that they are not consumed in one sitting, store in an airtight container for a day or two, or freeze for longer periods of storage. Frozen cookies have been known to be consumed quite happily, we’re not picky!!!

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HomemadeButter_first

My dear Mom encouraged us as children to participate in cooking. Sometimes it was as simple as cleaning green beans or popping sweet peas out of their pods, whatever the task, it always resulted in increasing our comfort level in the kitchen for which, to this day I am truly grateful. One such exercise was to make whipped cream for a dessert topping. I must have been quite young because Mom set-up a workstation on the kitchen table so I could see inside the bowl of our olive green Iona Stand Mixer!

I no longer have the stand for the mixer.

I no longer have the stand for the mixer.

We poured the ice cold cream into an ice cold glass bowl and I started the mixer. I learned that starting the mixer on high only resulted in cream splashing all over my face! The bowl sat on some sort of ball-bearing Lazy Susan which you had to gently hold so the bowl wouldn’t spin out of control (I was in charge of that). As you undoubtedly already know, whipping cream to stiff peaks doesn’t take long, but I didn’t know that back then! Dear Mom was distracted and before I knew it, the cream began separate and turn to butter, the fat congealing and separating from the buttermilk. These types of “mistakes” never resulted in a scolding, they turned into lessons and this one became Butter Making 101! In those days we ate a lot of butter so Mom knew this lesson wouldn’t go to waste! Fortunately, dear Mom always had extra whipping cream in the refrigerator and so I learned to make two things that day: butter and whipping cream.

This is a great exercise for children but be careful because today’s stand mixers can be very dangerous for small hands.

Homemade Butter

Ingredients:

  • 1 L (8 cups) whipping cream (35% fat)
  • Pinch of salt (optional)
  • Cheese cloth and a fine sieve.

Directions:

  1. Place your stand mixer mixing bowl and whisk into the freezer for 10-15 minutes or until very cold.
  2. When bowl and whisk have chilled through, secure bowl to stand and add the cream. Slowly begin beating cream, adding a pinch of salt if desired.
  3. At about 10 minutes, the cream should begin to thicken and separate from the whey, once you have distinct separation stop beating. Voilà, you have made butter!
  4. Strain through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. Reserve the buttermilk (I’ll use it to feed my sourdough starter), transfer butter to a resealable container and refrigerate. Or separate into smaller portion sizes and freeze. You will also need to squeeze excess buttermilk from the butter.
Butter_2

Deliciously creamy, homemade butter.

Notes:

  • You can make butter from any amount of whipping cream, I just had 1 litre left over from a gig.
  • I used my whisk attachment of my Kitchenaid stand mixer, but I’ve seen people do it in a blender too although I would find it too difficult to clean thoroughly.
  • Flavour butter with fresh herbs to make a compound butter and freeze in small portions to flavour fish, poultry or meats.
  • I chose not to salt my butter but you can add salt as you wish.
  • Butter freezes very well. Portion into 1/4 (125 mL) or 1/2 cup (250 mL) portions.
Portion size is 1 teaspoon.

Portion size is 1 teaspoon.

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HungarianGreenBeanStew_first

Green bean stew (Zöldbab Főzelék) is one of those Hungarian dishes that is an aquired taste, it has a bit of a sour flavour and is usually rather heavy on the dill. I never liked it as a kid, but it is a Hungarian staple particularly as spring approaches. Recently, I found myself with a relatively large package of the lovely, extra-thin green beans and I wondered how I could make this roux-based dish a little healthier. I omitted the lard (I know, it’s flavour but we’re also trying to lose a few so we’re being good!) and I remade the roux with puréed lentils! Not so traditional, but it was rather tasty. With JT giving it a solid thumbs up, I’ll definitely be making this dish again!

Healthy Hungarian Green Bean Stew (Egészséges Zöldbab Főzelék)

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 300 g Green Beans, trimmed and cut i bite-size pieces
  • 90 g leeks, roughly chopped
  • 20 g garlic, roughly chopped
  • 30 g red lentils
  • 1 tsp Hungarian Paprika
  • Vegetable Stock
  • 1 tsp EVOO
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2-3 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped.

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven, sauté green beans until soft but still has a bit of a crunch adding a tablespoon of the vegetable stock as needed. Set aside.
  2. In the same pan, add leeks, garlic and lentils and sauté adding a bit of vegetable stock until lentils are soft, add the paprika near the end. Purée the lentil sauce until smooth add  vegetable stock until desired consistency is achieved (should be thick like a roux). Add the yogurt and purée again until smooth. Return the beans to the lentil sauce and add the chopped dill (to taste), heat through and serve immediately.

Notes:

  • For an authentic Hungarian Green Bean Stew, please visit my friend Zsuzsa for her recipe.
  • I wanted a fat-free and gluten-free roux and that is why I chose red lentils to thicken the sauce.
  • This is a slightly sour dish from the yogurt, if you don’t like that type of flavour, omit it.
  • I served a baked tilapia on the stew, the tilapia is just seasoned with salt and pepper.
This was the first time I made this stew and JT LOVED it!

This was the first time I made this stew and JT LOVED it!

Based on 2 servings per recipe.

The healthy version based on 2 servings per recipe.


This is the original Hungarian Recipe which uses lard, sour cream and flour.

This is the original Hungarian Recipe which uses lard, sour cream and flour.

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