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Archive for May, 2016

The marketing company that I work with from time to time recently moved into their new exciting office space and they invited me down for a look. I decided to bring them a baked treat (because that is how I roll) and created this new chewy chocolate peanut butter brownie recipe! I was inspired by your generous reaction to the Chocolate Peanut Butter Bark with Gold Sea Salt that I created, thank you. This is not an overly sweet brownie but it is richly flavoured with chocolate with the classic peanut butter combo. I used natural, chunky PB that isn’t sugared or salted, but feel free to use your traditional grocery store PB and omit the additional sugar and salt that I add in the later part of this recipe. The recipe is loosely based on my Go-To brownie recipe that my dear Mom cut out of the Toronto Star about 20 years ago (click here and here).

Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies 

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 25 brownies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 5 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 45 g (1 1/2 oz) semi-sweet dark chocolate chips
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup natural, chunky peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Sift flour, icing sugar, cocoa powder and baking powder.
  2. Melt butter  with chocolate chips, add vanilla and water and stir well.
  3. Beat in the egg whites (if the liquid is still hot, temper them so you don’t get scrambled eggs!)
  4. Add dry ingredients and stir well.
  5. Pour into a prepared 9″ x 9″ pan and line the pan with parchment paper, then spray with non-stick baking spray. Bake for 25-40 minutes until firm and cake tester comes out clean.
  6. Option to frost with a butter icing, but not necessary as this brownie is very moist and flavourful.

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I’ve been thinking about zucchini noodles a lot lately. Both JT and I love them because they maintain a similar texture to traditional flour noodles, yet they are considerably lower in carbohydrates and that, my friends is something I am always on the lookout for! I’ve created this recipe lower in calories than traditional lasagna and it’s absolutely delicious if I do say so myself. I won’t kid you, it does take some planning and some playing in the kitchen but as far as I know, you guys are excellent at both so I urge you to give it a try. Double or triple the recipe and make a large casserole-size version, freeze for a few hours and cut into single serves and bag individually and presto, you have instant lunch or a quick casual dinner. I know I will try the vegetarian version over the summer because I am always on the lookout for interesting vegetarian recipes for our vegetarian friends when they come up to the cottage.

ZucchiniLasagna

Allow this dish to sit for about 15 minutes so that the excess liquid can be reabsorbed. It would be much too hot to eat anyway!

ZucchiniLasagna_plated

Like most things, this is much tastier the second day, if you have any leftovers, that is!

Zucchini Lasagna (Gluten Free and Easy to Convert to Vegetarian or Vegan!)

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1 cast iron enamel terrine 30 cm long x 11 cm wide x 8 cm high, 6 servings.

Ingredients for noodles and cheese:

  • 2 zucchini, sliced to about 3 mm (1/8″) (leave the ends, first and last slice and any leftovers for your compost broth)
  • 2 roasted red peppers, seeded and peeled, cut into 1 cm (1/2″ slices) (see notes)
  • 180 g (1 cup) mozzarella cheese (omit for vegan)
  • 300 mL ‘Béchamel’ (recipe below)
  • 500 mL (2 cups) Meat Sauce (recipe below, for vegan see notes below)

Ingredients for the ‘Béchamel’:

Makes 300 mL or 1 1/3 cups ‘béchamel’

  • 90 g (a heaping 1/3 cup) red lentils
  • 250 mL (1 cup) vegetable stock or water, plus a bit more to loosen the cooled sauce
  • 50 g (1/2 cup or so) gruyère cheese, shredded (omit for vegan, see notes below)
  • 250 mL (1 cup) milk, plus a little to loosen if required (vegan use vegetable stock or rice milk, see notes below)
  • Pinch of smoked paprika
  • Pinch of sea salt (to taste)

Directions for the Béchamel:

  1. Cook the lentils in water or stock until very soft. Remove from heat and purée until smooth. Add the liquid of choice slowly as you purée until it is extremely smooth and creamy. If you’re making this vegan, stir in the smoked paprika and salt, set aside.
  2. Return to low heat and stir in the cheese all at once and whisk until melted, smooth and thickened (about 2-5 minutes, don’t worry, this WILL thicken as it cools). Remove from heat and stir in the smoked paprika and salt. If the sauce has become grainy (as lentils sometimes do), just blitz it again with the immersion blender. Set aside.

Ingredients for the ‘Meat’ Sauce:

Makes 500 mL (2 cups) Sauce

  • 5 mL (1 tsp) olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
  • 15 g (about 3 cloves) garlic, finely minced
  • 300 g of lean ground pork (vegans, use your favourite cooked beans or ground tofu)
  • 300 g fresh tomatoes, puréed (or 1 1/2 cups passata)
  • Pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • pinch of baking soda
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 piece of parmesan end (omit if vegan)

Directions for the Meat Sauce:

  1. Blitz the fresh tomatoes with an immersion blender until you can no longer feel the seeds and skin (no need to pass through a fine sieve, once incorporated into the lasagna you will not feel any tomato seed or skin texture).
  2. Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized Dutch oven and sauté the onions until soft. Add the minced garlic and stir until fragrant.
  3. Add the ground pork (beans or ground tofu) stirring occasionally, breaking up the larger bits of meat. Add the tomato sauce, baking soda, oregano, basil, nutmeg and Parmesan end and simmer for 15-20 minutes until thickened and not overly liquid.
  4. Remove the parmesan end (chef’s treat!) and transfer the ‘meat sauce’ to another bowl to cool.

Assembly:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350° F (177 ° C).
  2. Lightly grease a cast iron enamel terrine pan 30 cm long x 11 cm wide x 8 cm high (12 in long x 4 1/2 in wide x 3 in high).
  3. Lay strips of the thinly sliced zucchini on the bottom of the pan. Add 125 mL (~1/2 cup) of the meat sauce and spread out evenly. Lay strips of the red pepper on top of the meat. Spread 75 mL (~1/3 cup) of the ‘béchamel’ sauce evenly over the pepper layer (if ‘béchamel’ becomes too thick, loosen it by whisking in a little vegetable stock or ‘milk’). Sprinkle with 63 mL (1/4 cup) grated mozzarella cheese (omit if vegan), repeat until the pan is filled or you’ve used everything up. End with the béchamel sauce on top and sprinkle the top with the remainder of the shredded mozzarella (omit if vegan).
  4. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and the zucchinis still have a bit of a bite to them (al dente). The internal temperature should be about 140° F. Broil the cheese version for about 10 minutes to caramelise the top.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 10 minutes. Cut into 6 portions and serve with a light salad.

Do NOT omit the roasted red peppers, they ad incredible flavour.

Do NOT omit the roasted red peppers, they add incredible flavour.

ZucchiniLasagna_Unbaked

Just before I popped it into the oven.

Notes to make this a Vegan Lasagna:

  • Béchamel:
    • substitute vegetable stock or rice milk for the “milk” component.
    • leave out the “cheese” component altogether, the lentils make a delightfully flavoured béchamel even without cheese (plus I am skeptical about vegan cheese, what is that?)
  • Almond milk and coconut milk are too strongly flavoured, that is why I didn’t recommend it. On top of everything, I would avoid coconut milk because we are making this an Italian flavoured dish.
  • Want to omit the ‘béchamel’? Add slices of Chinese eggplant, it will add the creaminess mouthfeel we crave with lasagna.
  • Meat Sauce: substitute your favourite cooked beans or ground tofu in similar measures for the ground meat.
  • Want to add even more flavour? BBQ the veg for a few minutes before you assemble, the smokiness adds a lot of flavour.

Notes:

  • I had pork from a previous meal that I ground up fresh for this recipe, use whatever meat or beans you wish.
  • The lentil béchamel will thicken as it cools, just whisk in a bit more milk, rice milk or vegetable stock to loosen.
  • I like the stringiness of mozzarella in lasagna but if you are lactose intolerant, feel free to substitute goats cheese, the tang will be incredible in this dish.
  • Whenever I see beautiful red peppers, particularly if there is a sale, I buy a bunch, roast them on the BBQ and save the slices in the freezer for future pizza’s or in this case, lasagna (freeze on a parchment lined cookie sheet and when frozen, place in a plastic bag. Leave in whole pieces to give you more options in usage). Omitting the roasted red peppers is a mistake because they add incredible flavour and sweetness.

This is the nutritional facts for the meat version of my recipe above, based on 6 servings.

This is the nutritional facts for the meat version of my recipe above, based on 6 servings.

This is the vegan version using navy beans and omitted all cheese.

This is my vegan version using navy beans and omitted all cheese.

This is an epicurious recipe based on 6 servings.

This is a Food Network recipe based on 6 servings.

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GreenPea&BasilSoup_First

In my line of work, sometimes I acquire excess food from time to time — it’s just stuff that’s left over. The protocol is to offer it first to the client, then the photography staff, art director and lastly the food stylist (me). Recently, we were shooting a video ad for a popular small appliance on location in someone’s home, I had to shop and prepare about 12 recipes in advance and arrive only to do last minute plating and garnishes. It’s not the best situation for food because the food can look wilted and old very quickly, but it had to be done, so I persevered and it was done. It was an extremely professional group and the video team was equally as lovely (everyone came over to hug me after the job was done). Because the location was a private house, we had to vacate very quickly, packing up in warp speed — no time to wash anything, everything was put into bags to be washed at home. The leftover food was repackaged and everyone helped and carry everything to my car. Many of the items (everything on set) was garbage because we didn’t have proper refrigeration (like chicken wings and drumsticks that sat out at room temperature for about 4 hours) but some of the vegetables were entirely usable, including the ingredients in this recipe. The bag of frozen petite pois (small peas) had defrosted but were still very cold so they were fine and the basil was in tip top shape and so this soup was born. Peas and basil are a lovely combination and I urge you to give it a try, it really is so refreshing and moreish plus it is an absolutely gorgeous colour. You can serve this simple soup hot or cold, we had it hot for dinner with a nice dollop of goats cheese melting into the soup. Bon Appetite!

Green Pea and Basil Soup, chaud ou froid

Makes about 1 L of soup

Ingredients:

  • 750 g bag frozen petite pois (sweet peas), defrosted
  • 500 mL vegetable stock (preferably homemade like this easy, economical recipe)
  • 10-20 large basil leaves, to taste
  • 4 basil leaves, chiffonade
  • Sea salt, to taste

Directions:

  1. In a large glass container, combine the petite pois and vegetable stock with 10-20 basil leaves. Blend with an immersion blender until very smooth, taste and season accordingly.
  2. Press this liquid through a fine sieve (the pea skins are not a great texture in this soup). Serve hot or cold with a chiffonade of basil or a dollop of goats cheese.
GreenPea&BasilSoupNew

This simple yet versatile soup may be served hot or cold. Think about garnishing it with a caramelized scallop!

Notes:

  • This is a light soup, if you would like it to have more body, consider blending an avocado into it, starting with half and blend until smooth and taste for richness, blend in the second half if necessary.
  • If you are not fond of basil, try mint, it also pairs beautifully with sweet peas.
  • The beauty of this soup is its simplicity, no cooking, few ingredients.

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TrioThaiDesserts_First

Last month we had another progressive dinner (number 11 to be exact) and we decided to make up some new rules. In general, we alternate clockwise for the courses and this time it was neighbours John and Nancy’s turn to make the main course. The first new rule is that the couple who has the main course chooses the theme. The second new rule, is that the main course couple may also invite a “guest couple” to participate in the eating but not in the making; having four courses has put the main course much too late in the evening (around 10:30-11) because we inevitably stay too long at each house! For this progressive dinner, John and Nancy chose Thai food because Nancy was recently in Thailand and had a marvellous time. It was our turn for dessert.

There aren’t too many desserts in Thailand and I recently learned that they generally don’t serve a sweet after dinner, desserts are usually saved for celebrations, like weddings. Thai desserts are often not sweet and sometimes even savoury (don’t you worry, I didn’t choose savoury (you know who you are!)). I did have a rather difficult time landing on three desserts that would WOW our party because I wanted to choose something obviously Thai and put my own spin on it. I finally chose a baked Coconut Custard Slice (from my Easy Thai-Style Cookery from the Australian Woman’s Weekly, published in 1996), also from the same cookbook, a Sticky Rice Pudding infused with Kafir Lime Leaves with a Coconut and Lime Custard and lastly a Mango Mousse garnished with a Mango Rose (from Epicurious). All three desserts were served in small portions, as above. I made all three in advance and portioned them out so that on the evening I needed only to plate them. These dinners always get out of control with the volume of food so small portions is all anyone ever wants, but I had made enough for leftovers in case someone wanted more. I really like coconut so both the custard cake and the rice pudding were high on my favourite list, but I have to say the mango mousse was also refreshing and delicious. Which one would you choose as your favourite?

A very nicely textured coconut lemon custard.

A very nicely textured coconut lemon custard.

Baked Coconut Custard Cake

Makes one 24 cm (9.5 inch) tart, about 1 cm (0.5 inch) deep.

For original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) coconut cream
  • 1 cup 18% cream
  • eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened coconut, toasted
  • Lemon or Lime zest for garnish

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350° F. Prepare an 24 cm (9.5 inch) removable bottom scalloped tart pan by lightly greasing and lining the exterior bottom in foil making sure it comes up more than half way on the sides and is waterproof. Set aside.
  2. Combine coconut cream, cream, eggs and brown sugar in a heavy bottomed pan and stir over medium-low heat until warm; do not boil (the coconut cream will separate).
  3. Pour mixture into the prepared pan. Place the tart pan into larger pan that can accommodate enough boiling water to come halfway up the side of the tart pan.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes or until the centre of custard is just set. Cool custard for 30 minutes and then refrigerate custard 1 hour or 1-2 days before serving.
  5. Cut into wedges and sprinkle with extra coconut and lemon or lime zest, if desired.
RicePuddingCustard

A delicious rice pudding scented with kaffir lime leaves and a baked custard topping.

Kaffir Lime Sticky Rice Pudding

Serves 4 individual portions or 9 mini portions.

For original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients for the rice pudding:

  • 1/2 cup (100 g) short grain rice
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 cup (250 mL) coconut milk (including the cream)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) water
  • 10-20 dried kafir lime leaves (depending on how much you like kafir limes)
  • 2 tbsp white sesame seeds, toasted

Ingredients for the custard:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup (250ml) coconut milk, including the cream
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • juice from 1/2 a lime

Directions:

  1. Lightly grease nine 125 mL (1/2 cup) capacity ovenproof mason jars with coconut oil. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Combine rice, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, coconut milk and water in a thick bottom pan, and slowly bring to a boil while stirring. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally until rice is tender and liquid has been absorbed (about 30 minutes). Cool slightly. Remove Kafir lime leaves, discard.
  3. To make the custard, combine the milk with the eggs, sugar and lime juice and whisk together. Set aside.
  4. To each prepared mason jar, add 2 slightly heaping tablespoons of the rice pudding and press into the bottom of the jar. Pour the prepared custard evenly into each of the nine jars.
  5. Place jars into a large rimmed pan and fill the pan with warm water to about 1/2 way up the mason jars. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 30 minutes or until custard has set.
  6. Remove jars and allow to cool. Refrigerate until 2 hours before serving, then remove from fridge and serve at room temperature garnished with the toasted sesame seeds.
MangoMousse

A lightly set mousse (not heavy on the gelatin) with a good punch of mango and a dash of lime.

Mango Mousse

Makes one 23 cm x 23 cm (9″ x 9″) pan of mousse.

For original recipe please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 1 envelope (1 tablespoon) unflavored gelatin
  • 500 mL (2 cups) fresh mango purée (about 4 small mangos)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (I used Greek)
  • 3 egg whites, beaten until stiff but not dry (you may substitute whipped cream for the egg whites, about 1 cup whipped)
  • 1 mango for rose garnises and lime zest

Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan sprinkle the gelatin over 1/4 cup cold water, let it soften for 1 minute, then heat the mixture over low heat, stirring until the gelatin is dissolved.
  2. In a blender or using an emersion blender, blend together the mango purée, sugar, vanilla, and yoghurt and add the gelatin mixture and blend the mixture well.
  3. Beat the egg whites (or whipping cream) until they hold stiff peaks, fold it into the mango mixture gently but thoroughly.
  4. Pour into a plastic-lined 23 cm x 23 cm (9″ x 9″) pan.
  5. Chill the mousse for at least 4 hours or overnight. Freeze for 30 minutes before serving (improves both the flavour and texture, and makes it much easier to handle).
  6. Cut 9 servings using a flower cookie cutter and place carefully on a plate, garnish with mango roses. To make mango roses, I simply used my vegetable peeler and peeled slices about 30 cm (12 inches) long from each mango and then rolled into a rose. I prepared the roses in advance to make serving easier.

 

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GarlicCheeseRopeBread_First

I was about 33 when JT and I first vacationed in Florida. JT and I rented a friend’s house in Daytona Beach and used it as a base to travel around, taking a couple of days to visit friends in Sarasota and to explore that side of the state. While travelling, there were several roadside eateries that would come up that were rather new to us Canadians: Cracker Barrel, Denny’s and Waffle House to name a few. As you know by now, I am not so fond of fast food, so we avoided them but one morning we got up early to explore and decided that waffles were in order and we thought, what better place than Waffle House? Boy were we wrong, what a joke (I apologise to those who love the place), the waffles were thin and dry and they didn’t even have real maple syrup or even real butter! Maybe I’m a waffle snob, but real maple syrup and butter are necessities for a good waffle experience. Our waitress was surly and unapproachable, great qualities for a waitress. We begrudgingly ate the sad excuse for waffles and left. In the car, I couldn’t stop thinking about how bad an experience it was and immediately renamed the place Awful House! Needless to say, we did not stop at Awful House ever again!

When you’re looking for a delicious bread recipe, you need not look further than this recipe for Cheddar Garlic Rope Bread, plus there is nothing like it on the menu at Awful House! It’s not that difficult to make and it bakes up beautifully. I made this loaf for my Cousin Lucy’s Easter Dinner.

GarlicCheeseRopeBread

The bread is laced with delicious cheddar and garlic butter. Make sure you serve this warm.

Cheddar Garlic Rope Bread

This recipe makes one 40 cm x 15 cm (15″ x 6″) rope.

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp powdered milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 1 tbsp yeast
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 3/4 cup warm water (it should feel slightly warm to the touch not hot)
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/4 tsp white vinegar

Ingredients for the cheddar, garlic butter spread:

  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (or to taste)
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Combine the yeast, sugar and warm water, stir gently and allow to proof.
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer add the flour, salt, powdered milk, eggs and vinegar. Using the KitchenAid® Flex Edge Beater attachment, mix until the eggs have totally become incorporated into the flour. Change to the dough hook.
  3. Add the yeast water mixture and knead the dough for 10 minutes until you get a smooth slightly sticky dough.
  4. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover it and allow it to rise in a warm place till it doubles in size (this only takes about 45 minutes).
  5. Pre-heat your oven to 400°F (I used the fan setting).
  6. In the bowl of a small food processor, combine the cheese, butter, garlic and salt and pulse until completely combined, set aside.
  7. Once the dough has doubled in size, roll out the dough into a 0.5 cm (1/4 inch) thick rectangle (mine worked out to 40 cm x 30 cm (16″ x 12″). Spread all of the cheese butter mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 1 cm (1/2 inch) border on three sides (spread right to the long side that you will begin to roll). Starting at the long end, roll up the dough tightly to form a roll. Seal all of the edges well by pinching them closed (wet fingers with water if necessary). Slice the roll in half lengthwise, leaving the last 5 cm (2 inches) connected.
  8. Turn each half cut-side up and carefully wrap the halves together like a rope, maintaining the cut-sides up to expose the filling. Carefully place on a baking tray with sides, lined with parchment paper and allow to rest, covered in a warm location for 1 hour. Check out Angie’s blog for detailed photos on how-to roll, cut and form into a rope.
  9. Coat with the vinegar, egg wash.
  10. Bake for 5-7 minutes on the high heat, then reduce to 350°F and bake for another 7-10 minutes or until the bottom is golden and it sounds hollow when tapped.
  11. Serve warm.

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