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Archive for May, 2017

Last month, the Japanese Cherry Blossoms (Sakura trees) blossomed in Toronto. This was a big deal because last year, they failed to bloom as we had a hard frost after several weeks of very warm weather. In fact, the frost was so hard that we lost a few trees. These trees are special because they were a gift from the Japanese ambassador to Canada, Toru-Hagiwara in 1959 as a gift to the citizens of Toronto for their support of Japanese-Canadian refugees after the Second World War. You can read more about the history here. It’s such a popular time in High Park (a park that is only about a 10-minute walk from our house) that the streets become clogged with traffic and it is virtually impossible to drive into the park; well, not quite impossible, but it will take you more than 1 hour! And don’t even think about parking in the park because you won’t be able to find a spot. Last year, a friend parked illegally and had a lovely surprise of a $450 ticket on her car upon return!

If you want to see the blossoms in Toronto, you’ll need to be here in April and you can watch this website, which predicts when they will blossom! JT took these beautiful photos so I wouldn’t miss them when they peaked as I was in Florida with a girlfriend.

Before I left for Florida, we invited friends, who live downtown, to join us for a walk to the park and then dinner in the village, it’s really the only sensible thing to do, if you wish to see the blossoms (and get in my 10,000 steps!) We had some wine and cheese before we left for our walk and I decided to make a french baguette, a recipe I haven’t made in quite a few years. This is the first bread recipe I ever made when I was around 14, it’s really that easy. In those days, I kneaded by hand, but now I get the big guns out and let the stand mixer do the heavy lifting for 8-10 minutes. The recipe produces two or four amazing french baguettes. I baked two and froze the others for another time. The recipe is basically true to the original recipe I made except I updated the method of rolling into the uique baguette form and the baking method.

That’s Bonny & Clyde, the Mum & Dad Capybara’s that escaped last year. They had babies this spring!

Simple French Baguette

Original recipe from Five Roses, A guide to good cooking, 5th edition

This recipe make four 33 cm (13 inch) French sticks

Ingredients:

  • 300 mL (1 1/4 cup) boiling water
  • 30 g (2 tbsp) butter
  • 15 g (1 tbsp) sugar
  • 8 g (1 package, about 1 tbsp) bread machine yeast
  • 50 mL (1/4 cup) lukewarm water
  • pinch of sugar
  • 570 g (4 cups) All Purpose Unbleached Flour
  • 15 g (2 tsp) salt
  • Olive oil
  • 1 egg white, beaten

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter and 15 grams of sugar in the boiling water and cool until lukewarm.
  2. Sprinkle the yeast over 50 mL water with a pinch of sugar and whisk to combine. Set aside to proof for a couple of minutes (I like to do this even with quick rising yeast to make sure it’s not dead).
  3. Combine the buttery water (when it has cooled to lukewarm) with the proofed yeast and stir to mix well.
  4. Combine the flour and salt in the large bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Pour the liquid yeast into the centre and turn the mixer on low speed until it forms a nice dough.
  5. Knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth and elastic (mine took about 8 minutes).
  6. Lightly coat with olive oil and set aside in a warm place, 1 to 2 hours or when double in size. Punch down and divide the dough into two equal portions.
  7. Divide the dough into two or four equal portions. With the base of your palm, press out the dough to a little rectangle, roughly size it 1:3 — it should not be huge at this point. then fold the long side up about 1/3 of the way and press into the dough with your knuckle or fingers to seal. Repeat with the other long side. Flatten the roll and press an indentation into the centre along the long side. Fold down to form a long baguette and seal with your fingers or knuckles. Roll out to elongate and taper the ends. This is the Julia Child method which may be seen here at roughly 6 minute 10 second mark.
  8. Preheat the oven to 450° F (230° C). Place the baguette seam side down on a baguette baking sheet and brush them with the egg white and then dock them using a sharp lame, you can see how this is done at roughly 9 minute 53 second mark of the same video. Place the baguette pan in a larger pan with a few chunks of ice off to the sides, cover tightly with foil paper.
  9. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 425° F (220° C) , remove the foil wrap and brush again with the egg white and then turn the pan 180 degrees and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes or until the baguette is golden brown and the crust has stiffened up and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

The steaming process produces the great texture.

Notes:

  • There are as many baguette recipes as there are blogs, if you have one you like to use, I encourage you to try this rolling and baking method, I am sold and will make crusty bread this way from now on.
  • I used 5 normal sized ice cubes.
  • The crust is nice and crunchy and the crumb is chewy and wonderful.
  • If your larger pan doesn’t have tall enough sides, I would spray the foil with non-stick spray so that when the bread rises and touches the foil, it will not stick.
  • This is the baguette pan that I use.

The baguette has a crispy crust with a nice chewy crumb.

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Today is Victoria Day of the long weekend, which happens to be very important for Canadians because it is the May Two-Four Weekend: Queen Victoria’s birthday, cottage opening, garden planting, and the first outdoor BBQs and patios!! It is also the weekend that JT and I tied the knot! Yes indeed, we hitched up on the holiday Monday of a long weekend. Now, now, don’t get your knickers in a knot, the wedding ceremony started at 3pm on the holiday Monday, so people realistically could still get up to the cottage, open and get back in time for the wedding. Not everyone was happy about our decision, but it wasn’t really our fault, you see it was our first time and we had no idea how far in advance you had to book your venue for the reception (we found one venue that was taking bookings 3 years from the date), so when we found one available on the holiday Monday only 5 months after we got engaged, we went for it.

The weeks leading up to our wedding were lovely; gorgeous, warm, spring weather, three beautiful bridal showers, and the shear excitement every time a parcel arrived at the door! I had everything planned out, it would be a glorious day and everything would be perfect. I should have known things don’t always go as planned.

The night before the wedding, I tried on my dress and Mom and I decided we really didn’t love the neckline, it was far too high; fortunately, the dress was lace and I was able to trim away the bits we didn’t care for, using manicure scissors, and it worked out perfectly. I went to bed that night with my hair in rollers and I said a little prayer for my Dad who had passed in 1981 and crossed my fingers and toes that it would be a beautiful, sunny, spring day.

I awoke Monday, May 19 to a cold, dark and dreary, rainy day. I honestly thought I would be devastated but I wasn’t, I was absolutely fine. Things would go on with slight modifications. No big deal. And because the rain persisted ALL DAY, people were not that upset about having to leave the cottage early (we had a lot of cottager guests). After the ceremony, we were going to take photos in my In-Laws’ garden but since we couldn’t, we moved it inside (they had a lovely mansion), everything was just fine. The strange thing about that day was that it rained constantly, without stopping ALL DAY with the exception of the few times I stepped outside — to get into the limo from my Mom’s home, to get out of the limo at the Church, and to and from my In-Law’s home and finally to and from our reception! It stopped EVERY SINGLE TIME! I didn’t use an umbrella and I did not get wet! Thanks, Dad! We had a typical dinner for a wedding of that time (caesar salad, roast beef, Yorkshire puddings, and steamed veg) but considering the cool day, we sure could have used some soup and this soup would have been perfect. (click on the photo below for a short slide show). Please forgive me, the eighties were unforgiving style-wise!

To celebrate our 31st wedding anniversary (I was a child bride ;-)), we took a little road trip to Stratford, Ontario to see Guys and Dolls and stay overnight. Stratford is aptly named for the city in England and its primary mandate is to present Shakespearean plays but also includes a variety of Greek tragedies and Broadway-style musicals (wiki) to broaden its reach. It was a great weekend, although the weather went from 30° C (86° F) to 10° C (50° F) with high cold winds, we enjoyed walking around this pedestrian-friendly town with an excellent food scene. Here is a little slideshow of our trip.

As I mentioned, the weather turned on the morning of our trip (and our actual wedding day) and we were basically back in November! I had a huge soup craving and this one would have certainly hit the spot. I have made these grilled cheese croutons, again and again, they are excellent in a caesar salad too (use Parmesan instead of cheddar)!

Creamed Broccoli Pesto Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1 L or 4 cups soup

Ingredients:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 100 g (1 medium size) sweet onions, chopped
  • 300 g (2 stems) broccoli, including the stems, chopped
  • 20 g (3-4 cloves) garlic, roughly chopped
  • 45 ML (3 tbsp) basil pesto (I used this recipe but used ground almonds instead of pine nuts)
  • vegetable or chicken stock

Directions:

  1. Using a splash of olive oil, caramelize the onions, about 15 minutes.
  2. Add the broccoli and garlic and cover with stock and cook until softened (about 30 minutes).
  3. Add the basil pesto and cook for an additional minute.
  4. Using an immersion blender, blend soup until very smooth, adding more stock to achieve desired thickness (I did not need to). Press through a fine sieve.
  5. Serve with Grilled Cheese croutons (recipe below).

These are crisp, cheesy croutons.

Grilled Cheese Croutons

Ingredients:

  • 1 slice of seeded bread (we like this one)
  • 30 mL (2 tbsp) Mycryo
  • 50 g (1/2 cup) shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F (177° C).
  2. Cut the bread into bite-sized cubes and coat with the Mycryo. Bake, stirring often until bread has become dried croutons. Toss with the shredded cheddar and return to the oven and bake until cheese melts and caramelizes.
  3. To serve the soup, ladel soup into warm bowls and toss the grilled cheese croutons on top and serve piping hot.

If you love crispy cheese, you will love these croutons.

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When JT and I were first married, we lived in our first home in Stouffville, a bedroom community Northeast of Toronto. JT would drive 30 minutes to an hour to work and I would take the hour long GO Train (Government of Ontario commuter train) downtown. Fortunately, the downtown train station was connected to an intricate underground system called PATH, Toronto’s Downtown Pedestrian Walkway that I would take all the way to work in the Financial District. Of course, these underground paths were always lined with stores, tempting you to buy, buy, buy!! There may have been one or two instances when I may have picked up a new outfit on the way to work, and I would change into it at the fitness club after my workout!

There were also several food courts along the way, so if one became a little famished from the long journey to work, one might pick up a nibble or two along the way! That is when I became addicted to Bran Date Muffins. These overly processed, moist and sticky muffins were sold at a “healthy” eatery along my walk to work. I usually don’t go for the ready made treats but there was something so moreish about these muffins (texture and taste) that I bought one or two every week (that’s when I had a metabolism!). These days, I wouldn’t dare eat that type of muffin, knowing what I know about the ingredients they use to make them so moreish so that is why I decided to try to recreate my obsession using healthy ingredients. I also decided to make them mini so that I could have a small treat without committing to a regular-sized muffin.

They are not the same as the ones I had so many years ago, but they are quite tasty and not nearly as bad for you so I’m pretty happy with the outcome. The bran and nuts provide great texture, the apples and the dates give it some moistness. Next time, I think I will reduce the flour component and increase the apples and fruit juice.

JT was quite surprised that there is no processed sugar in these babies, just dates, apples and fruit juice to sweeten.

Apple, Bran and Date Mini-Muffins revamped

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 30 mini-muffins

Ingredients:

  • 250 mL (1 cup) fruit juice
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 375 mL (1 1/2 cup) peeled and shredded apple
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) chopped dates
  • 250 mL (1 cup) bran buds
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) chopped pecans
  • 2 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 30 mL (2 tsp) cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F (190° C). Spray 24 mini-muffin pan with non-stick spray. Set aside.
  2. Combine the whole egg and the egg white and beat until well mixed, add the milk and stir to combine.
  3. In a large bowl, add the bran buds, shredded apple and dates, stir until combined. Pour the egg mixture over the top, stirring it in. Allow to stand 5 minutes.
  4. Sift the flour with the baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
  5. Fold the flour mixture into the bran mixture until everything is combined. Stir in the chopped pecans.
  6. Divide batter into 30 mini-muffin cups evenly (24 first, then 6). Bake for 20-22 minutes or until cake tester comes clean.

Notes:

  • If you’d rather make regular-sized muffins, this recipe will produce 12.
  • The bran buds I use are rather hard so soaking is important, your bran cereal may be loser and not need as much time to break down. I like a little bran texture so I didn’t soak my bran very long.
  • I used fruit juice instead of milk so that I could eliminate the 1/4 cup sugar from the recipe. I used Mango because I had it on hand, use whatever you wish, apple juice would work equally as well.
  • You may use 3 whole eggs instead of 1 whole egg and 2 egg whites, someone over here used up the whole eggs and forgot to write it on the shopping list. I wonder who that was?
  • These were pretty moist, even without the use of oil. Next time, I will reduce the flour to 1 1/2 cups and increase the fruit juice and shredded apple by 1/4 cup each.

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A new Italian resto moved into the outskirts of the village (Bloor West Village) and we have hesitated to try it because it’s a small chain (currently 2 in the GTA) but we were on one of our long walks and it was lupper-time and we were a bit peckish so we decided to go for it.

It’s a well-designed Italian-like interior with stonework and wood finishes in a contemporary rustic feel. The food was very good as was the service

JT ordered Tagliolini alla Carbonara ($16.00 Canadian) which is described on the menu as “Long pasta, pancetta (Italian bacon), organic eggs, Pecorino Romano cheese, black pepper and extra virgin olive oil“. We prefer a slightly drier carbonara but I must say, it was delicious. The over the top crispy-fried pancetta really made the dish.

TAGLIOLINI ALLA CARBONARA $16.00

I ordered the appetizer portion of the Carpaccio di Vitello ($17.00 Canadian, currently removed from the menu due to lack of sales) which was described on the menu as “Thinly sliced veal drizzled with fresh lemon juice, baby arugula, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and shaved Parmigiano – Reggiano cheese”. It was wonderful. It wasn’t quite as bountiful as the Carpaccio I had in Arizona, but the perfect size for lupper (that’s Lunch and Supper combined)!

CARPACCIO DI VITELLO $17.00

Compared to the one I had in Arizona, which was SO MUCH FOOD! To give you an idea for size, the plate at Goodfellas was about the size of a dinner plate whereas the plate in Arizona was the size of a serving platter (you can see the size difference of the salad plate at the back, it was HUGE!)

Go big or GO HOME!

Overall rating of Goodfellas Bloor West Village (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 4/5, food 4.5/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 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.

Goodfellas “Wood Oven” Pizza

1 Old Mill Drive,
(Bloor & S.Kingsway), Toronto

Telephone: (855) 433-5527
Email: info@goodfellaspizza.ca
Hours, Every day: 11AM–11PM

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Warning: there is nothing healthy about this.

Ok, sometimes it happens: I make a totally unhealthy recipe. We had a friend stay overnight because he and JT were heading down to Buffalo first thing in the morning, to see a hockey game so I made cinnamon buns. We had some for tasters and one each for breakfast, then I froze the rest. Now these damn things will be calling my name every time I open the freezer!

I was down in Florida last week for a bit of girl-time with one of my dearest friends. It was a wonderful break and the weather was amazing! Might have done a bit of shopping too!!! Sorry I was MIA on comments, will catch up this week. XOXO

Cinnamon Buns

Please click here for the original recipe

Makes 12 buns

Ingredients for dough:

  • 250 mL (1 cup) warm milk
  • 8 g 1(2tbsp) quick yeast
  • 590 g (about 4 1/4 cups) all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 55 g (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 3 g (1 tsp) cinnamon
  • 6 g (1 tsp) salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 76 g (1/3 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature

Directions for dough:

  1. Combine yeast and warm milk and stir to dissolve yeast.
  2. In the large bowl of your KitchenAid mixer fitted with the scraping cookie dough hook, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt, eggs and butter, blend until thoroughly combined.
  3. Add the milky yeast and switch to the dough hook. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes or until it comes away from the sides and is soft and silky.
  4. In a greased bowl, in a warm place, allow to rise until doubled in bulk (about 1 hour).
  5. Roll the dough into a rectangle about 0.5 cm (1/4 inch) thick, about 60 x 35.5 cm (24 x 14 inches).
  6. Spread the filling evenly over the rectangle to all side but one long side.
  7. Roll from the long side with filling to the edge into a tight roll, pinching the final side closed. Cut into 5 cm (2 inch) slices and place into a lightly greased pan 26.5 cm (10.5 inch) springform pan.
  8. Pre-heat the oven to 175° C (350° F). Let rest 15 minutes.
  9. Bake for 40-50 minutes until light golden brown and it has baked through (an internal temperature of 88–93°C (190–200° F ).
  10. Ice only right before serving.

Ingredients for Filling:

  • 245 g (1 cup) packed brown sugar
  • 18 g (2 1⁄2 tbsp) cinnamon
  • 76 g (1/3 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature

Directions for Filling:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients to make a smooth paste, set aside.

Ingredients for Icing:

  • 20 g (1/4 cup) butter, room temperature
  • 70 g (1/4 cup) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 200 g (1 1/2 cups) icing sugar
  • 3 mL (1/2 tsp) clear vanilla
  • 2-4 tbsp cold water
  • Pinch of salt

Directions for Icing:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients to make a smooth paste, set aside.

Notes:

  • I reduced the sugar by half in the dough from the original recipe as I find these things usually super sweet. I increased the flour to make up for the sugar.
  • I also added cinnamon to the dough.
  • I added water to the icing as I prefer it to be drizzled instead of dipped or smeared.

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