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We’ve been away. In Arizona. Where it was high twenty, low thirty degrees (Celsius). I’m sorry you were still in winter, while I was enjoying endless sun and dry warmth in Arizona. Well, not really sorry. I may have even rubbed it in with some weather network posts. It was truly wonderful. It was liberating not to have that 10-minute dressing routine even before you step outside. My feet rejoiced! No socks! My feet weren’t freezing to death even though they were covered in wool and leather. I could totally get used to it. But now we’re back in reality and cooking warming and hearty dishes like we did for Super Bowl.

We hosted another Super Bowl party in February and you guessed it, the theme was the cuisine of the teams playing! I’ve always wanted to make an authentic clam chowder with oyster crackers so I took advantage of this serendipitous opportunity. The clams were sweet and the chowder was creamy and delicious. The party was a grand success and New England lost, now that’s karma, don’t you think?

New England Clam Chowder

Makes 1.75 L of chowder.

For the original recipe please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 300 g Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 30 g unsalted butter
  • 135 g finely chopped French shallots
  • 160 g chopped celery (about 2 large stalks)
  • 10 g garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 32 g all-purpose flour
  • 282 g Vongole baby clams, drained, juices reserved
  • 300 mL evaporated milk (not condense)
  • Pinch of smoked paprika
  • sea salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Bring the potatoes to a boil in the reserved clam juice topped up with water to cover. Turn down to medium heat and simmer until potatoes are soft. Remove from heat, drain potatoes, reserve the liquid and set both aside.
  2. Melt butter in a heavy bottomed large pot, sauté shallots and celery with the bay leaf until soft. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add the flour and stir on low heat for two minutes, without allowing the flour to brown. Whisk in the reserved potato clam liquid with a pinch of smoked paprika. Cook until thickened.
  3. Add the baby clams and the evaporated milk and stir well. Simmer for 5 minutes. This chowder is much better the second day so if you are making this chowder in advance, refrigerate until cold, then re-heat on low when required.

A rich clam chowder with delicious clam bits in every bite.

A flavourful cracker that does not disintegrate in the chowder.

Lemon Pepper Oyster Crackers

Makes 150 g of crackers. For the original recipe, please click here.

To print recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 145 g 00 flour
  • 5 g sea salt
  • 2 g freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 g sugar
  • 5 g baking powder
  • 1 g freshly grated lemon zest
  • 30 g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 70 mL cold water, or enough to make a smooth dough

Directions:

  1. Combine flour, salt, pepper, sugar, baking powder and lemon zest in the small bowl of your food processor. Pulse until well combined.
  2. Drop the butter into the flour mix and pulse until it has been incorporated and is mealy. Slowly add the water while processing, add only enough to make a dough that holds together.
  3. Turn out to a lightly floured surface and form into a solid round. Allow to rest 15 minutes.
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 375° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  5. Roll dough to about 2 mm thick and cut with very small cookie cutters (or cut with a knife into diamond shapes). Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the oven off and open the door and allow to cool and crisp up for an additional 30 minutes. Serve with New England Clam Chowder.

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Orange Cake

Several years ago I had a conversation with a long-time blogger friend, A-Boelyn about our Mothers’ orange cake, it was a recipe I had been searching for, for many years. You see, I had lost my dear Mother’s recipe and sadly it had been my favourite cake. I am certain Mom clipped the recipe from the newspaper (so many of our favourites were found this way) but alas it has been lost for many decades. This recipe was my birthday cake request, time and time again. Its moist crumb and delicious flavour was void of heavy icing, it just showcased the beautiful orange in its glory, and a bit of booze, should you wish to indulge! I no longer recall the exact flavours of my dear Mother’s cake but if I had to guess, this recipe comes pretty close, we Europeans love the use of ground nuts in our cakes! And the flavour of this cake brings me back to my childhood, memories of Christmas marzipan! The texture is not light and airy like a sponge but rich and thick like marzipan. It’s not a cake you want a huge slice of, a small slice will satisfy your sweet tooth and leave you wanting more, and that is exactly what I want of a cake.

Orange Cake

Original recipe by David Lebovitz

Makes one 25 cm (10 inch) cake

Ingredients:

  • 3 oranges, zested
  • 300 g sugar
  • 200 g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 240 g almond flour
  • 110 g AP flour
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350° F. Prepare a 25 cm (10 inch) springform pan by buttering all sides and lining the bottom with parchment paper.
  2. Add the sugar and orange zest into the large bowl of your food processor and process until zest is chopped into tiny bits and thoroughly incorporated into the sugar. Leave the processor because you will use it again later.
  3. Beat the butter and sugar-orange mixture until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Add the eggs one at a time and beat thoroughly.
  4. Add the flour, almond flour and salt into the food processor and pulse until well mixed.
  5. Add half of the flour mixture to the egg and butter mixture and mix until well incorporated. Add the remainder of the flour mixture and mix only until well incorporated. It will be thick.
  6. Turn the batter into the prepared pan and using a spatula, spread out evenly.
  7. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Spoon the orange syrup mixture over the hot cake until it is all absorbed. Cool in the pan.

Ingredients for the syrup:

  • 180 mL orange juice, from the zested oranges
  • 75 g sugar

Directions for the syrup:

  1. Combine the orange juice and sugar and bring to a boil in a non-reactive pan until the sugar has entirely melted. See step 7 above for directions.

This is an extremely moist and dense cake, it reminded me of orange marzipan.

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Soup has been on our menu quite often this winter. Personally, I adore soup, so much so, we’ve coined the expression “I love soup so much, it could be my middle name”! My favourite are brothie soups like chicken noodle, Phõ, lemongrass, and miso to name a few, but JT prefers creamy soups so I throw him a bone every so often and blitz the soup with my immersion blender. This one turned out exceptionally well so, I decided to repost. Plus the light is getting much better and I couldn’t resist.

Creamy Mushroom Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 500 mL

Ingredients:

  • 25 g variety of dried wild mushrooms
  • 35 g red lentils, dried
  • 140 g shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 90 g sweet onion, roughly chopped
  • 60 g celery, roughly chopped (about 1 rib)
  • 25 g butter
  • 40 g roasted garlic (about 5 large cloves)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ~300 mL vegetable stock
  • 2-4 tbsp finishing olive oil

Directions:

  1. Soak the dried, wild mushrooms in about 500 mL water for a minimum of 30 minutes. Strain through a gold coffee filter and reserve liquid. Rinse the mushrooms.
  2. Caramelize the onions in the butter. Add the celery, roasted garlic and rehydrated mushrooms and cook until soft, about 15 minutes.
  3. Add the reserved mushroom liquid and lentils and simmer loosely covered for an additional 30 minutes, stirring often. Meanwhile, toss the sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms in some olive oil and roast in a hot oven (375° F) until caramelized (roughly 20-25 minutes), turning once.
  4. Remove soup from heat and purée with an immersion blender until smooth, adding vegetable stock to desired consistency (I added about 300 mL). Press through a fine sieve for a velvety, smooth texture. Add salt and pepper to taste and purée once more. Garnish with the caramelized mushrooms and drizzle with the finishing olive oil. Serve piping hot with Cheddar Orange Scones.

Notes:

  • No matter how well your blender purées creamed soups, push it through a fine sieve for a creamy and velvety texture. Then blitz it again just before serving. This is a tip from the 1-star Michelin chef we had a cooking lesson with in Lyon.
  • Thick creamy soups that are not made with cream, like this one, deserve a drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
  • Serve with a scone to make a hearty lunch.

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Winter is not giving up easily in these parts. At least the days are sunny even if they are still nippy. It’s the grey days with endless overcast that really pull me into the dumpers, so I bake to make me happy; plus the ambient heat the oven gives off doesn’t hurt. I created this tasty scone recipe when I discovered a couple of rogue oranges in the refrigerator. The flavour combination may sound strange but it works, plus it’s delicious straight from the hot oven with a generous pat of butter.

Cheddar Orange Scones

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 8 large scones

Ingredients:

  • 270 g AP flour
  • 25 g coconut sugar
  • 20 g baking powder
  • 1 g salt
  • 56 g cold, unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
  • 150 g sharp cheddar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 125 mL orange juice (about 1 navel orange)
  • zest of 2 navel oranges
  • Yogurt for brushing tops

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 425° F.
  2. In the large bowl of your food processor, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and pulse a few times to mix well.
  3. Add the butter and pulse until well incorporated but not softened.
  4. Combine the egg, orange juice and zest and mix well.
  5. Pour into the food processor while pulsing and pulse until well mixed. If your kitchen is on the warmer-side, allow the dough to rest in the refrigerator for a bit here or if it’s on the chilly-side, proceed to next step.
  6. Roll out to about 2 cm thick and cut with your favourite cookie cutter. Continue until you’ve used all of the dough. Brush tops with yogurt and bake 15-17 minutes or until lightly golden on top and baked through. Cool slightly on a wire rack and serve warm with butter.

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We had a Super Bowl party in early February and I made the usual suspects but I also wanted a slightly healthier and vegetarian version of the traditional Buffalo wings. I have made Buffalo cauliflower in the past but it never really met my expectations achieving the crunchy coating I had hoped for, so I put it on the back burner. Then in January, I started thinking about adding texture to the florets in the form of breading. I tested this recipe with panko with regular flour and the crispy rice cereal with coconut flour and to be honest, in a blind taste-test, JT voted for the crispy rice cereal and coconut flour version. The coating has a great crunch and being made of crispy rice cereal and coconut flour, it is also gluten-free. Vegans may use chia seeds instead of the eggs for the binder.

Crispy Buffalo Cauliflower “wings”

Ingredients:

  • 60 g coconut flour
  • 2 eggs, whisked well
  • 120 mL water, plus
  • 120 g crispy rice cereal, hand crushed
  • 15 g Buffalo chicken spice mix
  • 15 g dehydrated onion flakes
  • 15 g granulated garlic
  • 5 g sea salt
  • ~750 g Cauliflower, cut into 2-bite pieces
  • Non-stick spray

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 425° F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper
  2. Place coconut flour, eggs whisked with water, and crispy rice cereal into three separate medium-sized, deep bowls.
  3. Add 15 g of Buffalo spice mix into the crushed crispy rice cereal and mix well.
  4. Take one cauliflower floret at a time and dip into the coconut flour first, then the egg and lastly the crispy rice cereal and coat well. Lay each cauliflower floret (flat-side down) onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Continue until all of the cauliflower is coated with the rice-breading. You may need to add a bit more water to the egg mixture as the coconut flour tends to thicken it up.
  5. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until cauliflower is cooked but not too soft (test with a cake tester, there should be resistance when poked through).
  6. Drizzle with Buffalo-style sauce, if using.
  7. Serve hot with blue cheese dipping sauce.

Ingredients for Buffalo-style sauce:

  • 65 mL melted butter
  • 15-30 mL honey (to taste)
  • 50 mL hot sauce

Directions:

  1. Combine all three ingredients in a small pan and heat slowly to a boil and boil for 3 minutes. Drizzle lightly over the baked cauliflower.

Notes:

  • I find the best results are achieved using dry cauliflower (wash and spin-dry then lay out on a clean dishcloth for 20-30 minutes).
  • You will need to coax the coconut flour into the cauliflower crevices.
  • If you are trying to be healthier, omit the Buffalo sauce.
  • This dish is best served right out of the oven, as the crispy rice cereal eventually gets a bit soggy, particularly with the Buffalo sauce on it.
  • I puréed leftovers with vegetable stock into a smooth soup and JT could not stop raving about it.

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Everyone has busy days, the type of days that you’re too busy to cook and the easy thing to do would be to order in or throw some unhealthy grocery-store frozen dinner into the microwave and be done with it. We’ve all done it and what happens is interesting: you don’t eat for the love of food, you just eat and because it’s fast and easy. But then, it never hits those emotional triggers so we end up feeling awful and regretting our choice. There is nothing I hate more (other than the obvious crap going on in our world) than regretting calories. Fret not dear friends, I have the perfect solution with this slow cooker lasagna, and you need not make enough for an army because this handy hack will have you getting that slow cooker out more often!

This is the one slow cooker hack you’ve been waiting for: Line your slow cooker with a silicon mat and lay your smaller, heat-resistant dish on top of it. Presto, a custom-sized slow cooker.

The Silpat protects the ceramic slow cooker from the metal of the loaf pan.

I made this awesome Lentilles du Puy lasagna this way. I won’t lie, there is some prep work with this dish, but a little pre-planning on the weekend will make it a breeze on that busy weeknight. The recipe was inspired by my LA friend, Greg of Sippity Sup, he had made an incredible Swiss Chard Lasagne with Bechamel that literally had me licking my lips during the entire read through! He used one of my favourite ingredients: béchamel sauce!

Creamy béchamel with eggplant and roasted red peppers just melt in your mouth.

Slow Cooker Lasagna with Eggplant, Roasted Red Pepper and Lentilles du Puy

Recipe inspired by Greg’s Swiss Chard Lasagna

Makes one 12 cm x 22 cm x 10 cm loaf pan, serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

  • 60 g Lentils du Puys, cooked
  • 100 g onions, chopped
  • 10 g Ice® Mama Mia garlic, finely chopped (see notes)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 400 mL San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
  • 250 mL béchamel sauce with a pinch of nutmeg (see notes)
  • 4 gluten-free, oven-ready lasagna noodles (I used this brand)
  • 1 Chinese eggplant, sliced into 0.5 cm thickness (about 6 slices)
  • 176 g roasted red peppers (about 6 small roasted red peppers)
  • 150 g Mozzarella cheese, grated

Directions:

  1. In a splash of olive oil, sauté the onions until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add the oregano and basil and stir well.  Add the San Marzano tomatoes and cooked lentils, stir well and allow to cool to room temperature. This makes around 500 mL.
  2. Prepare a 12 cm x 22 cm x 10 cm loaf pan with non-stick spray. Spread a couple of spoonfuls of the lentil tomato mixture on the bottom of the prepared pan.
  3. Lay 1 and 1/3 noodles over the lentil-tomato mixture (covering the entire pan area). Top with 1/3 of the lentil-tomato mixture spread evenly over the noodles, then a single layer of 2 roasted red peppers, then lay two slices of the eggplant over the peppers. Top with béchamel and about 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat until everything is layered, making sure you top with the grated cheese.
  4. Lay a silicon mat (like Silpat)  into the slow cooker and place the loaf pan onto it, in the centre (see notes). Cover and turn the slow cooker on high for 3-4 hours or until noodles have cooked through. Relax.
  5. When the noodles have cooked through, pre-heat the broiler in the oven and broil the lasagna on high until cheese is bubbly and caramelized. Serve hot with simply dressed greens.

A nice bubbly, caramelized cheese topping!

Notes:

  • You may have seen me searching for softneck garlic sometime late last year. It was, of course, the wrong time of year for farmer’s market garlic, but that didn’t stop me from trying my best to hunt it down. During this process, a friend on Facebook mentioned Beneli Farms, a Manitoba, 5th generation farming family specializing in garlic for the last 15 years. I reached out to them and they were very quick in getting back to me and eager to help but sadly they were not able to courier me softneck garlic in time, but they did courier a large selection of their specialty garlic! I use garlic a lot but I am still going through my generous stash. For this dish I chose their Mama Mia™ Ice® Garlic for its smooth flavour. It was definitely the right choice as it did not overpower the dish, just provided a smooth, delicate garlic flavour in the tomato sauce. Thank you Garth and Miranda.
  • To make gluten-free béchamel sauce, simply substitute a good gluten-free flour with the all-purpose flour. Don’t forget the pinch of nutmeg.
  • The Silpat mat simply protects the ceramic bowl of the slow cooker from the the metal loaf pan.
  • The Gluten-free noodles I’ve used in this recipe stand up a bit better than regular oven-ready noodles and maintain a good texture in this dish. The liquid proportion I’ve indicated is perfect for cooking the noodles without destroying them, i.e., they still have bite.
  • Leftovers may be frozen for future quick meals, but don’t count on it!

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With determined effort, we are not eating as much meat as we used to. That isn’t to say that we avoid it at all costs, but it is definitely far less often for sure. Most of our meals are made up of seafood, beans and pulses. I can’t say that it’s been easy, my tried and true recipes usually include meat, and it has been a challenge to make our meals interesting. JT recently mentioned he would love to have Romesco sauce again so I decided to incorporate it into our latest experiment, Italy meets Spain Falafel. I called it “Italy meets Spain” because I used Pesto as the flavouring and topped it with Romesco sauce.

The shape is rather unique for Falafels, it is more like a doughnut than the traditional disk but notwithstanding, it makes a tasty pan-fried falafel!

Italy meets Spain Falafel

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 24 x 20 g portions

Please click here to print recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 75 g dried chickpeas, soaked, cooked and cooled
  • 50 g dried navy beans, soaked, cooked and cooled
  • 50 g onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 tbsp pesto (I used almond pesto)
  • 5 g garlic, minced
  • handful of parsley leaves
  • oregano, to taste (I used fresh)
  • 15 g Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 7 g coconut flour
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of half of the lemon
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 large egg, lightly whisked
  • 30 g sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. In a large food processor bowl, combine everything but the sesame seeds and process until it becomes a smooth paste.
  2. Prepare a baking sheet by lining with a piece of parchment. Form the paste into 24 equal-sized portions (I used a doughnut form for these but it’s not necessary). Set each patty onto a sheet of parchment. Continue until complete.
  3. Dip one side of each patty into the sesame seeds (no need for an egg wash, they’ll stick without it).
  4. Pan fry each patty on a non-stick pan lightly sprayed with oil for 4-6 minutes per side, making sure the sesame seeds have caramelized and the internal temperature is 190° F.
  5. Serve warm with a drizzle of romesco sauce.

Moist and flavourful falafel.

My My dear friend Barb gave me this falafel press some time ago.

Notes:

  • Beans cooked weight equals roughly 270 g.
  • Serving suggestions: bed of wilted kale with romesco sauce, bed of spinach with romesco sauce.
  • These falafel freeze well.

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