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JT and I have been training for an upcoming epic 15 km hike. We do a gruelling route for 7-8 km through High Park on its steepest terrain, circling through a 98-step staircase and a 120 metre hill. Sometimes we drive to a Provincial park and hike unchartered territory to mix it up. But I’m a bit concerned as we can’t replicate the altitude we will ultimately face, I’ve never worked out at 6,800 feet before!

The best we can do is prepare ourselves. Eating healthy is part of that preparation so I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to change a recipe to make it healthier. Adding my favourite veggy, zucchini (or courgette) to a slightly modified crêpe batter does the trick!

These “crêpes” have an incredibly similar bite to them as their authentic French cousins, but they are less calorie laden. The small amount of whole wheat flour gives them the perfect amount of texture and volume. They cook up like a super thin omelette but results in a thin crêpe.

Definitely a keeper recipe.

Zucchini Crêpes

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1 large crêpe, for multiple crêpes, simply multiply the ingredients below by the quantity you wish to make.

Please click here to print this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 50 g (1/4 cup) zucchini, grated
  • 45 mL egg whites (6 tbsp egg whites or 3 large whole eggs)
  • 10 g (1 tbsp) whole wheat flour
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Directions :

  1. Combine the flour, egg whites and salt and mix well.
  2. Heat a nonstick pan and spray lightly with nonstick spray.
  3. Spread the grated zucchini around in an even layer, predominantly in the centre of the pan and cook for a minute.
  4. Pour the egg mixture over the zucchini and spread thinly over the pan as evenly as possible, making a large filled circle. Gently coax the egg mixture into gaps or holes.
  5. Cook until side has browned a little, carefully flip crêpe when cooked and repeat for other side.
  6. Serve warm filled with your favourite savoury filling.

Caramelized onions and sautéed mushrooms made a wonderful filling with a lentil-based béchamel.

Notes:

  • These are as close to a real crêpe texture as I have gotten using low-calorie ingredients.
  • Make them as large or as small as you wish, they have good structure and will hold up for hand held fillings like soft tacos.

Nutritional Facts for 1 crêpe, no filling.

Weight Watchers Points for 1 crêpe, no filling.

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Our dear friends gave me a beautiful cookbook from their last cruise, it is a celebration of courses through the journies of their fleet: Culinary Courses Journeys. Although most of the recipes are quite fancy, the book is amazing inspiration and a week doesn’t go by that I don’t check it for reference!

It was such an occasion that I was leafing through the book that I found a gorgeous representation of a Minestrone Soup and I knew I had to make it for dinner. And then I realized that I did not have a Minestrone on the blog. Gads!

The soup is packed with fresh vegetables in a light tomato and basil scented broth. The protein is navy bean to keep it healthy. You could add a parmesan rind or two to the broth while cooking.

The tuile melts into the soup for a beautiful flavour and textural addition.

Rustic Vegetable Minestrone

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 1.5 L (6.25 cups) soup.

Please click here to print this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp EVOO
  • 125 g (~1 cup) sweet onion, diced
  • 10 g (2 – 3 cloves) garlic, finely minced
  • 150 g (~1 cup) zucchini, diced
  • 115 g (~1 cup) celery, diced
  • 120 g (~1 cup) red pepper, diced
  • 75 g (~1 cup) king mushrooms, diced
  • 140 mL (4 oz) puréed tomatoes, juice or sauce
  • 15 mL (1 tbsp) tomato paste
  • 350 mL (1 2/3 cups) chicken stock
  • 2 stems of basil
  • 4 stems of lemon thyme
  • 100 g (1/2 cup) dried beans
  • 35 g (~1 cup) baby spinach
  • 5-8 fresh basil leaves, roughly torn

Directions:

  1. Cook the dried beans according to directions.
  2. Heat Olive Oil in a large pot and sauté onions until translucent, you may need to add a little stock or water. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
  3. Add all of the vegetables and cook for about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Combine the puréed tomatoes, tomato paste, and chicken stock. Pour over the vegetables and add the basil and thyme stems and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove stems.
  5. Add the cooked beans and baby spinach, stir and heat through.
  6. Serve garnished with a Parmesan tuile (recipe below) and roughly torn basil leaves.

Basil Cheese Tuile

Makes 1 tuile

Ingredients:

  • 7 g (1/4 oz) hard fatty cheese (like Parmesan or Cheddar), finely grated
  • 1 large basil leaf, chiffonade
  • pinch of granulated garlic

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven on high broil.
  2. Mix cheese, basil and granulated garlic well.
  3. On a parchment lined baking sheet, shape the tuile as desired (I made a tear drop).
  4. Broil until evenly browned (mine took about 4 minutes but it depends on how thick you make your tuile); to prevent burning, you may need to cover part of it with bits of parchment as it bakes.

Notes:

  • I like a little crunch left in my vegetables, so I generally under cook rather than over cook.
  • If you make this in advance, keep the beans separately so they don’t turn to mush.
  • I used Ivanhoe Horseradish Cheddar because I thought it would be a nice zing to the soup.
  • Make as many tuile as you need, just multiply the ingredients by the servings required.

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Recently, we were dining at our favourite French restaurant in our hood. We were sitting at the bar chatting with the staff and another patron when, for no apparent reason, a wine glass slid off the top shelf and plummeted to the ground, shattering!

Well, that was interesting! No one was near it, and the manager said that they put rubber mats on the shelves to prevent this type of thing. Yet, it slid off the shelf entirely on its own. Later, someone mentioned that the location had been a funeral home when it was first built in 1923 (we’ve been here 17 years and have only known the location to be restaurants!). You decide what happened, but my bet is on a sneaky ghost giving us a fright!

Smoked Garlic and Roasted Cauliflower Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Please click here to print the recipe.

Makes 1.5 L (6 cups) soup

Ingredients:

  • 25 g smoked garlic (about 5 cloves)
  • 560 g cauliflower (about 1/2 a large head), cut into smallish florets
  • 1 L (4 cups) chicken stock (or vegetable)
  • 90 g (1/2 cup) red lentils
  • non-stick spray
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • sea salt

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400° F (200° C).
  2. Add the unpeeled garlic cloves to a small ramekin, sprinkle with a little sea salt. Pour about 1 cm (1/2 inch) stock over cloves and cover with either foil or ramekin lid.
  3. Spray a large baking sheet with non-stick spray and add the cauliflower, sprinkle with a little sea salt. Add the ramekin with garlic to a corner of the baking sheet. Bake cauliflower and garlic for 30-40 minutes or until quite soft, turning frequently to avoid burning. I like to add a little stock to the bottom of the roasting pan to make sure I get all the little bits from the pan.
  4. Pour the cauliflower into a large pot. Peel the garlic and add it to the cauliflower, add some of the stock and purée until smooth. Add the red lentils and cook until lentils are soft. Purée again until smooth, adding stock until you achieve the desired consistency. You may wish to run this through a fine sieve to make it even more luxurious.
  5. Serve hot.

The cloves are cold smoked and are still raw.

Perfect timing as it’s getting pretty darn cold!

Notes:

  • A dear friend gave me a couple of heads of smoked garlic, she picked it up at a local farmers market. I had never seen or heard of it before but you can bet that I’ll be trying to make it soon!
  • The smoked garlic is raw and therefore needs some cooking when used in this quantity, I prefer roasting, usually with olive oil instead of stock, but we are trying to lose a few summer pounds.
  • The smoke in the garlic is very subtle, that is why I added the smoked paprika, but be careful, it can get overwhelming very quickly.
  • I added the lentils to get some protein into this meatless meal, and it also is an amazing thickener that becomes so velvety smooth when puréed.
  • Some topping suggestions:
    • Crumbled crispy bacon
    • Crispy onions
    • Grilled cheese croutons
    • Grated cheese (like gruyère or sharp cheddar)
    • a dollop of Crème Fraiche or sour cream

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I am a fatalist, which means I believe in fate. There are too many things in this world that seem like coincidences but were totally intended by the universe. Case in point: on more than one occasion, I have decided to make something with the intent of searching for a recipe and before I can even open Google, up pops a recipe a blogging friend has posted on Facebook or Instagram! The very thing I had decided I would make! Coincidence? I think not, it’s fate!

That is my story of the English Muffins. I was walking back from getting a mani-pedi in our hood, thinking about the upcoming weekend visit with our dear friends from Wisconsin/Arizona (they have two homes) and I realized that I didn’t have a breakfast planned for one of the days and I remember wanting to try baking English Muffins, so on my walk home, I decided that I would bake English Muffins!

Upon my return, I sat down at my kitchen desk to catch up on Facebook and low and behold, dear Lorraine has reposted her recipe for…wait for it…English Muffins! That is fate! I was destined to bake English Muffins that afternoon.

Home Made English Muffins

Makes 6-8 English Muffins.

Please click here for the original recipe.

Please click here to print this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 200 mL (7 oz) milk
  • 5 g (1 tsp) sugar
  • 3 g (1 tsp) instant dry yeast
  • 20 g (1 oz) butter
  • 320 g (2  1/2 cups) AP unbleached flour
  • 2 g (1/2 tsp) salt
  • 2 g (1/2 tsp) baking powder
  • 1 small egg
  • cornmeal for dusting

Directions:

  1. Heat the milk to 37° C (100° F), sprinkle in the sugar and yeast and mix well. Allow to proof for 10 minutes or until frothy.
  2. Melt the butter and set aside to cool a bit. Add the butter to the milky yeast (once proofed) stir in the egg and mix well and set aside.
  3. Mix the flour, salt and baking powder together in the large bowl of your stand mixer, add the liquid all at once and beat/knead for about 10 minutes or until smooth and silky.
  4. Lightly cover with oil and set aside in a draft free spot for about 1 hour.
  5. Preheat the oven to 325° F (160° C).
  6. On a lightly floured board, turn out the dough and roll out to about 1 cm (1/2 inch) thickness. Cut 8-10 cm (3 1/4″ to 4″) rounds. Dust with cornmeal (brush off any excess) and cook over a low heat in a cast iron frying pan for about 3 minutes each side (do not oil). Finish baking in the preheated oven 20-25 minutes or until the internal temperature is 199° F (93° C). Allow to cool slightly, and then separate each into two using a fork to maximize the nooks and crannies!

The top one is perfect!

Notes:

  • If you cannot get small eggs, then take 1 large egg and whisk it to incorporate both yolk and whites, weigh it and divide by 2. Use half in this recipe and save the other half for something else.
  • In hindsight, my English Muffins pictured puffed up way too tall, so I have modified the instruction to roll out to half of the original thickness. Plus you should get a few more that way.

Like Lorraine, I like a little English Muffin with my butter.

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In October I did some really cool TV jobs! I cooked for the lovely and talented Chef Anjum Anand from her I love India Cookbook for Your Morning (click here to see the segment (about 1 min of commercials)) and Mark Bittman, the original author of the infamous No-Knead Bread! recipe (click here to see the segment (only about 30 seconds of commercials)) and Ocean Wise Executive Chef, Ned Bell from his beautiful new cookbook, Lure!

Ned is awesome! It was indeed a pleasure to work with him. Yes, those are ‘sensible shoes’ as a fellow food stylist recently mentioned on instagram!

Mark was incredibly humble and amazing to work with (although, I wish the camera-man would have said something about the angle of the burgers!)

Mark released his Tenth Anniversary Edition of How to Cook Everything Vegetarian cookbook, simple meatless recipes for great food! The book is enormous, over 700 pages and it’s packed with great info, techniques, and wonderful recipes.  Although Mark is not vegetarian, he believes we should be enjoying a more plant-based diet. What I liked about his recipes is that they are truly vegetarian and not just cop-out vegetarian like spaghetti with tomato sauce that you see on some menus! I cooked tofu, tempeh, seitan and a really interesting beet burger. The recipes were easy to follow and came together quickly without special equipment. I will definitely make a few again and even others from the delicious cookbook.

Although this recipe isn’t from his cookbook, it is indeed vegetarian.

Basil and Sun-dried Tomato Gougières

Makes about 50 gourgières. To print the recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 250 mL (1 cup) water
  • 128 g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • Pinch salt
  • 128 g (1 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 40 g (~1/4 cup) sun-dried tomatoes (not in oil)
  • 15 g (~3 cloves) garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 7 g  (~10) basil leaves, chiffonade

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425° F (218° C). Line a baking sheet with wet parchment paper (crumple the parchment into a ball and saturate with cold water and wring out, flatten with your hand on the baking sheet).
  2. In a heavy bottom saucepan, combine the water, butter, salt and garlic and heat until melted. Remove from heat and add the flour all at once, stirring well. Return to heat and cook for a couple of minutes until it comes away from the sides of the pan.
  3. Remove from the heat and beat in one egg at a time until fully incorporated, being careful not to scramble the eggs. Fold in the herbs and chopped sun-dried tomatoes.
  4. Using a small ice cream scoop dipped in water with a splash of oil, scoop out single balls onto the baking sheet about 5 cm (2 inches) apart. Bake for 20 minutes or until tops are golden and the puffs have poofed about double in size.
  5. Cool on a wire rack. Continue to bake until you have exhausted your batter.

A light and delicious cocktail nibble.

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In early September, our dear friends came for a visit and JT and I planned a full schedule of fun activities! We went hiking at a conservation area, saw King Lear in High Park (which turned out to be reimagined from a female perspective, Queen Lear), we traveled to Montreal for a few days with a stop in Kingston to visit the newly refurbished Kingston Penitentiary. The time went quickly and a much-needed fix with special friends. Our days were packed, so I made these Banana Bran Muffins for a breakfast on the morning we went hiking, as we were also having lunch at an adorable little cafe near the conservation area. Scroll down to see a few pics of Kingston Pen.

Banana Bran Muffins with Belgian Milk Chocolate Chunks

Original recipe from Company’s Coming, Muffins and More by Jean Paré.

Makes about 10-12 medium-sized muffins

Please click here to print this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 128 g (1 cup) flour
  • 60 g (1 cup) all bran cereal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips or chunks (I used Belgian milk chocolate chunks)
  • 60 g (1/4 cup) coconut oil
  • 75 g (1/2 cup) coconut sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 65 mL (1/4 cup) sour milk (milk with 1/4 tsp lemon juice)
  • 250 mL (3 medium or 1 cup) bananas, mashed

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400° F (200° C). Prepare muffin pans by spraying with non-stick spray.
  2. Combine flour, bran, baking powder and soda and salt in a bowl and mix.
  3. Cream coconut oil and sugar with 1 egg until well blended and add the other egg and beat well. Combine the soured milk and mashed bananas and mix well.
  4. Pour into the dry mixture and mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  5. Pour batter into prepared muffin cups to about 3/4 full.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.
  7. Cool slightly and serve.

These muffins have excellent texture from the moistness of the bananas and the bran cereal.

Notes:

  • These muffins are not nearly as sweet using coconut sugar as using regular white sugar.

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In early September, we had our dear friends come to Toronto for a visit and then we all drove to Montréal for a few days to help celebrate Montréal’s 375th Birthday! We usually have a cocktail or ten when we see our dear friends and I never like to drink on an empty stomach so I make tasty, protein rich cocktail munchies. I have made parmesan crisps before (here) but I came across Ina Garten’s recipe and it was slightly different so I wanted to give it a try. They have a delicate, slightly grainy texture (from the flour) which is not off putting but definitely different than using just plain cheese. They are quite moreish, so if you have a crowd, you might want to make a few batches. These are not crackers, they are too delicate to hold a dip or sauce. These are meant to be eaten on their own with a cocktail. And we do cocktails!

One tablespoon works perfectly in my 5 cm (2 inch) form.

Crispy Cheese Tuiles

Makes 10-12 tuiles. Please click here to print this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 85 g (1 cup) parmesan cheese, grated
  • 10 g (1 tbsp) AP unbleached flour
  • 2 g (1 tsp) fresh herbs, finely chopped

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350° F (176° C). Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Combine the cheese, flour and rosemary and mix well.
  3. Bake for 6-8 minutes or until lightly golden, cheese will crisp up as they cool.

These will be perfect with our welcome back martinis!

Notes:

  • I used Parmesan and Rosemary for one and Gruyère and thyme for the other.
  • Any hard cheese will do, as long as they render and crisp up.
  • The grate is best short, longer strips will be difficult to form into the smallish circles.
  • Store in the refrigerator for 5 days in an air tight container.
  • These do not freeze well.
  • It was rather humid in early September so I had to crisp them up in the oven just prior to serving, a minute or two at 300F should do it.

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