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A surprisingly creamy dip

A surprisingly creamy dip

We’re hosting the company Christmas party (the company I write social media content for) and 1/4 of them are vegans and vegetarians! As usual, I really didn’t feel like making two different things so other than 2 fish and 3 meat dishes, everything else is going to be vegan! I’m even testing my skills with some pretty interesting desserts and VEGAN CHEESE! Stay tuned, I’m looking forward to learning to cook gourmet vegan. BTW, thank you to a long-time friend and colleague (and loyal reader) Michela, who offered some excellent suggestions ❤️.

Did you know that purée-ing (with a stick blender) cooked red lentils become so incredibly creamy that it tastes like you’ve added cream or butter to it? It makes an incredible dip and it also could be used as a base for a gluten free, even vegan white sauce! I make a large batch and freeze in an ice cube tray for quick additions to ‘cream’ up a sauce! Recently, we had an incredible cauliflower-lentil ‘Alfredo’ sauce which was TDF! So good. Next time I make it I’ll be sure to jot the ingredients down and actually measure everything!

A few years ago I won the runner-up prize for a photo contest from Roger Mooking (a celebrity chef here in Toronto), the prize was a Crock Pot with a mini heated dip pot. The crock pot croaked last year but the mini dip pot goes on. I don’t know about you, but I have never liked using this unattractive pot on my buffet table, so about a year or so ago I did some testing to see how hot it actually gets and was quite surprised that you could actually cook in it! The temperature gets to around 165F which would be enough to cook meat, but I wouldn’t suggest it. It is however, perfect to make a batch of beans or lentils for dip! I’ve been using it almost every week to make healthy bean or lentil dips. So if you have one sitting on a back shelf gathering dust, bring it out and put it to good use. Put it on before you go to work and when you get home you have a delicious dip or base for a creamy soup or sauce.

Creamy Red Lentil Dip

An original Kitcheninspirations recipe.

Makes about 250 mL (1 cup) of dip

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c red lentils
  • 1 cup water or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp dehydrated onion flakes
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2-1 tsp toasted sesame oil

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients except lemon juice and toasted sesame oil to a mini dip crock pot, stir and then cover.
  2. Plug it in (only way to turn it on) and cook for 3-4 hours or when lentils are very soft.
  3. Turn hot cooked lentils into a tall container. Purée using a stick blender until smooth and creamy adding lemon juice and toasted sesame oil to taste. Refrigerate until needed.
I drizzled some toasted sesame oil over the top.

I drizzled some toasted sesame oil over the top.

The oven roasted tomatoes are incredibly sweet but still give this dip a piquant flavour.

The oven roasted tomatoes are incredibly sweet but still give this dip a piquant flavour.

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These little water crackers were the perfect accompaniment to this cream dip.

Additional Flavours:

  • “Hummus”: to the recipe above, add additional finely chopped fresh garlic at the end as you purée to give it more of a hummus flavour.
  • Curry Dip: omit the lemon juice and toasted sesame oil and add 1/2 tsp curry powder with 2 tbsp coconut milk powder at the purée stage.
  • Oven dried tomato dip: Omit the cumin, coriander, lemon juice and sesame oil. Add to cooked lentils, 1 tbsp chopped oven (or sun dried) tomatoes plus 1 or 2 fresh basil leaves and purée until creamy and smooth.

Notes:

  • Other lentils (like green or du puys) don’t turn out as creamy, I’ve tried them and seriously prefer red.
  • I use granulated garlic (not the same as garlic powder) and dehydrated onions in this recipe because we preferred the end taste over cooking fresh cloves and onions in the mini crock pot. For whatever reason, the mini crock gave the garlic a very unusual flavour.
  • To make a base for ‘cream’ sauce, omit everything but the lentils, water and salt. Purée when cooked, allow to cool and freeze in ice cube tray for future use.
  • Note on December 8: Lentils cook in far less time than the prescribed 3-4 hours, it’s just that I’ve left it on for that length and the result was what I wanted, totally mushy and easily puréed lentils. If you’re around and can unplug the little dip warmer when the lentils are first cooked, then be my guest.

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At the cottage we like to sit back and relax, put up our feet, read a good novel, scan some trashy magazines and on occasion have been known to enjoy a cocktail or two ;-). Simple is usually what I lean toward because of the effort one needs to make to bring everything up for the weekend. I know I’ve posted a guacamole recipe before (here and here) and even got flak for calling this one mocamole, but I thought I’d share a super simple rustic version made with the ripest avocado for a light snack at the cottage. This recipe has only 5 ingredients and you need only one bowl, a fork and a knife to make it. See, I told you it was simple.

Guacamole2

This dip comes together very quickly; I disappeared for less than five minutes to make it, our guests were surprised I made it from scratch so quickly!

Super Simple Guacamole

Makes about 3/4 to 1 cup of dip but it depends entirely how big your avocado is

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1-2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 5 small grape tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro and a sprig or two for garnish

Directions:

  1. Scoop out the flesh from the avocado, no need to be gentle as you will mash it with a fork.
  2. Mash the avocado with a fork (I told you so).
  3. Add the garlic and the lime juice and mix well.
  4. Fold in the chopped tomatoes and cilantro.
  5. Garnish with cilantro.
  6. Serve with celery sticks, cucumber rings, or crackers.
Guacamole

I love that mashing with a fork still leaves you with some lovely, creamy chunks of avocado.

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I thought I would begin this post with a little spring. I know I’ve been complaining a lot about the weather. A lot. So, in light that this past weekend we finally got some spring-like temperatures and it seemed that everything just burst into bloom, I wanted to share my joy. Yes, spring has sprung in Toronto (about damn time). Here are a few lovely blooms from my morning 8 km or almost 5 mile power walk through High Park.

This is our little Japanese Cherry Tree.

This is our little Japanese Cherry Tree.

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These are Japanese Cherry Blossoms in High Park.

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There are several places that these beautiful trees are planted so each one has a slightly different time-table depending on how much sun and if they are in the valley like these, they aren’t quite in full bloom yet.

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The Forsythia bloomed at the same time as every thing else.

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The Saucer Magnolia, almost there.

Karma. It gets you every time. Case in point: last week I assisted on a national brand motion shoot (video for commercial), two action packed days of sorting through frozen product looking for the ‘perfect’ specimens and then deep frying said specimens. Yes, indeed my friends, deep frying! Now those of you who’ve followed Kitchen Inspirations over 7+ years know that I am not a fan of deep fried foods (yes, I know, it’s blasphemous) so deep frying two days straight was an experience, to say the least. And yes, I did smell like Eau de Frire!

This little recipe can be deep fried but it needn’t be, pan frying does the trick too. I made these for a special celebration coming up this weekend, my father in law turns 90! We’ll be springing him from the long term care facility to bring him to our house to party on. We’ll be breaking out the good china to celebrate! Happy Birthday Dad!

MiniRostiPotatoes_2632

A crisp potato ‘cracker’ with crême fraiche and smoked salmon with a little dill and chives.

Mini Rösti Appetizers

Makes about 60 x 3 cm (~1.25 inch) diametre rounds

Ingredients:

  • 600-800 g (1.3-1.8 lb) Yukon Gold Potatoes (actually, you can use any potato you would use as mashed potatoes)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Peel and chop potatoes in half (you want a chunk large enough to grate without grating your knuckles).
  2. Put the potatoes into a pot with cold water and salt (this step was prevalent in many recipes, something to do with cooking evenly) and bring to a boil. Keep on the boil until there is still some resistance when you poke the pieces with a fork or cake tester — you definitely DO NOT want to cook them 100%.
  3. Remove potatoes from the pot and allow to cool completely.
  4. On a large grater, grate the potatoes entirely. Using a 3 cm (~1.25 inch) cookie cutter, sprayed with non-stick cooking oil, press a good tablespoon of grated potato into it and compress slightly. Lift cookie cutter off and repeat until all the potato is used up. Heat a large cast iron skillet with a few tablespoons of oil (err on more than less). Add the little rounds of potatoes and cook until they are crispy and golden on each side. Drain on paper towel, cool and then freeze on a cookie sheet. Once frozen, pack them into a zip lock bag. Use as required.
  5. To reheat: pre heat the oven to 300F and bake frozen potato rounds until warmed through, about 12 minutes.
MiniRostiPotatoes_2621

Using a smallish ice cream scoop, I was able to keep each one about the same size.

MiniRostiPotatoes_2620

Yes indeed, that is a honey wand that was repurposed as a plunger to flatten each disk out.

MiniRostiPotatoes_2622

They made quite a few!

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They’ll crisp up again when you reheat them.

MiniRostiPotatoes_2629

Just a bite-sized nibble.

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We survived another Doran weekend; these weekend are full of gluttony, laughter and somewhat excesses but most of all, they are full of friendship, love and stories. And laughter, A lot of laughter. We decided to spend this weekend at the cottage because our dear friends hadn’t been up for quite some time, plus we wanted to share our new found excitment in the renovations with them! September weekend weather can be hit and miss and we had both this time around. Sunny or not, it was damn chilly and we had the heat on more than the windows open. Fall is definitely the the air. And as luck would have it, I forgot my shoes at home, so the majority of the weekend was spent in flip flops and borrowed socks, thank you T!

I always like to serve a little nibbly with cocktails; drinking on an empty stomach can be dangerous so when I came across these flavourful little nibbles, I was all over them. A touch of heat, a touch of sweetness and a lot of texture, these will surprise you with how easy they are to eat!

Spiced Nuts_0930

They are not sticky at all.

Honey-Spiced Almonds

Makes 3 cups (recipe adapted from Epicurious)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cups whole almonds, skin on
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • pinch of cayenne
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp black and white sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 300° F (XXX° C). Line a baking sheet with a silpat® sheet or parchment.
  2. Sift the spices and salt together and set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a large pan, add the almonds and roast for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.
  4. Add the honey and stir well. Sprinkle the spices over the sticky almonds. Add the sesame seeds and stir well to combine.
  5. Turn out the almonds onto the prepared cookie sheet and flatten to one layer of almonds. Bake for approximately 15 minutes (watch so it doesn’t burn), turning at least once in the process.
  6. Cool completely and serve.
Spiced Nuts_0932

The sesame are a nice little touch.

Spiced Nuts_0933

The almonds crisp up very nicely.

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We had good friends over for dinner on Saturday night and I wanted to make a light, healthy dinner which we could all feel good about. The couple recently down-sized about 22.6 kg (50lbs) combined total weight and I sure did not want to make them feel bad with a heavy meal. Plus it’s been ridiculously hot in Toronto, with high humidity so a heavy meal isn’t even appealing. I also planned the meal so that we had little kitchen time, other than plating and serving. We served family style to allow each individual to have as much or as little as desired.

Over the following few days, I will document the recipes that I served; here is the menu to give you a little taste:

Cocktails: Home made Ginger Ale (recipe below. I was inspired by The Cook’s Sister with this recipe)

Hors D’œuvres: Bite-sized Caprese Salad with EVOO and Himalayan pink salt.

Appetizer: Chilled Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup with Warm Sesame Encrusted Goats Cheese Balls (Barb at Profiteroles and Ponytails gave me the idea for this recipe, but I did the ol’ switcheroo and made the soup cold and the balls warm)(insert all goats cheese ball jokes here 😉 )

Intermisso: Lemongrass and Thai Basil Granita

Main: Susur Lee’s Singapore Slaw (aka 19 ingredients slaw) with Thai Marinated BBQ Steak (steak prepared as per Lorraine at Not Quite Nigella)

Dessert: Armenian Nutmeg Cake with Hazelnut Frozen Yogurt and Caramel Drizzle (the Armenian Nutmeg Cake was reinvented from a previous post)

Late night snack: Fresh Ontario Strawberries and Cantaloupe bites

Our guests last week were on a sabbatical from drinking alcohol so I wanted to make a special cocktail for the evening, I came across this recipe from The Cook’s Sister recently and bookmarked it for the occasion. I changed it up only to reflect the time I had to spend on the recipe, otherwise it was pretty similar. The ginger was strong enough to be refreshing and the added sugar made it just sweet enough to cut the heat from using fresh ginger. I really enjoyed it, it was a refreshing summer beverage. Of course, you can add booze to it to make it that much more interesting: gin, vodka, amber rum or whiskey seem to be preferred choices to add to ginger ale on the net.

A refreshing cocktail that aids in digestion! What more could you want?

Home made Ginger Ale

Original recipe can be found here

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated ginger (you will notice this is significantly less than the original recipe, but because it’s grated, it seems to infuse the water with enough flavour)
  • 2-4 tbsp Demerara sugar
  • 1 liter San Pelegrino (this is a lightly carbonated natural spring water)
  • 1 lime, cut into eights

Directions:

  1. To prepare the syrup, place the water, ginger, sugar into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. I allowed it to boil for about 10 minutes to concentrate the flavours and reduce a bit.
  2. Remove from heat, cover with a lid and allow to cool completely. Refrigerate over night.
  3. When ready to serve, strain the ginger bits out of the syrup, pressing as much of the ginger juice out as possible.
  4. To serve, add 4 tbsp (or to taste) of the syrup to each glass mixing in the San Pelegrino. Serve with lime wedges and garnish with mint. Individuals can add as much freshly squeezed lime juice as desired.
  5. Cheers!

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You may already know this, but I’m a bit slow, so I thought I’d pass along a very cool feature I just discovered in WordPress. You may have noticed that I have finally responded to some comments and responses from quite some time ago (no, I wasn’t being rude, I just never saw them). I have never been able to figure out what is the best place to see all the comments in WordPress, but I think I have finally got it covered. This won’t work on the iPhone app, but it does work on the desktop browser version. If you go to the top right hand side of your screen, you will see this:

See the little bubble directly between “New Post” and “Eva”?

Click on the bubble and you get this:

Click on “View All” and your commenting universe suddenly all makes sense. Sigh.

If you click on Unread, you will see all the comments you have not read through or responded to. See? I wish I had known this 5 years ago. 😦

No more having to scroll down through reams of comments to find that one you haven’t responded to. I’m sure you all know this by now, but if I can save one person from foolishly missing one lovely comment or response to a comment you’ve made on a blog that you follow, then I will be happy. Happier now that I have this cocktail. Surely it must be 4pm somewhere in the world.

I know what you’re thinking: I thought you preferred the traditional martini and since when do you post cocktails? Well, the answer is yes on both counts, but while visiting the cute Lake Geneva, Wisconsin on the weekend, we stopped by a restaurant for cocktails and I, for the first time, tried Effin Cucumber Vodka (OK, I had a sip of Paul’s Bloody Mary). The cucumber flavour was exceptional, it really came through even with all the seasonings a Bloody Mary has. Very impressive indeed. I wanted to get a bottle, but we had already purchased our maximum limit (Smirnoff Triple Distilled 1.75L for $20, this usually sells for $54.95 in Ontario!). So I decided I would try to recreate the flavours captured in this lovely drink for a refreshing summer-time cocktail. After all, it is Thursday.

The greens really pop, don’t they?

Greg over at Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide showed us how to make Cucumber Gin but since I am not much of a Gin drinker(bad experience at Uni, must have been something I ate ;-)). I decided to re invent it with Vodka.

I’ll serve this cocktail in a martini glass, because it’s so damn sexy, you can serve it over ice in a tall glass like Greg did, or in an old fashioned. I’ll be the one in the summer dress, shocking pink stiletto’s sipping from a martini glass on the outdoor sectional. Cheers!

Oh my, I think the shutter stayed open a bit too long. And oops, we finished them off by the time I noticed! Time for another!

Cucumber Lime Martini

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 45 mL (1.5 oz) Vodka
  • 10-12 slices cucumber (I used mini English cucumbers)
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 2-4 tbsp lime cordial

Directions:

  1. A couple of hours before you wish to consume the cocktail, add the cucumber and lime zest to the vodka and refrigerate (or freeze).
  2. When ready to serve, give the vodka a good stir and add the lime cordial; strain into martini glasses and garnish with a fresh slice of lime or cucumber
  3. Cheers!

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