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It’s quite funny how the universe works, isn’t it? Case in point, we were down in Arizona in March-April and my dear friend Theresa decided to introduce me to a Moscow Mule, a refreshing alcoholic bevy served in a classic copper mug. I had never had one before. It is made with ginger beer and vodka and lime juice, and it is very tasty and refreshing. Fast forward a couple of months, I’m minding my own business and to my surprise, I receive an unsolicited email from a Canadian company out west who imports and sells their very own, wait for it…Moscow Mule mugs! What a coincidence indeed! We spoke on the telephone and I suggested that I could do a post for them, focussing on a recipe that would be served in said mug. Of course, they sent me a couple of their mugs so I can post pics of the recipe in them. The mugs are beautifully hand-hammered by an artisan group in India, but most importantly, they are lined with nickel lining. Apparently, using mugs without nickel can cause a series of serious health issues (so if you have such mugs, check to make sure they have a non-reactive lining and you are not drinking directly from a copper mug). This blog post talks about the importance of nickel lining.

The Moscow Muled mugs are reasonably priced at $16.60 Canadian ($12.50 US) each and would make great hostess gifts or stocking stuffers during the holidays.

I added a couple of cute tea towels, but another great idea would be a gingerbeer kit, complete with vodka, gingerbeer and limes!

Moscow Mules were invented circa 1941 in LA in a British pub called Cock ‘n’ Bull by their head bartender, Wes Price. The story is quite interesting, so if you wish, you may read about it here.

Take the worry out of the mug, Moscow Muled mugs are made with “100% pure high-grade and food-safe copper with an inner layer of high-grade nickel.”* Plus they look awesome and will keep your bevy cool on hot summer nights! I knew I wanted to make the Authentic Ginger Beer recipe on their website, it’s relatively easy (just a bit of time) and you probably already have all of the ingredients at home. The only thing I did to this tasty recipe is half it (there are only two of us and it still made around 4 litres) and I converted it to weights instead of volumes.

Raise a Moscow Muled mug with this tasty and refreshing drink, Cheers guys.

I was gifted with two Moscow Muled Mugs for this post, the opinions listed are my own.

*moscowmuled.com

I made new zippered covers for the sectional in the background, so happy with the way they turned out.

Moscow Muled Ginger Beer

Makes about 4 L of ginger beer.

For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients, Step 1 Ginger Bug:

  • 250 mL water
  • 15 g sugar
  • 13 g freshly grated ginger

Directions:

  1. Combine the freshly grated ginger with the sugar and water in a glass jar.
  2. Stir until sugar has entirely dissolved with a non-reactive spoon, like a wooden spoon or silicone spatula.
  3. With a clean tea-towel, cover the glass jar and secure it with rubber bands and allow to sit at room temperature for a total of 5 to 7 days.
  4. During these 5-7 days, every day, add another 13 g of freshly grated ginger and 15 g of sugar and stir until dissolved. Cover the glass jar with a towel or cloth, and secure it with rubber bands.
  5. The mixture will form bubbles around 5-7 days and at 7 days, it should smell sharp with a strong yeast aroma.

Ingredients, Step 2 Ginger Beer:

  • 85 g ginger root, peeled and grated
  • 3.5 L of filtered water
  • 2 g of sea salt
  • 300 g sugar (white or brown, I used white because I wanted a clear ginger beer)
  • 42 mL lemon juice
  • 250 mL of ginger bug

Directions:

  1. on the 5th or 7th day, combine 2 L of water, ginger, sugar and salt in a large non-reactive pot, bring to a boil then allow it to simmer for 5 minutes, stirring periodically to steep the ginger.
  2. Remove from the heat and add the remaining water. Allow this liquid to cool completely. Once cool, use a very fine sieve to strain the ginger to make a clear liquid. Pour the ginger bug into the mixture (make sure that it is room temperature, about 23° C or 74° F, as you will kill the ginger bug if it is hot).
  3. Add the lemon juice and stir well.
  4. Pour into sterilized bottles, making sure they are only about 2/3 full because this ginger beer will actually ferment and produce carbon dioxide.
  5. Store bottles in a warm, dark place away from light and allow it to ferment for about 10 days. Carefully loosen caps from time to time to relieve the pressure from fermentation (I did this once per day).
  6. Refrigerate the ginger beer when it has reached your preferred level of sweetness. Refrigeration causes the fermentation to stall significantly. The longer the fermentation, the less sweet your ginger beer will be. We fermented our lot for 10 days and it produced a gingery, slightly carbonated beer that wasn’t as sweet as I thought it would be.

I know there is no orange in the Moscow Mule recipe, I just wanted a hit of colour.

Notes:

  • I used recycled screw cap wine bottles, properly washed, rinsed and sanitized.
  • Make sure you tighten the screw caps well so the ginger beer can ferment. Also, make sure you release the CO2 every day, by opening the bottles and allowing them to exhale, so the bottles don’t explode.
  • Even after the ginger beer has fermented and is resting in the refrigerator, it contains a lot of effervescence, so be careful. Open bottles over the sink. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
  • I suspect there is some alcohol in the ginger beer I made, but I don’t know for certain.

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In the Spring edition of the LCBO’s (our liquor store) Food & Drink magazine, they featured a Turmeric, Miso & Ginger Soup that immediately caught my attention. In mid-March, we were still craving soups, believe it or not, so I thought I’d give this colourful soup a go in my humble kitchen. The flavours were earthy, brightened by the lemon juice and sweetened by the peas and corn, everything one could want from the spring soup.

An Earthy soup to warm and ward off any spring colds.

Turmeric, Ginger, Miso Soup with Peas and Corn

Makes 1 L soup

For the original recipe, please click here.

To print this recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 15 mL EVOO
  • 70 g sweet onion (such as Vidalia), finely chopped
  • 50 g celery, sliced
  • 1 L vegetable stock, divided
  • 20 g ginger, roughly chopped
  • 2 g garlic, roughly chopped
  • 5 g turmeric powder
  • 20 g white miso
  • 15 mL freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 70 g each, frozen peas and frozen corn

Directions:

  1. In a medium stock-pot, heat the olive oil and add the chopped onion and cook until translucent. Add the celery and cook for a minute or so longer.
  2. In a small measuring cup fitted for your stick blender, add about 125 mL vegetable stock, the ginger, garlic, turmeric and miso and blend until smooth.
  3. Add the turmeric mixture to the celery and onions and cook for a few minutes, until you can smell the garlic. Add the remainder of the vegetable stock and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Add the frozen peas and corn and stir for a minute.
  4. Serve hot.

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Recently I purchased too many strawberries because they were 3 packages for three dollars! We ate most of them, but I had one package left over that I needed to do something with. My dear cousin and her family were scheduled to come for dinner and they had requested vanilla ice cream for dessert so I decided to make a strawberry sauce as a garnish; who doesn’t love home-made strawberry sauce?

Strawberry Sauce

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 300 mL

To print the recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 340 g strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped
  • 47 g coconut sugar
  • 3 mL freshly squeezed lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Stir the ingredients together in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and simmer for 3 minutes.
  2. Lightly blend with an immersion blender, leaving some bits. Cool. Refrigerate or freeze until required, bring to room temperature before use.

A quick and easy recipe if you have too many strawberries.

The bits of strawberries in this sauce, sets it apart from the store-bought strawberry sauces.

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We have been really enjoying Korean cuisine for a while now, and my dear friend Barb (Profiteroles and Ponytails, in hiatus) gave us a wonderful jar of gourmet Kimchi for Christmas. The first time I ever tried Kimchi was in Paris with my friend Charles (Five Euro Foods, also in hiatus) when he took us to a Korean BBQ place. It was a delicious lunch filled with bright and heady flavours but I have to tell you that I did not love my first experience with Kimchi. Fortunately, since then, I have tried many different versions and I am very happy to report, I LOVE IT! My friend Sissi over at With a Glass is the Kimchi expert, she has made several versions and recipes using Kimchi, check out her lovely blog. In fact, it was the persistence of Sissi’s recipes on her blog that made me want to make my own, plus that jar that Barb so generously gave us was awesome and I wanted more! Thank you, Sissi and Barb.

The recipes are as easy as they sound, the most difficult part will be the waiting until it ferments and then dig in. It works well with Korean but we’ve also had it with Indian and it is wonderful. This makes a smallish batch but it is enough for a few meals.

Kimchi

Please click here for original recipe.

To print recipe, click here.

Makes 1 650 mL jar

Ingredients:

  • 450 g chopped and grated vegetables (see notes)
  • 75 g table salt
  • water to cover
  • 20 g ginger, grated
  • 16 g garlic, grated
  • 6 g Korean red pepper
  • 13 g sugar
  • 30 mL fish sauce (or 45 mL, to taste)

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, add the coleslaw mix (minus the celeriac). Pour the salt over the entire mix and rub in with your hands. Cover with water. Allow to sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours, stirring occasionally.
  2. Rince the salted coleslaw mix 4-5 times with fresh water. Add the green onions and celeriac and mix thoroughly.
  3. In a small glass bowl, combine the ginger, garlic, red pepper sugar and fish sauce and mix well to create a smooth paste. Pour over the coleslaw mix.
  4. Using a gloved hand, rub the paste into the slaw until it is fully incorporated and evenly mixed. Pack the entire slaw mix into a sterilized jar, pressing down to remove large air bubbles, leaving about 2.5 cm space at the top, then cap with the lid. Allow to ferment for 2-3 days in a cool spot but not the refrigerator. It’s probably a good idea to open the jar every-so-often to release the gases that build up during fermentation. Once it has reached your desired flavour, refrigerate. Some recipes need to sit in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks but this one you may use right away, knowing that the flavours will only get better as it ages.

Notes:

  • Buying an entire cabbage is far too much for just the two of us, it would take us a year to go through it all, so I buy the pre-shredded coleslaw mix in the bag salad section and augment it with what I have at home, this time it was celeriac and green onions.
  • I would use gloves to massage the paste into the vegetables, the red pepper may stain your hands and nails.

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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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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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