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glutenfreecheezitz_first

There are recipes that convert well into gluten free and this happens to be one of them and they freeze incredibly well too, but be warned, it will be unlikely that you’ll have leftovers to freeze! I rolled this recipe thinner than the glutinated recipe and the result was a crispier, cheese bite. I’ll probably do the same for the glutinated version, as I preferred the crisp texture. Plus, a thinner roll gives you more crackers and who doesn’t love more cheese crackers?

Gluten-free Cheez-itz

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 227 g (about 2 cups) sharp cheddar, grated
  • 45 g (3 tbsp) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 14 g (1 tbsp) vegetable shortening
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 67 g (1/2 cup) brown rice flour and 67 g (1/2 cup)  white corn flour (not corn starch) or 134 g (1 cup) gluten-free flour
  • 30 mL (2 tbsp) ice water

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients except the ice water in a bowl of a food processor. Pulse for 2 minutes to cream the mixture together.
  2. Slowly add the ice-water while pulsing. At first, it looks like you might need more water, patience grasshopper, patience, the dough will come together in a moment, continue pulsing until it does.
  3. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  4. Using plastic wrap, roll the dough into two logs about 1.5 inches or 4 cm in diameter. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or freeze for 15.
  5. Cut log into 1/2 cm or 1/4 inch thick slices and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet leaving about 2.5 cm or 1 inch between each cracker.
  6. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown and crispy! Be careful – there’s a fine line with these between golden brown and overdone – and it only takes seconds to burn!

Alternative instructions:

  1. Cut dough in half and pat the dough down into a disk, cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Place disk on parchment paper and put the plastic wrap on top and roll each disc to 2mm or 1/8 inch thickness (this is the perfect thickness).
  3. Using a cookie cutter of your choice, cut into shapes. I found that my 2.5cm square cut the perfect size.
  4. Transfer to a baking sheet (I line mine with parchment).
  5. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown and crispy! Be careful – there’s a fine line with these between golden brown and over done – and it only takes seconds to burn!
  6. Remove to cooling rack to cool.

Notes:

  • If the crackers become a bit soggy after you defrost them, toss them in the oven in a single layer on a baking sheet on low heat for 5-10 minutes to crisp them up.

glutenfreecheezitz

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vegetarianbutternutsquashchili_first

We had a bunch of dear friends for Superbowl a few weeks ago and I made this vegetarian chili. I know I’m a little late, but I wanted to capture the recipe for next year. It was delicious and it makes a huge amount (1 L or 8 cups). It has a lot of great flavours and textures, I’ll definitely add it to my repertoire for future Superbowl parties.

Vegetarian Butternut Squash Chili

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1 L (8 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 180 g (1 cup) dried red kidney beans (soaked for 12 hours)
  • 1 small onion, diced (100 g)
  • 1 small carrot, diced (100 g)
  • 1/2 butternut squash, diced (150 g)
  • 2 celery ribs, diced (100 g)
  • 250 mL puréed tomatoes (200 g)
  • vegetable stock or water, to cover
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp red pepper paste
  • 2 tsp ground cumin, toasted
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp smoked sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup Pearl Barley, cooked
  • 1 avocado, for garnish
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, for garnish
  • chopped cilantro, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Put the beans in a pot, cover with 2 inches of water, and bring to a boil. Boil for ten minutes. Drain.
  2. Combine beans with everything but the frozen corn, cooked barley and the garnishes in the bowl of a slow cooker. Add enough water to cover. Cook for 8 hours on low or until beans are tender. Add frozen corn and cooked barley about 30 minutes before serving to allow to heat through.
  3. Serve with garnishes or plain.

vegetarianbutternutsquashchili

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pickledradishes_first

I had an excess of radishes in my pantry so I decided to pickle them before they turned bad. They will make a nice garnish to pulled pork or a rich stew like bœuf bourguignon.

Pickled Radishes

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 250 mL (1 cup)

Ingredients:

  • 160 g (~1 cup) radishes, sliced thinly
  • 30 g (~5 cloves) garlic, sliced thinly
  • 250 mL (1 cup) white vinegar
  • 5 mL (1 tsp) salt
  • 5 mL (1 tsp) sugar
  • 5 g (~ 6 sprigs) dill sprigs
  • 250 mL (1 cup) sterilized canning jar

Directions:

  1. Combine vinegar, sugar and salt and heat until both salt and sugar have dissolved, stir well.
  2. Add the radishes and garlic slices to the jar and pour the hot liquid over to cover. Tap the jar a few times to burst any air bubbles.
  3. Pour the liquid over the radishes and tap the jar on the counter a few times to get the liquid dispersed evenly. Add the dill sprigs, making sure they are covered in the liquid. Screw on the lid.
  4. Use immediately or process jar for 10 minutes (or as required in your neck of the woods), allow to cool on the counter. Label. Store for 3 months in a cool, dark place or use within a month in the fridge.

pickledradishes

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applepreserves_first

This is a naturally sweet applesauce, no added sugar or chemicals, just the beautiful sweetness of the apples!

Since JT and I have embarked on our diet, I have been expanding a recipe collection because there is nothing worse than eating ‘diet food’. JT can attest that our food has been the furthest from ‘diet’, at least, our perception of ‘diet food’. We’ve had:

  • Chicken Schnitzel with cauliflower mash
  • Zucchini spaghetti and chicken meatballs
  • Mushroom and cauliflower crêpes with lentil béchamel sauce
  • Apple and Dijon glazed pork tenderloin
  • Pulled pork tenderloin crêpe with homemade BBQ sauce
  • Navy bean mushroom ‘risotto’
  • Pacific Salmon with cauliflower dill sauce on wilted spinach
  • Chicken Tikka Masala on cauliflower ‘rice’
  • Pork tenderloin on braised red cabbage
  • Pork tenderloin with mushroom sauce on sautéd veggies
  • Tilapia en papillote
  • Bouillabaisse

The real challenge is finding alternatives that fit into the diet parameters so I created this apple preserve (or butter) as a condiment, but also as a sweetener in some of the dishes named above. I try to vary the meals so that we don’t get bored of the same thing.

The other thing that I’m finding quite helpful is weighing everything to make sure we are not having more than we should — I’ve fallen off that bandwagon a few times, so it’s great to get back to it. Measuring is a great tool to keep you on track and it keeps you from inching up the volume (which I can be guilty of)! I measure out 100 g  (3.5 oz) portions of any protein we purchase and freeze them individually. I know each baggy is 100 g (3.5 oz) which is exactly the portion size we should be eating. It doesn’t take long to get used to the smaller volumes particularly since we have to drink a lot of water. And the veggies are quite generous (230 g 8 oz per portion), in fact, JT has a difficult time eating the allotted volume of veggies sometimes (I do a lot of wilted spinach…makes for a smaller amount!). Fortunately, we can season to our heart’s content so the food isn’t bland. The other thing about 100 g or 3.5 oz portions is that it makes the budget go further! I’m not going to post a lot more about my regimen but I will share the odd recipe I think you might enjoy. Plus, we have a few cheat days planned (Super Bowl for one!) so I’ll share some of those tasty treats. Thank you for allowing us to indulge in our resolutions, while I enjoy your wonderful recipes from afar, for the time being.

Unsweetened Apple Preserves

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 750 mL (3 cups) preserves.

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg (about 2 lb) red delicious apples, peel and core included*.
  • 1 L (about 4 cups) water
  • 6 cinnamon sticks
  • 10 g (about 3 tbsp) freshly grated ginger
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. In a medium Dutch oven, add chopped apples, water and cinnamon sticks and cook on medium heat until apples have broken down and thickened and most of the water has evaporated, about xx minutes.
  2. Add freshly grated ginger and pinch of salt, stir well.
  3. Pour into prepared containers and seal with new lids. Store in the freezer. Use refrigerated preserves within a month.

Uses:

  • Use to sweeten sauces and dressings instead of sugar.
  • Pour over unsweetened yogurt or ice cream or gelato.
  • Use as a condiment for pork.
  • Combine with a little Dijon Mustard as a glaze over pork tenderloin.

*The peel and core add natural pectin to the preserves which help to thicken and preserve it.

applepreserves

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strawberrypreserves_first

This is an apple sweetened preserve with strong strawberry flavour and a hint of cinnamon. It’s delicious on toast, cheese or even a garnish on dessert. However, if you are a sweet tooth, this may not be for you.

Late last year, JT and I decided to hunker down and lose the weight we put on in 2016, start date January 3, 2017. I don’t know about you, but it keeps getting more and more difficult to shed those pesky pounds. So over the last few weeks, we have been dry and on a very strict regiment. I’ve joined a doctor supervised program that I’ve had much success with in the past and I am happy to report, I am doing rather well. At this rate, I should reach my goal by March! I also bought a fit bit zip, so as corny as it sounds, I am getting in my 10,000 steps, a day! We got a bit lazy after our trip to Europe last fall, so it feels great to get back on track.

The diet we subscribe to has you eating real food (in moderated proportions) so it will be easy to keep up the practice even after we reach our goals. Having said that, there are a few things that I miss because the preferred brands contain aspartame or some other chemical sugar that I decided many years ago to avoid like the plague. So, in this simple post, I present to you an apple-sweetened strawberry preserve recipe. I must warn the super sweet tooths out there that this recipe is definitely not for you. It does, however, have excellent strawberry flavour and the apple just curbs the tartness of the berries without any processed sugars! I suspect I could have added honey or some other natural sugar, but the diet really limits ALL sugars (except chemical) so my hands were tied. These preserves should be frozen as opposed to canned because it does not contain processed sugars as a preservative. At first, I made a single batch of one jar, but JT loved it so much, the jar did not last long. So when I saw strawberries (from Mexico) on sale for $1.88/454 g (1 pound) I jumped! Surprisingly, they have excellent flavour and aroma and the berries really shine through in this preserve.

Apple Sweetened Strawberry Preserves

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 500 mL (about 2 cups)

Ingredients:

  • ~1.8 kg  (~4 lbs) strawberries
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 apple, chopped finely, peeled, cored (reserved)

Directions:

  1. Roughly chop strawberries, add them to a heavy bottom saucepan along with the cinnamon sticks, apple and the water. Wrap the apple peel and core tightly in cheesecloth and add to the mix (the peel and core will add natural pectins which will help thicken it).
  2. Boil until the berries and apple have broken down, most of the water has evaporated and it has thickened. With a fork, mash any berry chunks or apple that have not broken down. Remove the cheesecloth bag, drain and discard.
  3. Bottle in sterilized jars and refrigerate for immediate use or freeze for future use. The refrigerator preserves are good for about one month, but it probably won’t last. The freezer jams will be good for about 6 months if they are sealed tightly.

 

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saltedcaramelsemifreddofirst

Here in Toronto, we have a lovely grocery store chain called Loblaws; you may have heard of them through their widely distributed President’s Choice (PC) products, a high-end food product range created by Dave Nichol. What has this got to do with my recipe today? Patience grasshopper…

In recent years, Loblaws has rebranded themselves and have created a truly upscale grocery shopping experience; their stores are beautiful and inspiring. The Toronto flagship store is the Loblaws at the old Maple Leaf Gardens and they merchandise product in a visually appealing way, so much so, that a long-time shopper like me, ends up adding a few extras into my grocery cart when I shop there! In addition to an inspiring shopping experience, Loblaws offers cooking classes! Some of the cooking classes are demonstration-style and for $10 (Canadian) we watch a real Chef cook a couple of recipes to make a meal, and at the end of the demonstration we get to eat the results! And, because they promote several PC products, we are given a $10 Loblaws gift card to use at our leisure! Win/win in my opinion.

In December, they offered a special cooking class focusing on a few new premium Black Label PC products, but they only advertised it to regulars at the cooking classes. It was a bit more expensive ($15 Canadian) but SO WELL WORTH IT! I went with a bunch of friends and we made an evening of it. We cooked up some pretty amazing things that evening, Crispy Sesame Rice cakes with PC® Tuna Tataki, PC® La Belle Rivière Cheese, Cranberry and Pear Stuffed Roasted Turkey Breast with Peri Peri Kale with PC® Hollandaise Sauce. I enjoyed the turkey and Kale so much, I made it for JT for Christmas Day dinner. The pièce de resistance was the Avocado Lime and Coconut No-Bake Cheesecake, but our Chef decided to make it a semifreddo instead and he won me over. As you know, I am not much of a dessert eater, but the semifreddo was too difficult to resist, I polished off my entire slice! I have since made the semifreddo version of this tart and sweet dessert without the crust and it was very well received. Just after the holidays, I had an avocado on its way out so I thought I’d recreate the dessert using a caramel sauce I made for a Christmas party and froze the leftovers, the recipe below, Salted Caramel Semifreddo with Skor Bits is the result. I served it for a dinner party last week. It’s not much of a calorie saver (duh, caramel sauce!) but it’s a nice treat from time to time, plus did I mention it has Skor® bits?

saltedcaramelsemifreddo

This small slice bangs a lot of flavour.

Salted Caramel Semifreddo with Skor® Bits

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 500 mL (about 2 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 160 g cream cheese (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 ripe avocado (mine was on the smaller side but larger will work too)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 85 g (about 1/3 cup) caramel sauce (or to taste)
  • sea salt
  • 2 tbsp Skor® caramel bits

Directions:

  1. Combine cream cheese, avocado, lemon juice and caramel sauce in the small bowl of your food processor (I used my Cuisinart Smartstick mini processor attachment).
  2. Prepare your freezer-safe containers by spraying them with non-stick spray and lining with parchment if possible (round containers may prove difficult).
  3. Evenly sprinkle sea salt and Skor® bits on the bottom of each container and pour the cream over. Cover and freeze overnight.
  4. Using the parchment to lift out the semifreddo (or dip ever so slightly into warm water), put it on a cutting board and slice or plate. Drizzle with additional caramel sauce and sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Serve immediately.

saltedcaramelsemifreddo2

I used gold sea salt to make it more festive!

Note: I was not renumerated in any way for this post, it is simply my opinion of an entertaining event in Toronto that is not too expensive.

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pomegranatedate_focaccia_first

Several weeks ago, we had our fall progressive dinner and our lovely neighbours Tom and Iona chose Pomegranate as the theme! What a coincidence for JT and I, since we were just there in September! (Please recall that Granada means pomegranate in Spanish!). JT and I served hors d’œuvres and appetizers; the hors d’œuvre was a delicious pomegranate guacamole with homemade fajita chips and the appetizer was a cob salad with a corn and pomegranate mix and a pomegranate syrup dressing.

summercobbsalad

The cobb salad was similar to this one, but I added pomegranate seeds to the grilled corn and instead of beans, I served BBQ’d pulled chicken breast.

And because I don’t extend myself enough, I decided to make a sourdough pomegranate, date and rosemary focaccia. Although the dates did certainly added some sweetness, the perfumy flavour of the rosemary increased the savoury aspect without being overwhelming. The recipe below is a modified version of this recipe, which I originally made at the cottage.

pomegranatedate_rawfocaccia

This is the raw dough just before I popped it into the oven. It’s quite festive looking making it perfect for the holidays!

Pomegranate, Date and Rosemary Sourdough Focaccia

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes one focaccia 28 cm x 36 cm (11″ x 14″)

Ingredients:

  • 265 g (1 cup) fed, sourdough starter
  • 300 g (1 1/3 cup) warm water
  • 100 g (1/2 cup) olive oil, divided
  • 1  1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 8 g (1 packet) instant yeast
  • 8 g (1 tbsp) milk powder
  • 500 g (3 1/2 cups) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 70 g (~1/2 cup) loosely packed dates, sliced in half, lengthwise
  • 75 g (~1/2 cup) pomegranate seeds
  • 4 g (1 generous tbsp) roughly chopped rosemary

Directions:

  1. In the large bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine sourdough starter, water and 50 g (1/4 cup) olive oil and mix well. Sprinkle the yeast into it and mix well.
  2. Whisk to combine the salt, milk powder and flour and add in batches to the liquid ingredients. Combine and then knead with the machine for 5 minutes. This dough is quite sticky
  3. Pour remaining 50 g (1/4 cup) olive oil into a clean bowl and turn the dough into it. Roll the dough around in the olive oil to coat, cover with a clean tea towel and allow to rise in a warm dark place for 1 hour.
  4. Pre heat oven to 190° C (375° F). Turn the dough out onto the baking sheet and with your fingers, press dough evenly to create a rectangle about 28 cm x 36 cm (11″ x 14″).
  5. Gently press the sliced dates, pomegranate seeds and rosemary into the dough, making sure they are spread evenly. Drizzle the olive oil remaining in proofing bowl over the raw dough. Allow to rest for 20 minutes.
  6. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the internal temperature is 43°C (190° F).
  7. Cool slightly and cut into portions. Serve warm with your best extra virgin olive oil and pomegranate syrup or Ice Wine Syrup..
datepomegranate_focaccia3

They are like little edible jewels! I was quite happy that the pomegranate seed jewels did not lose their luster after baking.

datepomegranate_focaccia2

A pillowy-soft focaccia.

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