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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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The chef at our favourite French Bistro has left and his long-time sous chef has taken over. In general, the menu changes to suit the new chef but, because this is a traditional French Bistro, very few of the menu items changed. Sadly, one item that did change was the serving of the braised short rib, one of JT’s favourites. Instead of blue cheese risotto, the chef serves it with greens and pommes fourchette (literally, forked potatoes) and it’s not quite the same. When I mentioned that I was going to make short ribs, JT specifically asked me to make the blue cheese risotto. This dish is extremely rich, so I suggested that I make it with cauliflower rice instead of real rice and JT agreed. The meat is cooked on low for a long time but that is what makes it so delicious, so don’t fast forward and use high, low and slow is the way to go. Also, cut the carrots into good sized chunks so that they don’t disintegrate during the cooking process, my carrots still had great texture at the end.

Sherry Braised Short Rib with Cauliflower Blue Cheese Risotto

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Please click here to print this recipe.

Serves 2-3

Ingredients:

  • 500 mL beef short ribs
  • 200 g onions, finely chopped
  • 125 mL beef stock
  • 125 mL cooking sherry (or red wine)
  • 15 mL (1 tbsp) tomato paste
  • 200 g (1 medium) carrot, cut into one-bite chunks
  • 120 g (1 stalk) celery, finely chopped
  • 20 g (3 cloves) garlic, finely minced
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 10 g (1 tbsp) corn starch, dissolved in a small amount of cold water

 

Directions:

  1. Season short ribs with salt and pepper.
  2. Brown the short ribs in small batches in a cast iron pan, transfer to a pre-warmed slow cooker.
  3. Add onions to the hot cast iron pan and cook until translucent, add celery and garlic and cook until garlic becomes aromatic. Add the carrots and cook for about a minute. Transfer to the slow cooker.
  4. Combine the stock, sherry, tomato paste and mix well, use to deglaze the cast iron pan, turn the heat off. Add the cornstarch that has been dissolved in a small amount of water and stir well into the deglazing liquid. Pour the liquid over the meat and carrots in the slow cooker. Stir well.
  5. Lay the fresh thyme and bay leaf into the slow cooker and cover with braising liquid. Cook the ribs for 5-6 hours, covered on low or until meat comes cleanly off the bone. Remove thyme sprigs and bay leaf.
  6. Serve on top of a bed of cauliflower blue cheese risotto (I didn’t jot down the recipe, but this one would be delicious).

 

Notes:

  • Always brown meat in small batches, otherwise you’ll end up steaming them instead of browning.
  • I sprinkled the seasoned ribs with Mycryo and got a gorgeous sear.
  • My sauce turned out to be the perfect consistency, not soupy at all.

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I am a crêpe fanatic, I just love them so much. I will choose a savoury crêpe over any sandwich, any day of the week. I particularly love it with béchamel sauce or just plain cheese (and some wonderful filling, of course).

The other day, I had my pans and ingredients all pulled out, ready to make a plain crêpe when it hit me, why not add cheese RIGHT INTO THE BATTER? The more flavourful, the better. It’s not low fat, but boy it is delicious. Imagine a combination of crêpe and grilled cheese, it is so good. It’s true that I’ve done crêpe paninis and delicious ordinary crêpes (like this and this beautiful savoury mushroom crêpe), but when this crept into my head, I just had to try it. I hope you like it too.

Cheese Crêpes

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Recipe is for 2 Crêpes.

Please click here to print this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 egg whites or 1 whole L egg
  • 65 mL (1/4 cup) soda water
  • 15 mL (1 tbsp) oil
  • 35 g (1/4 cup) flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 25 g (1/4 loose cup) sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Directions:

  1. Add all of the ingredients to the container of your immersion blender. Blend until entirely emulsified. Allow to sit for 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat your crêpe pan. Emulsify the crêpe batter one more time. Use half (about 100 mL) for the first crêpe and the remainder for the second.

Notes:

  • This is a delicate, cheesy crêpe.
  • I put sautéed mushrooms and caramelized onions with a lemon thyme scented béchamel with it for a simple lunch, it was delicious.
  • Use sharp flavoured, hard cheese (like cheddar, gruyère, Oka), don’t use anything that will render too easily (like brie or blue cheese).

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On a recent trip to visit friends in Delavan, we traveled to New Glarus, a very Swiss town in central north Wisconsin. After visiting the New Glarus Brewery (which was very cool), we were quite hungry for some lunch, so we went into town and had a very delicious lunch at Glarner Stube. They make a Rösti potato dish that is out of this world: they stuff it with Swiss cheese (something like Appenzeller) and it was awesome! I knew I wanted to recreate this dish at home, but I really needed to get back to healthy eating, so I parked the idea for another time.

We had a dear friend and her hubby for brunch at the house and I wanted to make a healthier meal so I decided to experiment in making zucchini rösti (similar to rösti potatoes, a traditional Swiss treat). My dear friend is gluten intolerant so I decided to use coconut flour instead of the gluten free flour mix as I was also trying to keep the carbs low. This is a very flavourful dish, however, I would be lying if I said it was like rösti potatoes because the zucchini does not crisp up like potatoes do, but it is still quite tasty (although, it might if you pan fried it in a small amount of oil instead of non-stick spray). I know I will make this alternative for myself when I make the potato version for the carb lovers!

A tasty alternative to Rösti Potatoes.

Zucchini Rösti

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes one Rösti about 20 cm or 8″ diametre.
Click here to print the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 430 g zucchini, grated (all the liquid squeezed out to about 350 g zucchini)
  • 80 g sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 20 g coconut flour
  • 5 g salt
  • 3 tbsp egg white (or 1 egg)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Directions:

  1. Combine grated and drained zucchini with the sliced onion and sprinkle with the coconut flour. Mix well.
  2. Combine salt, egg and minced garlic and mix well. Pour this mixture over the zucchini and combine well.
  3. Prepare a small frying pan with oil (or non-stick spray) and heat. Add the entire zucchini mixture into the hot frying pan and cook over medium heat, about 15 minutes. Flip and continue to cook for an additional 10-15 minutes until cooked through and golden on the edges.

Here are a few pics of our trip to New Glarus and the New Glarus Brewery.

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Recently, we had a dinner party and I served a grilled caesar salad as one of the courses. Of course, you MUST have REAL bacon so JT cooked the bacon up on the BBQ (none of that maple crap) and I asked him to save the drippings for the roast potatoes but by the time I got around to tossing the tators in the bacon drippings, I had second thoughts so I used only about a tablespoon and tossed the rest with olive oil. I had about a 65 mL (1/4 cup) bacon drippings sitting in the refrigerator, crying for something creative so I came up with this easy recipe. The drippings have such an amazing flavour, and the bits of bacon add just the right amount of crunch. I think I may have to cook up another batch of bacon just for the drippings so I can bake another batch of these tasty morsels.

Bacon and Parmesan Cheese Puffs

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 42 small puffs

Ingredients:

  • 250 mL (1 cup) water
  • 65 mL (1/4 cup) bacon drippings
  • 5 mL 1/2 tsp salt
  • 145 g (1 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 120 g (1 cup) grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 1/2 slices bacon, cooked until crispy and crumbled to small pieces

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 200° C (400° F).
  2. Place water, bacon drippings and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  3. Remove from heat and add flour, and stir until combined.
  4. Return to heat and stir cooking the flour mixture until it comes away from the sides of the pan and is a shiny ball.
  5. Place in a food processor with plastic blades and process for 15 seconds (give or take).
  6. Add eggs, one at a time and process for 40 seconds (err on the longer side of give or take).
  7. Add the cheese and process for another 5-10 seconds until smooth. Stir in the crumbled bacon.
  8. Dip a spoon or small ice cream scoop into 1 cup cold water with 5 mL (1 tsp) plain vegetable oil, place walnut-sized spoonfuls on a parchment lined cookie sheet about 3 cm (1 1/2 inches) apart.
  9. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.
  10. Serve warm or room temperature.

Notes:

  • You may also prepare this recipe with a good quality handheld mixer or stand mixer but I would suggest an immersion blender with the whisk attachment is not strong enough for this pastry.
  • These delightful balls puff up about 12 minutes into baking and are ideal for stuffing with a piping funnel (I bought a really cheap one from a dollar store and it works very well). Stuff with goats cheese, or your own recipe.
  • Unstuffed, they freeze very well, just pop them into a zip lock bag. To use, you need not defrost them, simply put them into a preheated 150° C (300° F) oven for 10-12 minutes, until defrosted and heated through.

The bacon drippings give this treat great flavour and the bacon bits some nice texture.

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