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I must apologize, my post did not post as I had hoped (perhaps it was because it was scheduled for Wednesday!). Better late than never!

Our summer began with the most perfect temperatures (for me), low 20’s° C (low 70s° F) with low to no humidity. You have to understand, Toronto becomes a sauna in the summertime, high temperatures and humidity and which makes it seem so much hotter and muggier than it actually is. It’s usually so soupy that a shower seems less wet than going outside! As soon as July hit, so did summer temperatures 34° C (93° F) and in rolled the humidity (making 34 seem like 42° C or 107° F). I am a sweater, I sweat thinking about physical effort, it’s really awful, so these hot temps force me to stay inside with the A/C cranked low and a fan blowing on me. It really is a curse.

I came up with this recipe for a lunch during a long-weekend that I was locked inside my house. I wanted something fast, light and easy with ingredients I had at home. Usually, I wouldn’t blog about this type of recipe but JT loved it so much, he literally asked for it again the very next day! This is day two, I didn’t have enough home-grown tomatoes so I added a vine-ripened tomato I had at home. I’ve made this salad a few more times! The bulgur adds a lovely texture, not quite chewy but not soft either. The tuna is a nice addition but it’s even tasty without it for a vegan recipe.

Mediterranean Red Bulgur Salad with Tuna

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

This recipe makes 4-6 servings

To make this vegan, omit the tuna.

Ingredients:

  • 200 g red bulgar
  • 2 cloves garlic, halved
  • 1 can tuna (flaked white albacore in water)
  • 10 cm cucumber, finely diced
  • a handful of parsley, chopped finely
  • 3-4 mint leaves, chopped finely
  • 12 or so kalamata olives, chopped
  • a handful or so of grape tomatoes, finely diced
  • Handful of chopped artichokes

Ingredients for the dressing:

  • juice and zest of 1 lemon (about 60 mL)
  • same quantity olive oil, or less
  • 10 mL tomato paste
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine the lemon juice, olive oil, tomato paste and salt and mix well.
  2. Add the garlic cloves to the bulgur water with salt. Cook the bulgur according to directions (mine said 500 mL water with 200 g bulgar). If all of the water did not absorb, strain. Discard garlic.
  3. Pour dressing over the strained, hot bulgur. Cool slightly.
  4. Combine everything for the salad and mix well.
  5. Serve immediately in a bowl or spoon into iceberg lettuce leaves.

Notes:

  • If you don’t have any tomatoes, use about 125 mL sundried tomatoes in olive oil, strained and chopped.
  • I usually buy chunk albacore tuna because we like it better than flaked but this recipe is better with flaked because it distributes more evenly.
  • If you dress the bulgur when hot, it will absorb the dressing more and evenly.
  • I would have added a little Greek Sheep’s Milk crumbled feta if I had some at home. If you do, omit the salt in the dressing.

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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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One of my New Year’s resolutions is to eat a more vegetable-based diet. I have no intention on going vegetarian but I would like to limit my intake of meat a bit more; currently, we don’t eat a lot of beef, but we do eat pork, chicken and lamb (we will continue to eat fish). In this effort, I searched out a meatless chickpea recipe with turmeric. Turmeric has gained some notoriety for its medicinal properties that I wanted to take advantage of. If you wish to read more about it, read this article. Turmeric is also quite beautiful and tasty too! I altered a Guy Fieri recipe to our taste.

Be careful as the turmeric discolours everything, even nailpolish!

Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpeas with Raisins and Turmeric

This recipe makes 4 medium servings.

For the original recipe, please click here.

To print this recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • pinch of cayenne pepper, if desired
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • zest of one orange, optional
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375° F.
  2. Pour the oil into a large mixing bowl, and then add the spices, ginger, garlic, cauliflower, chickpeas and onions, and toss to coat everything evenly. Toss in the raisins and zest and mix in evenly. Place on a sheet tray and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast in the oven until lightly browned and the cauliflower is tender, 30 to 35 minutes.
  4. Serve on a bed of sautéed spinach or baby kale, dressed with a light vinaigrette.

Notes:

  • I always used dried chickpeas, about 140 g dried chickpeas will yield the cooked amount required for this recipe.
  • If you have leftovers, simply warm up with some vegetable stock and purée into a smooth, velvety soup.
  • 1/4 cup olive oil seems like a lot, but it really just covers the cauliflower and chickpeas.

The turmeric shaded the cauliflower in a beautiful yellow colour.

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During the month we spent in Arizona, we had the pleasure of celebrating American Thanksgiving with our dear friends down there. Our dear friends who live there offered to make the turkey (thank goodness, as I did not have any of my special kitchen tools!) so I offered to make a few different sides. We had dear friends visiting from Toronto and they are vegetarian and I wanted to make something special for them for Thanksgiving, so I made this Mushroom, Chestnut and Bean Wellington. I purchased the puff pastry to make it easier but I made everything else. I was surprised to find roasted Italian chestnuts (in the Kosher section, no less!) but sadly the mushrooms were just plain cremini and white mushrooms, not much variety. It’s always a bit of a challenge to cook in a strange kitchen and shop in a different part of the world, but I think this one turned out wonderful and with a variety of mushrooms, it would be amazing! Please excuse the photos, this is the one and only blog post I managed to eak out during our stay in Arizona, I was THAT busy!

Scroll down to the end of this post to see the house we rented. It took us some time to find one that was decorated in light airy colours, most of the rentals are dark and dowdy, filled with ‘granny’s furniture’ and I just couldn’t bear to live in that for a month! Although I might have chosen a slightly lighter tone for the walls, this house made me happy.

Fresh out of the oven.

Mushroom, Chestnut and Bean Wellington

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1 Wellington about 30 cm x 15 cm (12 inches x 6 inches)

To print recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp EVOO
  • 2 cups variety of mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup carrots, finely cubed
  • 1/2 cup celery, finely cubed
  • 1/2 cup zucchini, finely cubed
  • 1/2 cup roasted chestnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/2-1 tsp fresh rosemary, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup navy beans, soaked
  • 4 cups vegetable stock, divided
  • 1/2 cup port
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 puff pastry sheet
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly whisked with a little water.

Directions:

  1. Cook the navy beans in 3 cups veggie stock or water, cool.
  2. In a heavy bottom pan, caramelize the onions in the melted butter and olive oil on medium heat (about 20 minutes). Add mushrooms and cook until the mushroom liquid has evaporated. Turn the heat up and caramelize the mushrooms add the port to deglaze the pan.
  3. Add the garlic, carrots, celery, zucchini and roasted chestnuts and sauté until carrots are slightly softened.
  4. Add the rosemary, panko, cooked navy beans, and veggie stock. Season to taste. Remove from heat and cool completely.
  5. On a cold surface, roll out the puff pastry sheet to about 30 cm x 40 cm (12 inches x 16 inches). Brush the Dijon mustard on the pastry and mound the cooled mushroom filling in the centre of the pastry. Turn up each side until they meet in the middle and pinch closed. Pinch the ends closed and trim off excess pastry.
  6. Turn the log onto a parchment lined baking sheet seamed sized down, and brush with the egg yolk. Decorate with leaves from the leftover end pastry and brush with egg wash. Bake in a hot 400° F oven for 35-40 minutes or until golden.
  7. Serve sliced hot out of the oven, or reheat to serve.

A tasty treat wrapped in delicious buttery pastry.

Click on any photo for the slideshow.

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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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Although I am not a huge fried food fan (I know, I’m weird), JT loves the stuff. I don’t even like the way it stinks up the house, so if I do pull out the deep fryer, I usually set it up on top of the BBQ outside, sorry neighbours!

Recently, I’ve been experimenting using coconut flour instead of regular white or whole wheat flour in the breading process because I discovered that coconut flour draws moisture out, so it actually makes a fabulous base for a truly crispy coating, much like that of the unhealthy deep frying method. The first time I made this dish, I just eyeballed everything and hoped for the best. I received a lot of mmmmm, yummmm and best of all, JT said, “please make this at least once a week.” If that isn’t the top accolade, I am not sure what is. A week later, I got out my scale and measuring cups to document the recipe. If you like crispy breaded, deep fried-like things, I would encourage you to try this healthier alternative.

I can see using this method to “un-deep fry” many things in the near future!

Crispy Unfried Breaded Fish

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 2, 100 g portions

Ingredients:

  • 200 g firm white fish, like tilapia
  • 40 g (1/3 cup) coconut flour
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) egg whites
  • 30 mL (2 tbsp water), plus a little more near the end of the breading process
  • 45 g (1/2 cup) whole wheat panko bread crumbs
  • Salt, to taste

Directions:

  1. Cut the fish up into smaller, one to two bite portions, about the same thickness.
  2. With a whisk, beat the egg whites with the salt until frothy.
  3. Dredge the fish in the coconut flour, then dip it into the egg whites until entirely covered. Place the fish back into the coconut flour and coat again, and dip it into the egg white for the last time.
  4. Toss the wet fish pieces into the panko until entirely covered, shake excess off. Place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Continue with steps three and four until all of the fish is coated evenly and lined up on the baking sheet. You may need to add a bit more egg or water into the egg white mixture as it thickens with the coconut flour near the end. Discard unused coconut flour, egg whites and panko.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for thirty minutes to two hours.
  6. Preheat the oven to 200° C (400° F). Bake fish, turning once until both sides are golden and the fish has an internal temperature of 63° C (145° F). Serve immediately with Romesco sauce.

You may toast the panko, like my friend Sissi does, but I find using the whole wheat panko gives it a head start to a gorgeous golden colour.

Notes:

  • Use this recipe in the popular fish tacos (like my friend John’s recipe), but these are much healthier.
  • These fish pieces would also make a delicious hors d’œuvres, serve with tartar sauce.
  • The facts below do not include the frying process.
  • Recently, I have been adding about a tablespoon or so of toasted black and white sesame seeds and it really enhances the crispy texture as well as adds lovely flavour (I wish I had taken a quick pic of it, they are truly fabulous).

This is the nutritional breakdown of the coconut flour breading.

All purpose flour and whole egg breading.

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On May 5, we hosted a Cinco de Mayo dinner party with a few friends. I’m not sure what I was thinking because I had already a very busy week planned, then my dear Mom’s widow became ill and had to be hospitalized so we were running up to the hospital he was in (about 45 minutes away) every few days (he is doing better but still in the hospital). I only had 3 days to prepare!!! I chose the menu based on foods that I can make ahead of time, knowing that they would only get better! In case you wondered, I made a variation of this dip as hors d’œuvres, this salad and for the main, this pulled chicken molé AND a Dolce de Leche tiramisu (recipe to come) for dessert. It was a bit decadent, but sometimes I really need to play in the kitchen!

This lasagna is a delicious combination of flavours and it’s worth making each layer yourself, if you must, choose canned beans to save a little time.

It’s a flavour sensation! I put a poached egg on top the next day for a very tasty brunch!

Mexican Lasagna

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 4 as a meal or 6-8 as an appetizer

Ingredients for the Pulled Pork:

  • 250 g pork tenderloin
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) stock (I used beef)
  • 250 mL (1 cup) passata (tomato sauce)
  • 125 g (1/2 cup) sweet onions, thinly sliced
  • 5 mL (1 tsp) cumin
  • 5 mL (1 tsp) coriander
  • 5 mL (1 tsp) Hungarian paprika
  • 1.25 mL (1/4 tsp) smoked paprika
  • 2.5 mL (1/2 tsp) salt
  • 1.25 mL (1/4 tsp) pepper

Directions for the Pulled Pork:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a slow cooker or crock pot and mix well.
  2. Cook on high for 4 hours or until pork is easily pulled using two forks.

Ingredients for the Lasagna:

  • 6 corn tortillas, cut in half
  • 250 mL (about 1 cup) shredded pork (recipe above)
  • 85 g (1/2 cup) dried black beans, cooked and either puréed or mashed with a fork
  • 80 g (1/2 cup) sweet onions
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) grilled corn
  • a handful (~1/4 cup) of cilantro
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) Salsa
  • 150 g (about 1 cup) Mexican cheese or mozzarella
  • cilantro, for garnish
  • loosened yogurt (in a squeeze bottle)
  • sriracha sauce mixed with loosened yogurt (in a squeeze bottle)

Directions for the Lasagna:

  1. Preheat the oven to 220° C (425° F).
  2. In a non-stick skillet, caramelize the onions, add the beans, mushing some of the beans (add some stock if necessary). Set aside.
  3. Spray a pate terrine with non-stick spray.
  4. Layer 2 half corn tortillas on the bottom of the pan, cover with 1/3 of the shredded pork, 1/3 of the mashed beans, 1/3 of the corn, 1/3 of the cilantro, 1/2 of the salsa and 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat for two more layers, leaving out the salsa on the last layer. Cover with a non-stick sprayed piece of foil or the top of the pan, if you have one.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes covered, then uncover and bake for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is bubbling and lightly golden. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.
  6. Serve garnished with a drizzle of loosened greek yogurt and sriracha sauce and a sprinkling of chopped cilantro.

Notes:

  • I was unable to find Mexican cheese so I used Manchego and Mozzarella.
  • If you cannot grill fresh corn, frozen is acceptable but you will miss the grilled flavour.

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