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Archive for the ‘Main Courses’ Category

How are you? It’s a question that has gained more substance than it garnered in the past. We used to ask it in passing, often not even thinking about the answer, which was usually, “fine”. Our answers have become more thoughtful because now we are genuinely asking. Making sure everyone is “fine” is the only way of taking care of one another at this time.

I honestly miss cooking for my friends and family. Oh sure, I’ve baked a few care-packages, but it’s not the same as sharing a meal you’ve laboured over with love. Sharing your home, a meal, or a drink with people you love. This blog also allows me to share, I thank you for kind words and support during this unparalleled time. So how are you?

I’ve been cooking a lot. It makes my day more interesting and we really look forward to the meals which have become more of a focus these days. It also makes me think of all the wonderful times we’ve shared meals with friends and family.

Several years ago we met up with friends in Almeria, we were staying one night and then driving to my cousin’s flat in San José. We stumbled upon Joseba Anorga Taberna quite by accident and had one of many memorable meals that time in Spain. One of the tapas we ordered was a seared scallop in a creamy corn velouté and it was incredibly delicious. The unexpected combination of sweet corn and sweet scallops hit our tastes perfectly. I filed it in my recipe vault in my head and in 2018, I recreated the dish and it did not disappoint.

Scallop wrapped in Iberian bacon bathed in a corn emulsion

Fast forward to our 2020 Spanish adventure to one of our favourite tapas tabernas in Almeria where we had a marvellous creamy rice dish with mushrooms. It was delicious, creamy, cheesy and absolutely more-ish. Upon our return to Toronto, I wanted to recreate the dish but I had scallops and corn on my mind, so I reinvented it.

Creamy Mushroom Risotto from Casa Paquita in Almeria.

I had also filed a wonderful cauliflower risotto recipe that my friend David (Fine Dining at Home) posted in 2012. He recreated a Heston Blumenthal recipe where Heston made a really flavourful stock using the cauliflower end cuts and I wondered if corn-stock would have a similar effect on the risotto. It sure did! Of course, because my dish had scallops in it, I skipped the cheese and used the creamed corn velouté from the stock to add more creaminess to the disk. You could also add a splash of cream or butter.

Creamy Corn Risotto with Bay Scallops

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2 for a main course or 4 for an appetizer course.

Ingredients:

  • 200 g frozen corn see notes)
  • ~250 mL water
  • Pinch of salt
  • ~250 mL chicken bone broth (or the amount that would yield 500 mL corn broth in total)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 75 g sweet onion, finely minced
  • 10 mL roasted garlic purée
  • 120 g La Bomba Rice
  • 30 g clarified butter
  • 200 g bay scallops

Directions:

  1. To make the corn broth, bring the frozen corn, water and salt to a simmer for 15 minutes. Allow to sit for 20 minutes. Strain and reserve both the corn and broth separately. Reserve 70 g corn kernals, set aside.
  2. Add the chicken bone broth to the corn broth to make 500 mL stock and heat to a simmer.
  3. Purée the cooked corn (minus the 70 g) from the corn broth and press through a fine sieve. Reserve.
  4. Heat the oil in a medium Dutch oven and sauté the onions until translucent. Add the garlic. Add the dry rice and toast, stirring for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add the warm broth 125 mL at a time, stirring constantly, adding additional broth as the rice absorbs it. The rice should be tender with a small bite to it and it should be creamy but not soupy. This process will take about 25 minutes. Add the puréed corn and stir well. Turn the heat off, cover and set aside.
  6. Dry the bay scallops well. Heat the butter in a cast-iron frying pan, add the scallops to the pan but do not crowd, we want seared scallops not steamed!
  7. When the scallops have cooked fully, add to the risotto and stir. Plate.

Notes:

  • Grilled corn would have been better but we were still on lock-down when I made this dish. Grilled corn cobs would have made excellent stock.
  • Bacon would have been a nice addition, I had actually forgotten I had some in the freezer, next time.

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During our first major grocery shopping when we arrived in Spain, JT bought some frozen ready-made Tuna Empanadas. I was excited because we love tuna and we love empanadas and we had never had tuna empanadas. Sadly, we were extremely disappointed, the quality just wasn’t there. The filling was mainly tomato sauce with nary a taste of tuna. But I got the taste of empanada in my head and I knew eventually, I would need to make some.

I made most of our meals during our time in Spain. And when I did, I made double or triple batches so that we could have a quick lunch or dinner after a tiring day of exploring. The European refrigerator in our flat has three good-size freeezer drawers to store home-made meals. At home in Toronto, I make these traditional Chilean empanada made with beef and pork; years ago a friend and neighbour kindly showed my Mom how to make and it’s been family favourite ever since. But in Spain, beef is not as common so I decided to use Chicken. I didn’t grind the chicken (no meat grinder) but I roughly chopped it into smallish chunks so that you can still get a chicken texture as you eat the empanada. Another option would be to roast it and shred it.

The winds on the Med had increased to about 45 km per hour, which made sitting outside nearly impossible. In fact, I was worried the wind would pick up the empanada and steal it away!

Empanadas de Pollo (Chicken Empanada)

Makes 6 large empanadas

Ingredients:

  • 30 mL olive oil
  • 90 g onions, roughly chopped
  • 12 g roasted puréed garlic
  • 433 – 450 g skinless chicken breast, roughly chopped
  • 12 black olives, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 10 dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 200 g frozen mixed vegetables, defrosted and drained
  • 3 g cumin
  • 1 g smoked paprika
  • 3 sheets puff pastry, defrosted in the refrigerator
  • 1 egg, whisked with 30 mL water

Directions:

  1. Sauté the onions in the olive oil until translucent. 
  2. Add the chicken and stir to cook evenly. Cook all the way through.
  3. Add the roasted garlic, cumin and cook stirring until fragrant. Remove from heat and stir in the drained frozen vegetables, black olives and dates. Set aside in the refrigerator to cool completely.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each puff pastry sheet to 20 cm x 40 cm and cut in half, then cut each half into a 20 cm circle, reserve pastry ends for the fancy finish.
  5. Brush all around the edges with the egg wash. Fill one half of the round with 1/6th of the cooked, cooled chicken mixture leaving about 2 cm all the way around the edge and then fold half to create a crescent, pressing down the edges to seal.
  6. Brush the top of the empanada with the egg wash. Finish edges into a fancy design (I used the left-over pastry and made it into a rope design). Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate or freeze until ready to bake.
  7. Continue with remaining ingredients until you have 6 meal-sized empanadas. 
  8. Freeze for future use or bake at 400° F until pastry is golden.
  9. Serve with a lightly dressed salad.
The vegetables are also unusual for empanadas, but we like veggies so I added them!

Notes:

  • Traditional Chilean Empanadas are made with golden raisins but believe it or not, I was not able to find any type of raisins in our little village so I used dates. This is not a sweet dish, the dates or raisins just add a bit of sweetness so taste your dates or raisins and determine how many you will use depending on how sweet they are. The dates I used were not the same sweetness that the dates I buy in North America, so I used ten, but you may need to reduce it if you use the super sweet kind. 
  • I used puff pastry because my little kitchen in Spain is ill-equipped and very small. You can use this recipe for pastry but I am unsure of how well-fitting the proportions of filling to pastry will be. You can always freeze extra pastry in a ziplock bag.

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As our time in Spain was sadly coming to an end, I had developed a menu plan that utilizes the food we had in our pantry/refrigerator so that there was little to no waste (I didn’t have a group of friends here to have a pantry clean out party with). This was one of those meals.

As most recipes, this one evolved to the posted rendition. We’ve enjoyed this meal a few times in Spain and again during the weeks of isolation upon our return. Now my focus is rationing pantry items and getting a tasty, healthy meal out of a recipe. A few friends have kindly offered to grocery shop for us, for which we have been grateful because the online shopping/delivery services all seem to be a week out! But I don’t want to push their generosity, so I’m rationing the staples. Plus, this is a fantastic opportunity to clean out my Toronto pantry!!!

Mediteranean Tuna Casserole

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

  • 100 g dry Romano Beans, cooked
  • 125 mL greek yogurt
  • 5 mL roasted, puréed garlic
  • Sea salt
  • 100 g celery, sliced thinly
  • 10 black olives, roughly chopped (no pits)
  • 2 roasted red peppers, skinned, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 50 g green onion, thinly sliced
  • 45 g Feta cheese, crumbled
  • 85 g canned tuna, drained
  • Butter, for greasing casserole pan
  • 50 g cheese, grated
  • 50 g bread crumbs, toasted
  • Fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • EVOO

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Whisk the greek yogurt with the roasted garlic and salt. Combine the beans with the celery, black olives, red peppers, green onions, feta and tuna, mix well. Add the yogurt and mix well.
  3. Grease a small casserole with a bit of butter. Pour the tuna mixture into the casserole and spread evenly in the pan.
  4. Combine the grated cheese, breadcrumbs and parsley. Spread evenly over the tuna mixture. Drizzle with a little EVOO.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes or everything is heated through. Tent with foil if the breadcrumbs are toasting too quickly.
  6. Serve hot.

Notes:

  • This is a meal that I was trying to use up ingredients, if it strikes your fancy, throw caution to the wind and improvise with whatever you have in the fridge/pantry!
  • The first version had rotini pasta which was lovely but I prefer the beans.

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The first time we tried gnocchi was in the late 80’s or early 90’s. It may seem a bit odd that it took so long living in a multi-cultural city like Toronto, particularly since Toronto had the largest Italian population of any city outside of Italy (in 2016, we had the fourth largest Italian population), but back then the restaurant scene was really bad. Italian food was more or less American Italian (not to imply that it’s bad food, just limited), serving spaghetti, lasagna or pizza, nothing quite as exotic as gnocchi graced the menus. High-end restaurants were generally decorated in a men’s club style, dark and dingy and the waiters were often grumpy old guys in dark pants, white shirts and short aprons. Then, for some reason it all changed. JT read a lot of real estate articles and one such article was about a restaurant in mid-town that spent a million dollars in creating one of the best Italian restaurants in the city; imported décor, a well-paid chef and a menu that used traditional Italian ingredients described in Italian words. Of course, we had to try it and we were not disappointed. It still took a few more years for the rest of the industry to up its game but we were certainly on the right track.

When I told my Mom that I’d ordered gnocchi and what it cost, she was appalled! She called it peasant food! Of course, my generation had no idea what that was and maybe that’s why the restaurant industry changed, we were willing to pay for it! And we were hooked! Those soft little pillows drenched in a rich sauce were stuff dreams were made of, so I began experimenting with recipes after seeing Biba Caggiano make it (Biba’s Italian Kitchen) on the very early Food Network. She made it look so easy, and it was! JT proclaimed that he would no longer be able to order gnocchi in a restaurant because he would be disappointed after eating mine! Then came the low carb movement and we put those dreamy little pillows on the back burner. Fear not though, they are making a comeback albeit in moderation.

In our effort to eat less animal protein and more plant-based proteins, I created this gnocchi recipe using lentils. I’ve made them a few times because they are quite easy to make and super tasty, and they have the same light, fluffy consistency of traditional gnocchi. We like the contrast of texture by pan-frying the little pillows until one side is crispy, but you don’t have to. This recipe would be quite lovely with a sage and butter sauce or any sauce for that matter.

Pan-Seared Lentil Gnocchi with Blue Cheese Sauce

Makes about 40 gnocchi, about 2-4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 50 g red lentils
  • 90 g “00” flour
  • 10 g freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 20 g unsalted butter, divided
  • 125 mL milk or cream
  • 50 g gorgonzola, divided (any blue cheese will do)
  • parmesan for serving

Directions:

  1. Cook the lentils until soft (about 1:2 ratio) in enough water to cover. Blend in a processor until very smooth.
  2. Add the flour a little at a time and blend. Add the cheese and pulse to combine, then remove and knead gently with your hands until a smooth dough is achieved. Roll into a 1 cm roll and cut about 1.5-2 cm lengths. Roll each pillow up the tines of a fork or a gnocchi paddle to get the grooves.
  3. Boil water with a little salt and cook the gnocchi until they float to the top. Strain the gnocchi and set aside until ready to serve.
  4. Melt butter in a frying pan and sear the gnocchi until a little crispy on one side. Remove from the pan. Add 5 additional grams of butter to the pan and sprinkle about 10 g of flour on it. Cook the roux and add about 125 mL milk or cream. Add some of the gorgonzola into the roux and allow it to melt (reserve a little gorgonzola for garnish).
  5. Add the gnocchi back to the pan and stir to coat. Serve immediately with freshly grated parmesan and dot each plate with remaining gorgonzola.

Notes:

  • I use my trusted gnocchi paddle that I bought in Florence to make the grooves in the little pillows and recently I discovered that using a very small round measuring spoon to press the gnocchi up the paddle creates perfect groves on one side and a nice little divet on the other (without ruining my mani). The more grooves and divets the more the sauce will stick to it, and who doesn’t love sauce?!
  • I used gorgonzola cheese but you may use any blue cheese. Gorgonzola is slightly milder but creamier than blue cheese.
  • Traditional gorgonzola sauce uses heavy cream instead of a roux, but I prefer to use milk and a roux. You may do it either way.
  • I never add egg to my gnocchi because that is the way Biba Caggiano made it (Biba’s Italian Kitchen). My gnocchi binds well and has never fallen apart in cooking.

JT and I just completed refinishing our kitchen floors, don’t they look lovely? (and yes, that means renting a belt sander and working our ancient butts off!). The best light was on the floor, they are clean!

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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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Mediterranean Sriracha Fish

Recently, I worked on an on-location two-day motion shoot. I was one of four food stylist employed for the two days. We worked from the compact, professional, mobile kitchen called Maindish, it was rather cosy! They were 15 hour days with few opportunities to sit down (who said food styling was glamorous?). I’m always amazed at the shear number of people it takes to make a commercial happen, 60, in this case! By the way, on location also means cramped, because you’re having to squeeze in everyone and everything into relatively small spaces, it really is quite the orchestration! 

I found this recipe on Epicurious; I chose it because I had most of the ingredients at home (along with an inordinate amount of sun-dried tomatoes). It was absolutely delicious, so I decided to document it for the future, plus, I made a few changes.

Mediterranean Fish in a Tomato Sriracha Sauce

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • splash of EVOO
  • 70 g (1/2 medium) sweet onion, peeled and finely sliced
  • 90 g (~1/2 medium) fennel bulb, finely sliced
  • 1/2 tsp sriracha sauce (add more if you like heat)
  • 250 mL (1 cup) tomato purée from fresh or canned tomatoes (I used homemade)
  • 30 g (~1/4 cup) sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 2oo g white fish fillets
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • A handful of baby spinach
  • Black olives (I used Niçoisse)

Ingredients for the topping:

  • 2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley
  • Small handful of spinach
  • 2 tbsp sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 small clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped or grated
  • Zest of 1 lemon, plus a squeeze of juice

Directions:

  1. In a medium-sized, frying pan (I used cast iron), heat a splash of olive oil and sauté the onion, fennel and sun-dried tomatoes for 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Combine the tomato purée with the sriracha sauce and stir well. Add the tomato purée to the frying pan and simmer for 4 to 5 additional minutes. Season to taste with a little salt and pepper.
  3. Place the fish on top of the tomato mixture, spooning a little of the sauce over the fish. Cover and simmer on medium-low for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the fish is fully cooked.
  4. Meanwhile, in the small bowl of a food processor combine the parsley, spinach, sundried tomatoes, garlic, lemon zest and juice and process until chopped and well mixed. Set aside.
  5. When the fish is completely cooked, carefully stir in the olives (putted and sliced, if you’re using larger olives) and baby spinach and warm through (spinach should wilt).
  6. To serve, place the fish on a spoonful or two of cauliflower mash or polenta and dollop the tomato sauce over the hot fish. Dot the herb topping over the fish and sauce to finish.

Notes:

  • This combination of vegetables and tomatoes would work very well with chicken, but you’ll need to increase your cooking time.
  • I used Tilapia for this particular recipe, but haddock, cod, sea bass or monkfish would also work well.
  • The first time I made this recipe, I did not have fennel so I substituted 2 stalks of celery, it was equally as delicious.
  • I used sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, you may use dry but you might need to soak them in water so they are not chewy.
  • To reduce calories, omit the olives and use non-stick spray instead of olive oil.
  • If you use ordinary black olives, pit them and cut them into thirds.
  • The weights I suggest in the recipe are not carved in stone, just gives you an idea of proportions for two.

 

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chickenschnitzel_first

We just got back from a two-week holiday in Arizona. I apologize for not commenting as much as I usually do, but you know the drill on holidays.

Regarding Arizona, I would love to say it was perfect weather, and perhaps it was, for Toronto weather but it was cold, sometimes snowy and rainy. Our time with dear friends more than made up for the lousy weather. Although we did have a few gloriously sunny days before the ugly, rainy days we spent in Sedona. Fortunately, our time at the Grand Canyon was clear, albeit cold (read: two layers of leggings, three long-sleeved Ts and a light winter jacket with hat, mittens and scarf). Once I get our photos sorted, I’ll post a few good ones on the blog, in the meantime, I thought I’d share one of my favourite ‘diet’ dishes, chicken “schnitzel” with roasted garlic cauliflower mash!

Chicken “Schnitzel” with Roasted Garlic Cauliflower Mash

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 460 g cauliflower
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, roasted
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 165 g chicken breast, boneless, skinless
  • 35 g egg white
  • 2 Ryvita whole wheat snack bread
  • 10 g whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup Herbes en Provence with granulated onion and garlic
  • few sprays of non-stick spray
  • chopped fresh dill for garnish

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 425° F.
  2. Break down cauliflower into equal-sized florets and set on a baking sheet lightly sprayed with non-stick spray. Roast until softened. Add a bit of water at the end to steam to perfect tenderness for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the cauliflower florets into a glass bowl and add the roasted garlic cloves. Blitz with the hand blender until creamy and smooth, adding a bit of water if necessary (I just added the left-over steaming liquid from the roasting pan). Set aside.
  4. Divide the chicken into two equal portions and butterfly each, cover the chicken with plastic and flatten it to about 0.5 cm or 1/4 inch with a kitchen mallet. Put them into the fridge.
  5. Add Ryvita to a small zip lock bag and smash into smaller but coarser bits. Add the Herbes en Provence and mix well.
  6. Add the egg whites into a large flat bowl and beat with a fork.
  7. Remove one chicken cutlet from the fridge and lightly dust each side with the whole wheat flour. Then dip it into the egg whites to cover both sides. Sprinkle each side with the Ryvita mixture to coat evenly. Repeat with second cutlet.
  8. Heat a non-stick frying pan. Spray each side of each cutlet and cook cutlets on both sides until nicely golden and the internal temperature is 185°F. Serve immediately with a slice of lemon and some fresh dill sprinkled onto it.

Notes:

  • The diet I use allows for two 100 g servings of protein per day.
  • If you don’t have roasted garlic on hand, simply put a few unpeeled cloves into a ramekin filled with a little water or stock and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake until softened.
  • Even though the chicken is very thin, it is so tender, it will knock your socks off.

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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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My Father in Law passed recently. He made his 92nd birthday two-weeks earlier. It was very sad to lose him but to be honest, the last few years have not been kind to him, he simply existed, partly by choice and partly by nature (use it or lose it). That’s all of our parents now and I must tell you that it feels weird being an orphan at my age, both JT and I were very close to each other’s parents. Since Dad lived in Toronto, we made arrangements close to home and our home was the hub, which proved to be a lovely distraction. Our dearest friends Paul and T drove up from Wisconsin to help us and console us. Paul had known JT’s Dad through business so there was a strong connection with him. My newly married nephew and his bride also stayed with us because they live about two and half hours from the city. The house was alive with action! My FIL would have LOVED it!

Everyone came to the city to be at his bedside—I know he would have loved that too, although he didn’t love attention, he loved the buzz of activity. He passed very peacefully during the early hours of the morning of May 28, he didn’t suffer long. That evening, everyone gathered at our home and we had a wonderful family dinner telling stories and being there for each other. We ate rotisserie chicken, a variety of store bought salads and some homemade cookies I had in the freezer (I didn’t have time to throw anything together). We had the visitation on June 2 and the service on the 3rd. At 12pm on the 2nd, I discovered that everyone was coming for dinner just prior to the service the very next day so I sprung into action and made a huge batch of chicken mole out of the leftover rotisserie chicken. Fortunately, I had tried this recipe before and got the thumbs up from JT, so it was an easy decision to make it again.

ChickenMole_2 We had a couple of leftovers that JT and I had for dinner later that week.

The mole sauce can be made in a slow cooker but I did it stove-top this time—I found it therapeutic to be involved in the dish, chopping, stirring and cooking. Like any saucy dish, this definitely tastes better the next day. The rotisserie chicken is an easy addition to the mole, just shred it and stir it into the cooled mole sauce, fill the corn tortillas, refrigerate overnight so the flavours can meld. It was a huge success! Everyone loved it.

JT usually orders a mole when we dine at a Mexican restaurant and I’ve always wanted to try my hand at it. Although there are many recipes handed down generations that take two to three days to make, this one can be made in about an hour. It developes the depth of flavour as it sits overnight. I would not rush it, make it a day or two ahead.

Bucket List

Chicken Mole Enchiladas

Makes 24 Enchiladas (15 cm or 6 inch corn tortillas)

For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 750 mL (3 cups) sodium-free chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
  • 500 mL (2 cups) freshly squeezed orange juice (about 3 good sized oranges)
  • 30 mL (2 tbsp) EVOO
  • 570 g (1 1/4 lb) sweet onions, sliced
  • 55 g (about 1/2 cup) sliced almonds
  • 6 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 8 g (4 tsp) cumin seeds
  • 8 g (4 tsp) coriander seeds
  • 4 g dried pasilla chiles, stemmed, seeded, torn into 1-inch pieces, rinsed*
  • 4 g dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded, torn into 1-inch pieces, rinsed*
  • 40 g (about 1/4 cup) raisins
  • 4 8 cm x 1 cm (1/2-inch) strips orange peel (orange part only)
  • 1.5 g (1 1/2 tsp) dried oregano
  • 45 g semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 4 g ground cinnamon (omit if using Mexican chocolate)
  • Chopped fresh cilantro or green onions
  • 24 corn tortillas
  • 1 rotisserie chicken (or 3 left over), shredded (replace with firm tofu or beans if vegetarian)
  • 200 g (2 cups) Queso de Oaxaca or Mozzarella Cheese, grated
  • Crème fraîche, sour cream or yogurt as garnish
  • Sriracha sauce/or chipotle mayo as garnish

Directions:

  1. Heat the EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) a large Dutch oven, add the sliced onions and sweat them out.
  2. Add the almonds and toast slightly. Add the garlic and cook until they release aroma, then add the cumin, coriander, two types of chilies (*replace with 15 mL (1 tbsp) smoked paprika if you prefer less spicy food) and cook until you can smell the spices.
  3. Add the raisins, orange peel, oregano, chicken stock and orange juice. Mix well. Simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. If using the dry chilis, remove them and discard.
  4. Add the chocolate and cinnamon (or Mexican chocolate) and stir until chocolate has completely melted. Using an emersion blender, blitz the sauce until very smooth. Cool completely. Set aside 2 cups of sauce. Stir in the cold shredded rotisserie chicken.
  5. Fill each corn tortilla with some chicken mole and a little cheese, tuck the rolls into an oven proof pan with the rolled end secured. Repeat until there is no more mole. Pour reserved sauce over the enchiladas, sprinkle with grated cheese. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.
  6. 1 hour prior to sitting down to eat, preheat oven to 350° F (177° C). Bake enchiladas for 30-40 minutes or until totally heated through (inside temperature should be around 150° F (66° C) and cheese should be melted and bubbling.
  7. To serve, drizzle with Crème fraîche, sour cream or yogurt and Sriracha sauce or chipotle mayo. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and/or green onions. Serve over Coconut Cauliflower Rice (recipe to come).
ChickenMole_3 We had these at the cottage a week or so ago. I added a little guacamole for fun. I don’t have many food style tools at the cottage so the garnish is quite rough.

Notes:

  • The enchiladas freeze well. You may wish to slip a piece of parchment between each enchiladas so you can easily separate them.
  • *If you are concerned about the dish being too spicy, omit the dried chilis and replace them with 15 mL (1 tbsp) smoked paprika.

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I’ve been thinking about zucchini noodles a lot lately. Both JT and I love them because they maintain a similar texture to traditional flour noodles, yet they are considerably lower in carbohydrates and that, my friends is something I am always on the lookout for! I’ve created this recipe lower in calories than traditional lasagna and it’s absolutely delicious if I do say so myself. I won’t kid you, it does take some planning and some playing in the kitchen but as far as I know, you guys are excellent at both so I urge you to give it a try. Double or triple the recipe and make a large casserole-size version, freeze for a few hours and cut into single serves and bag individually and presto, you have instant lunch or a quick casual dinner. I know I will try the vegetarian version over the summer because I am always on the lookout for interesting vegetarian recipes for our vegetarian friends when they come up to the cottage.

ZucchiniLasagna

Allow this dish to sit for about 15 minutes so that the excess liquid can be reabsorbed. It would be much too hot to eat anyway!

ZucchiniLasagna_plated

Like most things, this is much tastier the second day, if you have any leftovers, that is!

Zucchini Lasagna (Gluten Free and Easy to Convert to Vegetarian or Vegan!)

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1 cast iron enamel terrine 30 cm long x 11 cm wide x 8 cm high, 6 servings.

Ingredients for noodles and cheese:

  • 2 zucchini, sliced to about 3 mm (1/8″) (leave the ends, first and last slice and any leftovers for your compost broth)
  • 2 roasted red peppers, seeded and peeled, cut into 1 cm (1/2″ slices) (see notes)
  • 180 g (1 cup) mozzarella cheese (omit for vegan)
  • 300 mL ‘Béchamel’ (recipe below)
  • 500 mL (2 cups) Meat Sauce (recipe below, for vegan see notes below)

Ingredients for the ‘Béchamel’:

Makes 300 mL or 1 1/3 cups ‘béchamel’

  • 90 g (a heaping 1/3 cup) red lentils
  • 250 mL (1 cup) vegetable stock or water, plus a bit more to loosen the cooled sauce
  • 50 g (1/2 cup or so) gruyère cheese, shredded (omit for vegan, see notes below)
  • 250 mL (1 cup) milk, plus a little to loosen if required (vegan use vegetable stock or rice milk, see notes below)
  • Pinch of smoked paprika
  • Pinch of sea salt (to taste)

Directions for the Béchamel:

  1. Cook the lentils in water or stock until very soft. Remove from heat and purée until smooth. Add the liquid of choice slowly as you purée until it is extremely smooth and creamy. If you’re making this vegan, stir in the smoked paprika and salt, set aside.
  2. Return to low heat and stir in the cheese all at once and whisk until melted, smooth and thickened (about 2-5 minutes, don’t worry, this WILL thicken as it cools). Remove from heat and stir in the smoked paprika and salt. If the sauce has become grainy (as lentils sometimes do), just blitz it again with the immersion blender. Set aside.

Ingredients for the ‘Meat’ Sauce:

Makes 500 mL (2 cups) Sauce

  • 5 mL (1 tsp) olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
  • 15 g (about 3 cloves) garlic, finely minced
  • 300 g of lean ground pork (vegans, use your favourite cooked beans or ground tofu)
  • 300 g fresh tomatoes, puréed (or 1 1/2 cups passata)
  • Pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • pinch of baking soda
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 piece of parmesan end (omit if vegan)

Directions for the Meat Sauce:

  1. Blitz the fresh tomatoes with an immersion blender until you can no longer feel the seeds and skin (no need to pass through a fine sieve, once incorporated into the lasagna you will not feel any tomato seed or skin texture).
  2. Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized Dutch oven and sauté the onions until soft. Add the minced garlic and stir until fragrant.
  3. Add the ground pork (beans or ground tofu) stirring occasionally, breaking up the larger bits of meat. Add the tomato sauce, baking soda, oregano, basil, nutmeg and Parmesan end and simmer for 15-20 minutes until thickened and not overly liquid.
  4. Remove the parmesan end (chef’s treat!) and transfer the ‘meat sauce’ to another bowl to cool.

Assembly:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350° F (177 ° C).
  2. Lightly grease a cast iron enamel terrine pan 30 cm long x 11 cm wide x 8 cm high (12 in long x 4 1/2 in wide x 3 in high).
  3. Lay strips of the thinly sliced zucchini on the bottom of the pan. Add 125 mL (~1/2 cup) of the meat sauce and spread out evenly. Lay strips of the red pepper on top of the meat. Spread 75 mL (~1/3 cup) of the ‘béchamel’ sauce evenly over the pepper layer (if ‘béchamel’ becomes too thick, loosen it by whisking in a little vegetable stock or ‘milk’). Sprinkle with 63 mL (1/4 cup) grated mozzarella cheese (omit if vegan), repeat until the pan is filled or you’ve used everything up. End with the béchamel sauce on top and sprinkle the top with the remainder of the shredded mozzarella (omit if vegan).
  4. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and the zucchinis still have a bit of a bite to them (al dente). The internal temperature should be about 140° F. Broil the cheese version for about 10 minutes to caramelise the top.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 10 minutes. Cut into 6 portions and serve with a light salad.

Do NOT omit the roasted red peppers, they ad incredible flavour.

Do NOT omit the roasted red peppers, they add incredible flavour.

ZucchiniLasagna_Unbaked

Just before I popped it into the oven.

Notes to make this a Vegan Lasagna:

  • Béchamel:
    • substitute vegetable stock or rice milk for the “milk” component.
    • leave out the “cheese” component altogether, the lentils make a delightfully flavoured béchamel even without cheese (plus I am skeptical about vegan cheese, what is that?)
  • Almond milk and coconut milk are too strongly flavoured, that is why I didn’t recommend it. On top of everything, I would avoid coconut milk because we are making this an Italian flavoured dish.
  • Want to omit the ‘béchamel’? Add slices of Chinese eggplant, it will add the creaminess mouthfeel we crave with lasagna.
  • Meat Sauce: substitute your favourite cooked beans or ground tofu in similar measures for the ground meat.
  • Want to add even more flavour? BBQ the veg for a few minutes before you assemble, the smokiness adds a lot of flavour.

Notes:

  • I had pork from a previous meal that I ground up fresh for this recipe, use whatever meat or beans you wish.
  • The lentil béchamel will thicken as it cools, just whisk in a bit more milk, rice milk or vegetable stock to loosen.
  • I like the stringiness of mozzarella in lasagna but if you are lactose intolerant, feel free to substitute goats cheese, the tang will be incredible in this dish.
  • Whenever I see beautiful red peppers, particularly if there is a sale, I buy a bunch, roast them on the BBQ and save the slices in the freezer for future pizza’s or in this case, lasagna (freeze on a parchment lined cookie sheet and when frozen, place in a plastic bag. Leave in whole pieces to give you more options in usage). Omitting the roasted red peppers is a mistake because they add incredible flavour and sweetness.

This is the nutritional facts for the meat version of my recipe above, based on 6 servings.

This is the nutritional facts for the meat version of my recipe above, based on 6 servings.

This is the vegan version using navy beans and omitted all cheese.

This is my vegan version using navy beans and omitted all cheese.

This is an epicurious recipe based on 6 servings.

This is a Food Network recipe based on 6 servings.

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*First ArugulaPaste

So far, winter hasn’t been horrible (dare I say it out loud?). In the last week, we’ve only had a couple of super cold days (-23° C or -9.4° F) but we’ve only had one snow storm and although it was super wet, it wasn’t that bad (shovelling was awful!). The one thing I will complain about is the lack of sunshine November and December was…gloomy, gloomy, gloomy! Although January’s start has been chilly, it has been sunny! So if I have to give up warmth for sun, so be it.

Have you made a New Year’s Resolution? JT and I decided that we need to get back on track and eat more vegetables and limit eating out (oh dear, we do eat out a lot). So, I have determined that the next month or so I will dedicate the blog to super healthy, clean eating, roughly based on a ketogenic diet. I say roughly because I’m going to allow myself one day per week to ‘cheat’ (TBD)! I will comb through your lovely blog pages and get my inspiration there.

We’ve also decided to eat our main meal at noon instead our norm of 6 or 7 in the evening. We’re hoping that these changes will result in some shedding!

This condiment came about as I stared blankly in the refrigerator…so many vegetables but no inspiration! The bag of baby arugula called out to me…pesto, it whispered. Now I know many of you are pesto traditionalists and only basil, garlic, EVOO, pinenuts and parmesan will do…but what if you wish to limit calories? Yes, there is the argument that you should only use a little, but I wanted to start the week off right so I created this unique paste that resembles pesto (notice I didn’t call it pesto?). I received a solid thumbs up from JT, it has texture, a slight kick and it’s bright and beautiful green. A little sunshine on these gloomy winter days.

ArugualPaste_7953

The raw cauliflower gives makes a good substitute for the nuts, providing the slight crunch needed.

Arugula Paste

Makes a 125 mL (1/2 cup) sauce

A Kitchen Inspirations Original Recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 60 g raw cauliflower (either stems or florets or both)
  • 60 g baby arugula
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp vegetable stock (home made)
  • sea salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Add the raw cauliflower to a small processor bowl, process until it becomes a fine meal.
  2. Add the arugula (may need to be added in smaller portions), garlic, vinegar and stock and process until a desired consistency is achieved (I wanted it relatively fine).
  3. Season with sea salt and process until totally combined.
  4. See serving suggestions in notes.

Notes:

  • Serving suggestions: pasta, sautéed vegetables, zucchini noodles, drizzled on tomatoes, meat or fish.
  • Add a spoonful or two into a simple oil and vinegar salad dressing or greek yogurt for a dip.

ArugulaPasteNFScreen Shot 2016-01-05 at 4.31.47 PM

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KaleWrappedMiniQuiche_First

Happy Holiday! Today is a civic holiday here in Ontario and we’re enjoying it!

graphics-snoopy-743815

In effort of trying to eat healthier, I decided to cook out of the lovely new cookbook by Tosca Reno, The Eat-Clean Diet. Of course, I wouldn’t be doing the blog justice if I just copied the recipes so I’ve changed them up a bit so if you’re looking for the exact recipe, you’ll have to buy the book!

This is a delightful combination of flavours and textures and the kale works beautifully as a wrapper! I’m definitely going to make this one again, although I can’t help but think how tasty bacon would be in it!

KaleWrappedMiniQuiche

The kale within the quiche softens up beautifully but the kale sticking out of the quiche crisps up like kale chips!

Kale-Wrapped Mini Quiches

Makes 6 mini-quiches. Original recipe from Tosca Reno’s The Eat-Clean Diet, Vegetarian Cookbook

Ingredients:

  • 12 large kale leaves, stems and ribs removed.
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 cup cauliflower florets
  • 3 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 eggs, large
  • 5 egg whites
  • 1 cup 1% milk
  • 2 tbsp Cilantro pesto (see notes)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F and roast the sweet potato, cauliflower and shallots for 30 minutes or until cooked through.
  2. Lightly spray a 6 tin large muffin pan with olive oil and line each cavity with 2 kale leaves, having the curly bits stick out a little over the top. Spray very lightly with olive oil.
  3. Into each kale lined cup, divide the roasted sweet potato, shallots and cauliflower evenly.
  4. Meanwhile, combine the eggs, egg whites and milk with the Cilantro Pesto (recipe found on page 52) and whisk well.
  5. Pour the egg mixture into each muffin cup evenly. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes. If the kale begins to darken early, cover with parchment and then foil to protect it.
  6. Allow the quiches to sit for 5 minutes before removing from the muffin cups. I used a silicon muffin pan like this one, which made plating very easy.

Notes:

  • Tosca roasts the kale in a 350° F oven first to soften it. I experimented  without this step and it worked just fine (it was 30° C 86° F With high humidity and I didn’t want the oven on more than I had to).
  • If you don’t like cilantro, use regular pesto but the nutrition will be different.
  • The cilantro pesto contains only two tablespoons of oil and no cheese making this by far, the healthiest pesto on this blog.

KaleWrappedQuiche_Nut

Kale Wrapped Mini Quiches, Serving size is 1 quiche

CilantroPesto_Nut

Cilantro Pesto, Makes 1 cup and this is for 2 tablespoons

 

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TurkeyChiliFirst

JapaneseCherryBlossoms

The Japanese Sakura Cherry Blossoms in High Park

CherryBlossomTree

Our Cherry Blossom tree in the front yard

Cinco de Mayo Inspired Turkey Chili

A Kitcheninspirations Original Recipe

Serves 8-10

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried red kidney beans, soaked overnight in water
  • 250 g sweet onions, chopped
  • 25 g garlic, finely chopped
  • 300 mL tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 500 mL water and or chicken stock
  • 900 g ground turkey breast
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chili
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 5 g dried ancho chili (seeds and veins removed)
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 30 mL tequila (a nice smokey one)

Garnish:

  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced thinly
  • 10 tbsp Greek Yogurt (approx 150 mL)
  • 10 tbsp mozzarella cheese
  • handful of Cilantro, or to taste
  • 3-4 Green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 red chili pepper, finely sliced

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat slow cooker on high. Rinse beans and add to the slow cooker along with the onions, garlic, tomato sauce, tomato paste and the water and/or stock and give it a good stir.
  2. Brown the turkey meat in a very hot cast iron pan in batches. Add the browned turkey and juices into the slow cooker in batches. Once you have browned all of the turkey, remove the pan from the heat and deglaze the pan with the tequila, scraping off all the delicious turkey bits from the pan. Add this liquid into the slow cooker.
  3. Give the chili a good stir. Cook on high for 4-5 hours or until the beans are fork tender. If the chili is too liquidy, then remove the lid for the final hour of cooking.
  4. Serve hot garnished with sliced avocado, a tablespoon of yogurt or sour cream, cilantro, chopped green onion, shredded mozzarella cheese and finely sliced peppers.

Based ib 10 Servings

Based on 10 Servings

It's heavy on the points but high on flavour.

It’s heavy on the points but high on flavour.

TurkeyChili

A delicious Mexican Flavoured Chili

Ladies Night May 2015

Ladies Night May 2015

LadiesNight2

I should have set up the tri-pod for an all in shot.

 

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TilapiawithMangoSalsat_First

Summer is coming. That’s what I’m told, I hardly believe them though. But with the warmer weather on the horizon (possibly as far away as Europe) I have again begun to think about lighter dishes. Fish seems to be a four-letter word, not for me, of course, I love the stuff. But some people in this household don’t love it as much as I do, so selling it on the plate becomes a thing. I simply broiled this tilapia, seasoned with salt and pepper and wanted a little something tasty to dress it up and my Mango Salsa recipe was born. Like many savoury recipes on this blog, I urge you to make it your own, volumes are simply suggestions — you hate cucumber, omit it! Hate mango, try pineapple instead! It’s pretty darn tasty and quite easy to prepare — I like my salsa cubed into even little cubes, but you may like yours another way…GO FOR IT!

Tilapia with Mango Salsa

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup ripe mango, cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup red pepper, cut into small cubes
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 200 g of cooked white fish (we used Tilapia but cod, halibut or monkfish would also work well)
  • a few handfuls of massaged kale (my dear friend Kelly at Inspired Edibles shares a very compelling story about getting intimate with your food, 50 Shades of Green-style!)

Directions:

  1. Combine the mango, cucumber, red pepper, cilantro and mix well. Pour the white balsamic into the mix and stir to combine, season to taste.
  2. Serve over broiled white fish on top of massaged kale leaves. Enjoy!

Notes:

  • This salsa would be lovely on BBQ chicken breast or even a steak if you’re feeling like red meat.
  • A mix of greens would be fine instead of the massaged kale but I love kale so I use it where I can.

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TunaCasseroleMakeover_1This past week was International Women’s Day and I was generously invited (by my dear colleague and friend, Andrea) to the City of Brampton’s 2015 Women’s Day Event and the keynote speaker was none other than celebrity chef Anna Olson! I’ve been a long admirer of Chef Anna’s work from the very first time we dined at Inn on the Twenty in Jordan, Ontario where she and her husband Michael were the executive chefs, more than 15 years ago! These days Chef Anna works with Food Network Canada and is currently starring in Bake with Anna Olson as well as authoring cook books, managing her website, blog and social media outlets not to mention the presentation gigs. On Thursday, Chef Anna recounted her path on how she arrived at where she is today and it was inspirational! She was engaging, funny and interesting, the time just flew by. The audience of 140 were primarily comprised of entrepreneurial women and some young ladies from a local high school. Thank you Andrea for the invitation and the reminder that these networking events are worth every minute because you never know who you’ll meet and where that will lead (of course, I gave Chef Anna my contact info ;-)).

IWD_AnnaOlson

Chef Anna speaking at Lionhead Golf and Conference Centre in Brampton.

Eva_AnnaOlson

That’s me after I had my lovely new cookbook signed by Chef Anna!

Chef Anna’s primary food influence was her grandmother and as I reflected on who my primary influence was (my dear Mother, of course) I also thought about other influences I’ve had over the years, like JT’s mother. JT’s mother was a typical North American cook of that era, not overly adventurous but she made a tuna casserole in the 80’s that was a family favourite. Canned cream of mushroom soup (or cream of celery), a can of tuna, some cooked noodles, perhaps some chopped onion and the pièce de résistance: crumbled salted potato chips on top! Bake in a casserole dish until thoroughly warmed through and serve immediately. Being raised in a Hungarian home, I had never had tuna in this way (or canned tuna any other way for that matter) and having potato chips on top was such a treat. Of course, these days we don’t buy canned soups (too much sodium) nor do we indulge in potato chips, but I wanted the flavour of this retro meal so I reinvented it in a slightly healthier way. I got the thumbs up from JT. Definitely a keeper!

TunaCasserole

Tuna Casserole Makeover

A Kitcheninspirations Original Recipe!

Ingredients for Creamed Mushroom Soup (yields 300 mL):

  • 60 g little button mushrooms
  • 125 g chopped onion
  • 20 g dried wild mushroom mix (rehydrated in 375 mL (1 1/2 cups) water, reserve liquid)
  • 20 g red lentils (thickener)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Sea salt

Directions for the Creamed Mushroom Soup:

  1. Rehydrate the mushrooms in 375 mL of hot water (you can microwave this for a couple of minutes to get it going faster). Strain into a fine sieve (I use a dedicated coffee filter) and reserve liquid. Wash the mushrooms thoroughly. Chop mushrooms into smaller bits (allows for the really chewy parts to hydrate faster) and set aside.
  2. Cook the onions with a spray of canola oil until translucent, add garlic and stir until fragrant. Add lentils and 375 mL of mushroom broth and rehydrated mushrooms. Cook until lentils are completely cooked and mushrooms have no chewy bits, season with salt. 
  3. Pulse with an immersion blender until smooth and silky. You may push this through a fine sieve if you’d like, but I didn’t think it was necessary. Set aside 250 mL (1 cup) and freeze the rest, it’s great for soups, gravy or even a base for pizza.

Ingredients for the Tuna Casserole:

  • 120 g drained albacore tuna in water
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 150 g green beans, washed and cut into thirds (bite-sized pieces)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions for the Tuna Casserole:

  1. Pre heat the oven to 350° F (176° C).
  2. In the same pot as you made the creamed mushrooms, toast the pearl barley in a little oil, add about 250 mL (1 cup) water and cook the barley until about 3/4 done (it will continue to cook in the casserole) until almost all of the water has been absorbed and what’s left is thick. The barley should still have quite a chewy texture.
  3. Combine the cleaned and cut green beans and roughly separated, drained tuna with the barley, add the creamed mushroom soup, 1 cup of water and give it a good stir. You may keep everything in your pan if it’s oven proof, I transferred it to two small oven proof casseroles that I lightly oiled.
  4. Combine the Greek yogurt, bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese and dollop on top. Bake for 30 minutes or until the internal temperature is 160°F (71° C). Serve with a small green salad.

TunaCasserole_2

This is the Greek yogurt topping before I baked it.

Notes:

  • You may, of course use canned soup and not make your own creamed mushrooms.
  • We prefer to use Albacore tuna in water, but the choice is yours.
  • Don’t like green beans? Use celery instead (I had green beans on hand).
  • We are trying to cut back so I used this recipe for four servings. JT said he could have easily eaten one small casserole on his own (even though I did serve him 3/4 of it!).
  • I have a double oven and I baked this in the top, smaller oven so I was able to get a little browning on the topping without turning on the broiler. If you bake these in a large oven, you may wish to broil the tops for colour and texture!
  • Substitute quinoa or bulgur to lower the calories and carbs a bit (makes it 5 points in WW). Leave out the Parmesan and bread crumbs to bring the WW points down even further to 4!

Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 11.18.32 AM

Weight Watchers Points

Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 11.15.47 AM

For fun I did the original recipe as comparison. WW points for the original recipe would have been 12!

 

 

 

 

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MeatlessBalls_intro

You may recall that several months ago I did some food prep for the Global Morning Show showcasing a new cookbook Toronto Cooks; 50 Toronto Restauranteur chefs gave up their signature recipes for this beautifully photographed cookbook and they are the actual recipes that they serve in their restaurants without any intentional omissions! I had the privilege of making Chef Rocco Agostino’s Spicy Meatballs and although the meatballs were out of this world, they were slightly on the heavier side than I like to eat so when I saw Lorraine’s Vegetarian Bean and Quinoa Meatballs recipe, I was all over it! Because I wanted an Italian flavoured ball I used only her base ingredients and the flavourings from Chef Rocco’s incredible recipe. Thank you Lorraine, you’ve come up with another winner! The meatless balls are tender with great texture from the bulgur (a swap I made due to an over processing error on my first test).

One of the key, flavour-building ingredients is Chef Rocco’s Bomba. Sadly I was not able to find the recipe online, so I am not going to post it. Bomba is a combination of raw vegetables, brined artichokes, Italian chili peppers as well as a few other flavourful ingredients, ready-made can be purchased at specialty stores or better yet, buy the Toronto Cooks cookbook, it’s the best Toronto Restaurant cookbook you’ll find!

Spicy Vegetarian Meatballs with a Rich Tomato Sauce

For the original recipe, please click here,

Ingredients, Tomato Sauce:

  • 15 mL (1 tbsp) olive oil
  • 200 g (1 small sweet onion) onion, finely diced
  • 10 g (3-4 cloves) finely chopped garlic
  • 680 mL puréed San Marzano tomatoes, with a little water to rinse out the jar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 125 mL (1/4 cup) Bomba
  • salt to taste (be careful because the Bomba can be salty)

Directions, Tomato Sauce:

  1. Heat a large dutch oven with 15 mL olive oil.
  2. Add the onions and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Add the tomato purée, baking soda and simmer for five minutes.
  3. Add the chopped basil, Bomba and simmer until dark and thick. You may cool and refrigerate at this point.

Ingredients, Meatless Balls:

  • 15 mL olive oil
  • 130 g onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 10 g dried wild dehydrated mushroom powder
  • 125 mL roasted red pepper, puréed
  • 45 mL (3 tbsp) Bomba
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan grams?
  • 30 g (1/4 cup) ground almonds
  • 2 eggs
  • 124 g 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 136 g raw bulgur (yields 2 cups cooked) 170 g bulgur yields
  • 65 g dry red kidney beans, cooked as per package directions and chopped roughly
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped finely
  • 1/4 cup fresh chives, chopped finely
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped finely

Directions, meatless balls:

  1. Add oil to a hot frying pan and cook the onions until translucent. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Cool completely.
  2. In a large bowl, add the cooked bulgar, chopped cooked beans and onion mixture and mix with a fork. Add the roasted red pepper purée, Bomba, Parmesan, ground almond and bread crumbs and mix in well with the fork. Taste for seasoning (taste now because you won’t be able to when you add the eggs) and add salt and pepper as required.
  3. Slightly whisk two eggs and incorporate into the mix.
  4. Fold in the fresh parsley, chives and basil.
  5. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 400F. Bake meatless balls for 30 minutes, turning occasionally.
  7. Cool completely and refrigerate until required.
  8. Reheat sauce. Reheat meatless balls for 20 minutes at 300F..

BakingMeatlessBalls

These are the little guys baking.

MeatlessBalls_1

Don’t let them fool you, these are very filling meatless balls.

SobeysCardinalMeatsBunker

I was so pleasantly surprised the other day at the grocery store when I saw my own work on the packaging! I worked a full week on these easy to assemble, ready made foods.

Notes:

  • Although I do love quinoa, I substituted bulgur here because I had over processed my first recipe test and it resulted in a pasty texture so instead of chucking the whole thing, I added bulgur. My husband loved the texture so when I made the second batch I simply substituted it altogether.
  • This recipe is about texture as much as it is about flavour, although it’s not meat, the texture has a great bite to it.
    I found reheating the meatless balls in the sauce softened them up too much so I heated them in the oven 300F for 15-20 minutes.
    As most dishes like this, it’s best the next day so I always make it one day before I needed it.

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Last fall we had my lovely niece and her beaux for the weekend; Laura recently graduated from Western University with her degree in Law and she is articling in Toronto. I wanted to make a traditional Hungarian dinner because they had never had Hungarian food. I had intended to follow the recipe verbatim, but I just couldn’t help myself and did end up changing it a slight bit. The result was wonderful and JT thought I finally got it right, the way he remembered my dear Mom to make this tasty dish. The original recipe is from Ilona Horváth’s “The Traditional Hungarian Kitchen” cookbook, published originally in 1996.

Although this recipe takes 2-3 days to prepare, there is little kitchen time as most of it is in the marinade. The finishing is relatively easy. The original recipe was made entirely in a dutch oven but I’ve modified it to a slow cooker because I was not able to be at home the day we wanted to have it. The gravy is a tangy, creamy gravy balanced with the addition of caramelized sugar, but it is NOT SWEET. The julienned carrots and parsnips add texture and natural sweetness. The meat comes out fork tender and you really don’t even need a knife to eat it.

HungarianVadasHus_1176

The tangy gravy goes perfectly with the sweet carrots and parsnips. Sorry the photo is so hot, it was night when I shot this.

Vadas Hus; Hungarian Wild Meat revisited

Serves 4-6. This recipe takes 2-3 days to prepare.

Ingredients:

  • 800 g (1 3/4lb) eye of round or good stewing beef, whole
  • 50 g  bacon (pancetta works)
  • 2 tbsp canola oil (the Hungarians would use lard here)
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 10 g (scant tablespoon) sugar
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 3/4 Non-fat Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
  • 100 g (about 1 cup) julienned carrots
  • 100 g (about 1 cup) julienned parsnips
  • 1-2 tbsp cold water

Ingredients for the marinade:

  • 50 g (about 1/2 cup) grated carrots
  • 50 g (about 1/2 cup) grated parsnips
  • 1 small onion chopped roughly
  • 1 L  (about 4 cups) water
  • 5-6 black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tsp white vinegar

Directions:

  1. Tidy up the meat by removing any excess fat and membranes. Allow to come to room temperature.
  2. To prepare the marinade, cook the carrots, parsnips and onion in 1 L water with black pepper, bay leaves and salt until half cooked. Add the vinegar and cool to room temperature. Pour over the meat and refrigerate 2-3 days turning every so often. Remove the black peppercorns.
  3. Remove the meat from the marinade and dry completely, bring to room temperature. In a large dutch oven, heat the canola oil and cook the bacon and reserve, add the meat  to the bacon oil and sear each side well.
  4. In the meantime, pre heat the slow cooker on high and add the original marinade, reserved bacon and bay leaves. Once it is warm add the seared beef and cook until beef is tender (3-4 hours) turning often.
  5. Remove the meat from the slow cooker and allow to rest. Discard the bay leaves. Strain the vegetables from the slow cooker (reserve the liquid) and add to the dutch oven, sprinkle with flour and fry to brown lightly. Slowly add the reserved marinade liquid and stir to thicken.
  6. In a small sauce pan, melt the sugar until it is golden in colour (not dark) and then mix with a couple of tablespoons of cold water, pour into the thickened vegetables in the dutch oven. Simmer for 5 minutes and add the remaining 2 tsp vinegar and Dijon mustard. Purée the entire gravy adding the yogurt or sour cream with an immersion blender until very smooth. You can run this through a fine sieve for a very smooth gravy. Keep warm.
  7. Boil the remaining julienned carrots and parsnips until cooked but there is still a slight bite to them. Strain and keep warm.
  8. Slice the meat into 1 cm or 1/2″ slices and plate over the puréed gravy, top with the julienne parsnips and carrots. Garnish with flat leaf parsley.
  9. Serve with Hungarian Bread Dumplings.

HungarianVadasHus_1179

JT loves it when I pan sear the gombocz in butter and it becomes crispy and delicious!

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We celebrated our fourth Progressive dinner a few weeks ago with our lovely neighbours. During the last dinner the boys dreamed up our next theme: Beer! I was lucky enough to be next up for the main course so I was excited because I don’t often cook with beer and I don’t often make stew; I was thinking Guinness Stew!

We started at house one with a variety of beer cheeses and beer candied bacon (definitely on my list to make!), they also served a delicious Steam Whistle Butternut Squash Soup garnished with bits of the candied bacon and a splash of cream, very tasty indeed. Then of course it was our place and then at the third house we enjoyed dessert which was a fantastic Beer Brownie, it was definitely moist and flavourful. All of the dishes were wonderful and the company was great. We’ve even determined our next theme: Mad Men! We’re going to have fun with that as far as I could tell, all they did was eat cake and drink. Should be an interesting party!

Guinness is by far my favourite beer; thick, creamy, caramel tones and even a little liquorish flavours are a perfect pairing with the hearty, earthy beef. My friend Angela (of Titanic Anniversary, Truman Capote’s Black and White, James Bond 60th Anniversary dinner parties) served up this Beef and Guinness Stew for the Bond party and I knew it would be the recipe I wanted to make. Plus it has Guinness in it. Did I mention it has Guinness in it?

I made this stew the day before because stews always taste better the next day and I would urge you to do the same. JT confessed he likes this stew better than his Bœuff Bourguignon! Make sure you refrigerate overnight and then bring it to room temperature before you reheat. I also added carrots because one of our neighbours is not a mushroom eater so I wanted another vegetable in it and it tastes and looks amazing. I used eye of round which is a rather tough cut of beef, but I wanted to bake it longer at a lower temperature and I wanted a meat that would stand up; it was amazing, totally fork tender keeping its shape for serving. I also added a bit of beef stock when I reheated because the sauce thickened up a bit too much, use your own discretion on how thick or watery you want your sauce to be. Guinness’ website offers up a recipe that looks very watery but it’s entirely up to you.

GuinessStew_1292

The biscuits were perfect for this type of stew

Guinness Beef Stew

Serves 6-8 (it’s a filling meal, so you may even get 9 out of it!)

(original recipe is by Executive chef John Cordeaux of The Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto as published in Canadian Living) I have altered the original recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb (907 g) eye of round beef roast, trimmed and cut into 5-8 cm (2-3″) cubes (I like bigger chunks of meat, serving size is 2-3 per person
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) vegetabIe oil
  • 6 slices chopped bacon
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) butter
  • 1 medium Vidalia onion, finely sliced
  • 4 cups (1 L) small mushrooms, either halved (if large) or whole (if small)
  • 2 cups carrots, sliced in 2-3 cm (1.5″) chunks
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) all purpose flour
  • 1 can (440ml) Guinness draught beer
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) grainy mustard (I made my own here)
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) white pepper
  • 1 cup of beef stock (to be added when reheating the stew)
  • Fresh Rosemary to garnish

Directions:

  1. In ovenproof Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat and brown the beef in batches, transferring to bowl using slotted spoon (don’t drain, you’ll want the liquid from the beef too).
  2. Once the meat has been browned and removed, cook the bacon until crisp, 5 to 8 minutes; remove bacon with slotted spoon to a piece of paper towel to drain and then reserve.
  3. Drain off the pan fat and melt the butter over medium head. Add the onions and sweat until translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook until all the liquid has evaporated. Reserve the mushrooms (I was concerned that they would over cook over the 3 hours in the oven).
  4. Stir in the tomato paste and cook continually stirring for 2 minutes. Sprinkle with flour and cook stirring for another minute. Whisk in Guinness, grainy mustard, salt and pepper until smooth.
  5. Return beef and bacon and juices to the pan, cover and bake at 250°F (121° C) until beef is tender, about 2.5-3 hours.
  6. In the meantime, peel and cut carrots into chunks. Roast on a cookie sheet for about 1 hour (not 100% done).
  7. When beef is cooked, add the carrots and mushrooms and allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until day of serving.
  8. Remove beef from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature (2-3 hours).
  9. Pre heat the oven to 200°F (93° C). On the stove top, warm beef slowly to boiling, adding beef stock as required. Fold instead of stirring to avoid breaking apart the meat.
  10. Cover and put into the oven until ready to serve.
  11. Serve with Cauliflower Celeriac “Mashed Potatoes” and a Butter Biscuit (recipe).

GuinessStew_1287

Thick, rich Guinness Stew, I know you want some!

Note: Don’t be concerned that the stew might be bitter, the long cooking process, sweet tomato paste and onions certainly round out what ever bitterness there may have been. Allowing to rest overnight also helps round out the flavours.

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