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Archive for the ‘Snacks’ Category

Way back in April we had an outdoor Indian evening with a single neighbour and for hors d’œuvres I served Pork Samosas. They were delicious and so moreish. They are not the traditional deep-fried samosa, but they are baked phyllo pastry versions. I can tell you that they didn’t last long.

Photo of baked pork samosas

A delicously flavourful, crispy triangle.

Baked Pork Samosas

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 16 two-bite samosas

Ingredients:

  • 15 mL vegetable oil
  • 1/2 shallot, finely chopped
  • 200 g ground pork
  • 5 g garam masala
  • 5 g curry powder
  • 10 g cumin
  • 5 g grated ginger
  • 10 g roasted puréed garlic 
  • 200 g mix vegetables
  • 50 g frozen peas, thawed
  • 10 g cilantro leaves, chopped, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/2 pack phyllo pastry
  • 150 g unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan and sweat the shallot until translucent.
  2. Add the pork and cook until no longer pink, mix in the ginger and garlic and stir well.
  3. Sprinkle the garam masala, curry powder and cumin over the cooked pork and stir until fragrant. Remove from heat and mix in the vegetables and cilantro. Allow to cool completely.
  4. Cut each phyllo sheet into 5 cm widths and brush with melted butter.
  5. Starting at one end, dollop a tablespoon of the pork mixture and begin folding in a triangle pattern like illustrated below.
  6. Brush the tops with more melted butter. Bake in a preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden and heated through. Serve with peach chutney.

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I posted this recipe about 9 years ago so I felt it was time for an update and repost. Lemony desserts are a favourite here so whenever I have an extra lemon or two rolling around the kitchen, a lemony dessert makes an appearance.

Even though these squares are two layers, they come together quickly. The shortbread crust is tender and the coconutty custard topping is lemony and chewy. One could say they’re a match made in heaven!

Chewy Lemon Squares with Coconut

From Company’s Coming Squares by Jean Pare.

Makes 1 pan 23 cm x 23 cm (9×9 inch)

Ingredients, base:

  • 200 g all purpose flour
  • 50 g granulated sugar
  • 114 g butter, cold

Directions, base:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Crumble flour, sugar and butter until mealy (you can save time and pulse this in a food processor, metal blades)
  3. Press into ungreased 23 cm x 23 cm (9×9 inch) pan. Bake for 20 minutes.

Ingredients, topping:

  • 2 eggs
  • 60 mL lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 200 g granulated sugar
  • 20 g all purpose flour
  • 2 g baking powder
  • 75 g flaked, unsweetened coconut
  • 2 g salt
  • 5 mL lemon essence

Directions, topping:

  1. Beat eggs slightly. Stir in the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Spread over par-baked shortbread base. Bake at 350° F for additional 30 minutes, until set in the centre and golden in colour.
  3. Cool and cut into squares, or bars.

The carmelized coconut on the top makes it moreishly chewy where the end pieces with more edges are coveted!

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I am constantly on the lookout for new hors d’oeuvres/finger food that I can insert into my cocktail repertoire. I came across this tasty recipe in early April when I was looking around for something to make with polenta. I loved the crackers because I’ve already made Polenta Fries, Polenta Crisps, and Polenta Choux Pastry. Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe includes a beautiful tapenade but I didn’t have parsley and I wasn’t going to go out for just one ingredient as we had just stepped into our THIRD State of Emergency Lockdown, so I improvised with baby arugula, and I must say, it’s darn tasty, I may even substitute the parsley with arugula going forward.

Don’t let the dark edges fool you, they are the best part!!!

Polenta Bites with Mediterranean Tapenade

Recipe inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi

Makes about 35 little crackers and enough tapenade for about 6 or 8 crackers.

Ingredients for the Polenta Bites:

  • 350 mL chicken stock
  • 15 mL roasted garlic purée
  • 15  EVOO
  • 2.5 g sea salt
  • 75 g fine cornmeal
  • 40 g finely grated parmesan
  • 5 g chopped chives

Directions for the Polenta Bites:

  1. Prepare a large sheet of parchment paper by spraying it with non-stick spray. Set aside.
  2. Heat the chicken stock with the roasted garlic purée, extra virgin olive oil and sea salt until a slow boil.
  3. Slowly pour in the cornmeal and stir vigorously until all has been incorporated into the water and it is beginning to thicken, add the grated parmesan and chives and cook, stirring constantly until very thick.
  4. Pour the hot mixture onto one half of the prepared parchment and fold the other half over it. Using a rolling pin, roll out to about 2mm thick. Even out the edges (cooks treat) and cut into 3 cm squares. Allow to cool completely.
  5. Preheat the oven to 425° F (I used convection) and bake the polenta bites for 20 minutes. Remove the sheet from the oven and flip the crackers over so that the top is the bottom and the bottom is the top and try to separate the crackers and move them around on the parchment so they bake evenly. Bake for an additional 20 minutes. Cool completely.

Green olives, kalamata olives, artichoke hearts and peppery arugula make a very tasty tapenade.

Ingredients for the Mediterranean Tapenade:

  • 5 Green olives (with pimento)
  • 6 Kalamata olives, pitted
  • 4 quarters Marinated Artichoke Hearts
  • 2 small handfuls of baby arugula
  • 1 green onion about 15 cm long, roughly chopped
  • 30 mL EVOO
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions for the Mediterranean Tapenade:

  1. Add everything into a small food processor and process until you have achieved the desired consistency.
  2. Serve as a dip or portioned onto each cracker like a canape.

 

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These are super quick and easy to make. They don’t keep well, particularly if your house is a bit humid so plan to bake them just before you want to eat them or if they get a bit soggy, just pop them into the oven to dry them out a bit.

Deliciously crunchy and cheesy crisps.

Cheese Crisps

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 12-15 crisps

Ingredients:

  • 400 g old cheddar cheese, grated

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400° F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone matt.
  2. Spread the cheese out on the matt as thinly as possible so that the grated pieces are interlaced.
  3. Bake for 4-6 minutes or until the cheese has entirely rendered and is starting to become golden but not burned.
  4. Carefully remove from the oven and pull the parchment onto a cutting board. With a pizza cutter, cut into wedges. Allow to cool completely. Serve immediately.

Notes:

  • I use a rimmed baking sheet because the oils from the cheese may slide onto the oven and burn.
  • Parchment may burn so a silicon matt is preferred.

 

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It’s definitely going to be a very different holiday season this year. We usually escape the drudgery of November by renting a house in a friends’ community in Arizona but, not this year. I’m already dreading February when we usually escape to Spain, thank you COVID19, not this year.

I usually look forward to all the holiday parties, both throwing and going to them, but not this year.

Over the last few years, I’ve slowly stopped baking my Christmas goodies to give to friends, but not this year. We deserve a treat. So friends, drop the diet and enjoy!

We usually entertain friends and family this time of year around our wood-burning fireplace in our living room, but not this year. However, we’ve adapted our outdoor space to include a natural gas heater, and equipped the sectional and chairs with electric blankets, trying to extend our entertaining capacity during these trying times. It’s been very successful at 10° C (50° F) but who knows how cosy it will be when temperatures plummet to -10° C (14° F) in January and February. I’m taking full advantage while I can.

This recipe was developed for an evening when we socially-distance-entertained friends under the warm heat trapped under the awning and cosy electric blankets.

These crackers are like biscotti because they are twice-baked. Using an electric slicer gives you excellent control and wonderfully thin slices.

Fruit and Seed Crackers

Makes 75 thinly sliced crackers

For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs, lightly whisked
  • 300 mL milk
  • 15 mL honey or agave syrup
  • 5 g salt
  • 125 g spelt or whole wheat flour
  • 200 g AP unbleached flour
  • 60 g dried cranberries
  • 70 g raw pumpkin seeds
  • 50 g sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. Prepare a small terrine pan (like this one) by lining it with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Combine the eggs, milk and honey and mix well.
  3. Sift the salt and flours together to combine. Stir in the fruit, nuts and seeds. Make a well in the centre and pour the egg mixture into the dried ingredients, stir to combine.
  4. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 25-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Reduce the oven temperature to 300° F.
  5. Tip the loaf out to cool completely and then slice as thinly as possible (I found the electric slicer did a beautiful job). Bake cracker slices until toasty and crisp, about 20-30 minutes, flip if necessary. Cool completely to store.

Notes:

  • I adapted this recipe from Chef Mimi’s blog. I used the seeds and fruit I had on hand, it’s quite versatile, so use what you have on hand.
  • I made these again in August 2021 and did not have whole wheat or spelt flour so I substituted almond flour and they turned out lovely.

 

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In mid-July, we were one of five couples invited to a socially responsible BBQ at a friend’s house. They put three tables together outside giving us ample space to distance ourselves. Each couple was asked to bring something and this marvellously flavourful side was one of the dishes someone brought. Everyone asked for the recipe, including me! I chose to make it as a dip for a summer evening cocktail party, socially responsibly distanced, of course. Each couple had their own plate!

The beans and lentils are packed with flavour, the salsa and lime yoghurt just up the ante.

Baja Mexican Beans and Lentil Dip with Lime Sauce and Salsa

From Bowls of Goodness: Vibrant Vegetarian Recipes Full of Nourishment By Nina Olsson

For the original recipe please click here

  1. Combine all of the ingredients and set aside.
  1. Combine all of the ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate until needed
  • Olive oil
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 200 g dried navy beans (400 g cooked)
  • 100 g dried lentils du puy (200 g cooked)
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 avocado, finely diced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp smoked sweet paprika
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  1. Cook the beans and lentil until softened, rinse.
  2. Heat oil in a frying pan and add the shallots until caramelized, add the garlic and cooked beans and cook until they can easily be mashed about 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Serve in a bowl or on a plate drizzled with the Baja Sauce and Salsa with baked tortilla chips

I chose blue tortilla chips because they were gluten-free and organic.

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We enjoyed a lot of seafood in Spain. But this recipe did not come from our time there, it graced our cocktail table soon after we moved back into our newly renovated bedroom. We were watching a little Jamie Oliver before turning out the lights and the recipe that night was this gem: Crispy Squid and Smashed Avocado. It was a hit the first time I made it, and soon after, I was getting requests to make it again. It is a deep-fried recipe, and you all know how much I love deep-frying, but it is quickly fried and on my first measure of the oil used, I was able to get most of it back after it cooled which means the calamari did not absorb much. Cutting the calamari length-wise instead of in rounds will allow the calamari to curl up like a spring which looks super cool. I paired this tapa with Romesco Sauce and Avocado Cream, and they were both awesome!

Calamares Fritos

To see the original recipe, please click here.

Serves 1-2 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 calamari tube, cleaned and sliced lengthwise to open up
  • 65 g all-purpose flour
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1 L vegetable oil

Ingredients for the Avocado Cream:

  • 1 Avocado
  • pinch of cumin
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1 lime, juiced

Ingredients for Serving:

Directions:

  1. Cut the calamari into strips lengthwise (not rings). Add the flour and sea salt to a bowl and toss the calamari strips until well coated.
  2. Heat the vegetable oil to 375° F. Fry the calamari strips 5 at a time until golden. Drain excess oil on kitchen paper.
  3. Meanwhile, mash or cream the avocado with cumin, sea salt and lime juice.
  4. Serve calamari hot with the sauces.

Notes:

  • Cut the calamari into thin strips length-wise so that it will curl into a spring shape as it fries. Shorter ones will curl less.
  • This dish is equally as good with either sauce so if you don’t want two sauces, just go with one.
  • To scale up the dish, just add another calamari tube for each additional person. More than 4 people, double the avocado cream recipe.

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During our time in Spain, we ate a lot of delicious tapas. One such tapa was the Ensalada de Aguacate y Atún, a simple yet spell-binding combination of tuna, avocado, lemon juice and olive oil. Using the very best of all four ingredients allows each one to shine individually and together they melt into the most magical concerto. We just couldn’t get enough of it. It was, however, not easy to find in our little town so I decided to make it part of our weekly meal plan. I made this one for our Valentine’s Day lunch.

Ensalada de Aguacate y Atún

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 150 g canned tuna in oil
  • 200 g ripe avocado, cubed
  • Juice of one lemon
  • A good drizzle of olive oil
  • Arugula

Directions:

  1. Drain the tuna and combine it with the cubed avocado and lemon juice.
  2. Spoon evenly onto a bed of arugula. Drizzle generously with olive oil.

Notes:

  • For presentation purposes, I layered the ingredients over the arugula. In reality, it is served well combined.
  • The arugula was my addition, the true dish is served on its own.

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This is an old recipe that I’ve made on the blog before, I just wanted to update it using weight measures instead of imperial volume and I also wanted to use fresh ginger instead of the dried powder. If you like the bite of ginger, this one is for you. This day I made them in late October was actually quite lovely and I braved the chill to take this photo on our back deck. Winter is coming!

It has that delicious chewy texture that some ginger snaps might have if they don’t dry out.

Ginger Snaps Revisited

Makes about 36 to 46 cookies, depending on how large you make them\

Ingredients:

  • 75 g butter
  • 115 g brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup black molasses
  • 30 g fresh ginger
  • 280 g you all-purpose flour
  • 3 g salt
  • 5 g baking powder
  • 5 g baking soda
  • 2 g ground allspice

Directions:

  1. Combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and molasses and heat gently until melted. Set aside.
  2. Grate the fresh ginger and stir into the melted butter mixture.
  3. Combine the remaining ingredients and whisk or sift to stir. Make a well in the centre and pour the melted butter mixture into it and mix until all of the flour mixture is incorporated.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  5. Drop the cookie dough by even spoonfuls (I used a large melon baller) onto the lined cookie sheet. Roll each ball in the palm of your hand to create a smooth ball, then press down to flatten with a flour cookie press to about half a centimetre.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes (I baked mine for 10) and cool on a wire rack. Store in an air-tight container but don’t worry, you won’t have to store them for long.

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Late last summer, I did some prop shopping for a prop-stylist colleague who was swamped and needed a hand. It’s a lot of work, don’t get me wrong, the shopping bit is fun but there is a lot of schlepping! And you have to be extremely organized to be able to return some of the props that weren’t used! That being said, it’s a job I don’t envy, they earn every penny and then some. While I was waiting for a store to open, I stopped into an Italian cafe for a coffee and biscotti. The coffee was fine but the biscotti was atrocious, it was soggy! Imagine that. Such an unsatisfying treat. The worst. So I had to make my own! These definitely hit the spot!

Cranberry and Almond Biscotti Revisted

Makes about 30 biscotti

Ingredients:

  • 320 g AP unbleached flour
  • 4 g baking powder
  • 3 g salt
  • 340 g sugar
  • 125 g butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 7 mL almond extract
  • 150 g frozen cranberries, defrosted
  • 70 g almonds, toasted

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt and mix well. Fold in the cranberries and almonds (I used whole)
  3. In the large bowl of your stand mixer, combine the sugar, butter, eggs and almond extract and mix for about 4 minutes.
  4. Fold in the dry ingredients until entirely combined (I did this using my whisk attachment so I didn’t break up the cranberries.
  5. Divide the batter in half and shape into relatively skinny logs on the parchment, leaving sufficient space between the two as they will spread during baking.
  6. Bake for 35 minutes or until golden.
  7. Remove logs from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, slice each log into 1.5 cm slices. Place cut-side down on the baking sheet (reuse the original parchment) and bake for 10 minutes, flip and continue to bake for 5 more minutes or until lightly golden. Cool completely.
  8. Store in an air-tight container or freeze. Serve with coffee or tea.

You’ll need to bake these a little longer because the cranberries are moist.

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We are knee-deep in entertaining season so I thought I’d share some easy recipes for entertaining. Homemade dips are simple to make and are a million-times better than store-bought dips. I’ve suggested grilling the eggplant for a smoky flavour in my recipe but if your grill is tucked away for the long winter, you can broil them for a similar effect.

Speaking of entertaining, do you own a wood-burning fireplace or know someone who does? Do you struggle to bring wood in from your wood pile when you have friends over? The sawdust and bits of wood alway stick to your clothes and the number of trips in and out is tiring! I have a solution! I’ve created a handy log carrier, hand made by yours truly in Canada! This is the perfect gift for the wood burning fireplace owner! Made of heavy duty denim, with a copper handles, these carriers can hold 12-14 kg (25-30 lbs) of wood, the perfect amount for a roaring fire without breaking your back! They are $60 (Canadian) each or two for $100 (Canadian). Shipping within Canada and to the US is available but you’ll need to contact me before November 23 to make sure you get it by Christmas. Now let’s get busy and make some baba!

Baba Ganoush

For the original recipe, please click here.

Makes about 400 mL dip

Ingredients:

  • 8 small Thai aubergines, halved and seeded
  • olive oil
  • 2 cloves of roasted garlic
  • 15 mL tahini
  • 6 g cumin
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of half a lemon
  • sea salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Grill aubergines on very hot BBQ, until skin is charred and the flesh is soft (we did ours mostly on the skin side on the BGE).
  1. Roast the garlic in a parchment pouch wrapped in foil. Cool.
  2. Peel the charred skin and away from the aubergine and discard, peel roasted garlic and discard skins.
  3. In the bowl of your food processor, add all of the ingredients and purée until smooth, season to taste.

Notes:

  • I like to toast my cumin for big flavour.
  • Use raw garlic if you wish, we have developed a bit of an aversion to raw garlic so I roast it whenever possible.
  • Use as much olive oil to give you a smooth dip.
  • I would not substitute peanut butter for the tahini in this case.
  • If you like a tarter dip, add more lemon juice.
  • Seeds of the eggplant tend to be bitter, so I’d remove them.

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In late March/early April, we spent two glorious weeks in Arizona. We stayed with friends for this duration because we had offered to puppy-sit (Jordan) while they took a quick 7 day holiday in Ireland. We had never puppy sat before but their beautiful black lab, Jordan is quite possibly one of the laziest dogs we have ever met so she was really no problem at all. We did get her used to three walks per day, that is, until we bumped into a woman carrying a black light, walking her dog after dark. I had to ask and yes, it was to detect scorpions. That was the end of our after dark walks. Period.

I like to arrive with gifts in hand and these basil Parmesan Straws were the perfect hostess gift because I had a bunch of basil that needed using a couple of days before our departure. Plus they are pretty tasty. Jordan thought so too.

Sun-dried Tomato, Basil and Parmesan Straws

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 75 pieces

To print this recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 290 g flour
  • 10 g Fresh Basil, finely chopped
  • 50 g sun-dried tomatoes in oil, roughly chopped
  • 10 g garlic, finely minced
  • 110 g unsalted butter (cold)
  • 30 g  grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten separately
  • 15-30 mL water or milk
  • Sea salt

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°F.
  2. Put all dry ingredients into a food processor, including the basil, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic, and process to mix well.
  3. Add the butter and process to coarse granules.
  4. While the blades are running, pour in the egg and process until a soft ball forms. If this does not happen, drizzle little bits of water until a soft ball forms.
  5. Remove from processor and using a small amount of flour, roll out the dough to about 1/2 cm thickness. Cut into 8cm x 7 mm straws and position evenly on a cookie sheet. Brush with second egg and sprinkle with sea salt.
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden.
  7. Remove and allow to cool. This will store well in a cool, dark place or freeze.

Notes:

  • I like to use a plastic ruler to cut the straws evenly. My ruler is a dedicated food ruler that never is used with pens or pencils or markers!
  • This type of rolling pin gives you evenly thick dough, but as I have mentioned previously, it is a pain to unscrew the disks and I inadvertently have to wash all of the disks each time I use it.
  • This dough is a bit wetter than some of my other recipes because of the sun-dried tomatoes and fresh garlic.

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We had just completed a gorgeous hike one weekend in February at Kortright Centre for Conservation. It was a warmer day and the sun was beaming beautifully throughout the hike. There were some muddy spots and some icy spots but it was totally manageable. This park is not manned this time of year, but, fortunately they leave the gate open for visitors like us. The park is not maintained during the winter but a good pair of hiking boots and you’re good to go. Click down to the end to see a few pictures of our hike.

Unfortunately all of the service buildings are closed this time of year, and after an hour-long hike and ingesting 500 mL of water, one might need facilities, so we decided to stop at a Starbucks on our way home. I usually like to purchase something when I use the facilities in a place but it was well into the afternoon and I really didn’t want a cup of regular coffee and ordering a decaf at Starbucks is about the most painful experience I have ever endured so I avoid it at all costs. Instead, we ordered an oatmeal cookie which they had unfortunately sold out of so, we shared one of their Ginger Molasses cookies. It was so delicious that I wanted to replicate the recipe and bake some at home. JT and I are HUGE ginger fans and I prefer to use fresh ginger whenever I can, so in this lovely recipe, I quadrupled the ginger and used fresh and I added a small amount of candied ginger chopped roughly. These definitely satisfied my ginger craving! Do you ever feel obligated to purchase something if you use a restaurant’s facilities?

Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies

Makes about 72 x 20 g cookies.

For the original recipe, please click here.

To print this recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 284 g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 450 g white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 125 mL molasses
  • 20 g fresh ginger, finely minced
  • 570 g all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 3 g salt
  • 23 g baking soda
  • 6 g ground cinnamon
  • 1 g ground cloves
  • 50 g candied ginger, chopped
  • 50 g white sugar for rolling

Directions:

  1. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
  2. Add the molasses and fresh ginger and beat well.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves and whisk to combine well.
  4. Add to the butter mixture and beat until well combined.
  5. Refrigerate the batter for 1 hour.
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 350° F.
  7. Make 20 g balls and roll in the sugar and position on the parchment lined baking sheet leaving about 5 cm between each cookie (don’t be tempted to flatten, it will flatten out on its own in the heat of the oven). Bake for 10-11 minutes, remove from the oven but leave them on the baking sheet because they will finish baking on the sheet. Remove cookies from the baking sheet once they have all but cooled completely.
  8. Enjoy with coffee or tea or a glass of bubbly!

Notes:

  • 11 minutes was absolutely perfect in my oven, the cookies hardened up perfectly sitting on the hot cookie sheet on the counter.
  • I always test-bake 1 or 2 cookies before I decide on how big to make the entire batch, it also gives you a solid idea of how long to bake them perfectly.
  • Weighing the cookie dough will give you more evenly-sized baked cookies. I can almost eyeball them after making a few balls, but I still like to weigh them for consistency.

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Winter is not giving up easily in these parts. At least the days are sunny even if they are still nippy. It’s the grey days with endless overcast that really pull me into the dumpers, so I bake to make me happy; plus the ambient heat the oven gives off doesn’t hurt. I created this tasty scone recipe when I discovered a couple of rogue oranges in the refrigerator. The flavour combination may sound strange but it works, plus it’s delicious straight from the hot oven with a generous pat of butter.

Cheddar Orange Scones

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 8 large scones

Ingredients:

  • 270 g AP flour
  • 25 g coconut sugar
  • 20 g baking powder
  • 1 g salt
  • 56 g cold, unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
  • 150 g sharp cheddar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 125 mL orange juice (about 1 navel orange)
  • zest of 2 navel oranges
  • Yogurt for brushing tops

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 425° F.
  2. In the large bowl of your food processor, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and pulse a few times to mix well.
  3. Add the butter and pulse until well incorporated but not softened.
  4. Combine the egg, orange juice and zest and mix well.
  5. Pour into the food processor while pulsing and pulse until well mixed. If your kitchen is on the warmer-side, allow the dough to rest in the refrigerator for a bit here or if it’s on the chilly-side, proceed to next step.
  6. Roll out to about 2 cm thick and cut with your favourite cookie cutter. Continue until you’ve used all of the dough. Brush tops with yogurt and bake 15-17 minutes or until lightly golden on top and baked through. Cool slightly on a wire rack and serve warm with butter.

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Do you keep a running list of things your friends and family won’t or cannot eat? I have found that it makes my life easier if I do, so one day, a long, long time ago, the “Friends’ Likes and Dislikes” list was born. Now I have it in Notes on my iPhone, it is so handy. I also keep a diary of dinner parties so I can avoid feeding friends the same thing!

My list-making started with my “list of books that I’ve read” after buying the same book twice because they changed the cover artwork! Isn’t that annoying! I now refer to the list before I make a book purchase. I have also made lists of movies we’ve seen over the years and television shoes we’ve watched; keeping track of the season and episode help you keep on track if you’re not just using Netflix for streaming. I also have a running list of movies and TV shows I want to watch so that I can reference it on a rainy weekend for entertainment. The list-making didn’t end with the end of the cottage, oh no, dear friend, it continues to live on for a number of purposes! Do you make lists? What type of lists do you make?

By the way, this would be on the No Go list for Mike because he hates nuts and seeds!

Gluten Free Pumpkin Sesame Crackers

Makes about 30 crackers

To print recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 100 g ground pumpkin seeds
  • 60 g sesame seeds
  • 10 g coconut flour
  • 5 g sea salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp sesame oil

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients and mix well.
  3. Combine the wet ingredients and whisk lightly until well combined.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until evenly mixed. Create a ball with the dough and press flat with the palms of your hands.
  5. Between two sheets of parchment paper, roll the dough until it is very thin (the best ones are only as thick as a sesame seed!). Using a ruler, cut into squares, rectangles or whatever shape you desire (I find straight-edged shapes easiest). Discard the top parchment.
  6. Place the parchment with the cut crackers on a baking sheet and bake for 10-14 minutes or until crisp. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes, then break apart using the cut lines.
  7. Serve with soup or dip.

Notes:

  • Use whatever nut flour or seed flour you desire.
  • You may add flavourings but the sesame is fairly strong so you may wish to use a different oil.
  • I have used both toasted sesame seeds and untoasted, both are very good.
  • I find I usually have to remove the edge crackers earlier from the baking sheet and return the rest to bake a bit longer, continue to do so until the desired golden colour is achieved.

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In an effort to eat healthier, I developed this recipe for a snack that is flavourful, crunchy and delivers a bit of protein and vitamins! The almond flour helps with the crunch as does the coconut flour, the dehydrated onion and garlic give the flavour this healthy snack delivers.

Kale Chips

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2 to 4

To print recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 120 g kale, washed, dried and cut into medium-sized pieces
  • 30 g almond flour
  • 20 g coconut flour
  • 10 g dehydrated onion
  • 5 g dehydrated garlic
  • 30 mL olive oil
  • salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 93° C (200°F )(I used my convection (fan) setting).
  2. In a dedicated spice/coffee mill, grind the almond flour, coconut flour, onion and garlic until a fine powder. Set aside.
  3. Wash kale and dry as well as possible. Remove thick ribs. Cut into bite-sized pieces keeping in mind that they will shrink to about half their raw size.
  4. Drizzle olive oil over kale and toss to coat evenly. I gave them a quick, light massage to evenly coat each leaf.
  5. Spread kale on a cookie sheet so they are on one layer and not overlapping. Sprinkle lightly with about 7 g of almond flour mixture (I found it easier to sprinkle through a fine sieve).
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes tossing occasionally until crisp. Sprinkle with salt.
  7. Serve immediately.

Notes:

  • Spice up the finished kale chips with a little cayenne pepper.
  • Instead of olive oil, use chili oil to coat raw chips.
  • Spread the oil-coated chips evenly on a cookie sheet to dry quickly and evenly.
  • A medium to larger cut leaf will dehydrate to a bite-sized chip.
  • Store the leftover coconut flour mix in an air-tight container for future kale chips.

Nutritional facts for kale chips

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Just prior to Christmas, I did a couple of jobs which had me buying a lot of garlic. When I say a lot, I mean literally dozens of heads! Of course, I gave away as much as I could but the majority came home with me. I am not one to toss perfectly good food in the bin, so I decided to roast the heads and freeze them for quick additions to sauces and soups. Now, I must say that this idea is genius because roasted garlic is so tasty and having some quick at hand makes it easy to add another level of flavour without the harshness of raw garlic. Over the holidays, we got together with our wonderful neighbours and I made this delicious roasted garlic dip.

Now there is that cold winter light!

Roasted Garlic Dip

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 6-8, makes about 300 mL

To print recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 200 g roasted garlic (about 4 heads)
  • 125 g cream cheese, room temperature
  • 50 g Greek Yogurt
  • Sea salt to taste

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl large enough to accommodate a stick blender, combine all of the ingredients and purée until smooth and silky.
  2. Serve at room temperature.

Notes:

  • I roast garlic by cutting off the bottom of the head (the root end) and setting it in about 30 mL of olive oil. I like to cover the garlic I roast so it steams and roasts at the same time. I roast the garlic in a 350° F oven for about 45 minutes or until they are very soft.
  • To extract the garlic, simply squeeze each clove into a container.
  • Some people add freshly grated Parmesan to this dip but I find it rich enough without it.
  • Save the cut ends of the garlic for soup stock.

This dip would also be a tasty cream sauce for pasta.

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In October I did some really cool TV jobs! I cooked for the lovely and talented Chef Anjum Anand from her I love India Cookbook for Your Morning (click here to see the segment (about 1 min of commercials)) and Mark Bittman, the original author of the infamous No-Knead Bread! recipe (click here to see the segment (only about 30 seconds of commercials)) and Ocean Wise Executive Chef, Ned Bell from his beautiful new cookbook, Lure!

Ned is awesome! It was indeed a pleasure to work with him. Yes, those are ‘sensible shoes’ as a fellow food stylist recently mentioned on instagram!

Mark was incredibly humble and amazing to work with (although, I wish the camera-man would have said something about the angle of the burgers!)

Mark released his Tenth Anniversary Edition of How to Cook Everything Vegetarian cookbook, simple meatless recipes for great food! The book is enormous, over 700 pages and it’s packed with great info, techniques, and wonderful recipes.  Although Mark is not vegetarian, he believes we should be enjoying a more plant-based diet. What I liked about his recipes is that they are truly vegetarian and not just cop-out vegetarian like spaghetti with tomato sauce that you see on some menus! I cooked tofu, tempeh, seitan and a really interesting beet burger. The recipes were easy to follow and came together quickly without special equipment. I will definitely make a few again and even others from the delicious cookbook.

Although this recipe isn’t from his cookbook, it is indeed vegetarian.

Basil and Sun-dried Tomato Gougières

Makes about 50 gourgières. To print the recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 250 mL (1 cup) water
  • 128 g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • Pinch salt
  • 128 g (1 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 40 g (~1/4 cup) sun-dried tomatoes (not in oil)
  • 15 g (~3 cloves) garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 7 g  (~10) basil leaves, chiffonade

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425° F (218° C). Line a baking sheet with wet parchment paper (crumple the parchment into a ball and saturate with cold water and wring out, flatten with your hand on the baking sheet).
  2. In a heavy bottom saucepan, combine the water, butter, salt and garlic and heat until melted. Remove from heat and add the flour all at once, stirring well. Return to heat and cook for a couple of minutes until it comes away from the sides of the pan.
  3. Remove from the heat and beat in one egg at a time until fully incorporated, being careful not to scramble the eggs. Fold in the herbs and chopped sun-dried tomatoes.
  4. Using a small ice cream scoop dipped in water with a splash of oil, scoop out single balls onto the baking sheet about 5 cm (2 inches) apart. Bake for 20 minutes or until tops are golden and the puffs have poofed about double in size.
  5. Cool on a wire rack. Continue to bake until you have exhausted your batter.

A light and delicious cocktail nibble.

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

Bacon and Parmesan Cheese Puffs

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 42 small puffs

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Notes:

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

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

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I’ve been a little busy since we’ve returned from Arizona, you may have noticed my absence commenting and that I didn’t post last week. I was going to fret about it and try and throw together something but decided against it. Life happens.

One of our dear friends sold their home in the burbs and moved into their condo just before we left for holidays. JT and I helped them paint before the move, with the move, and a little organization. You see, their home was around 2,500 square feet and they moved into a 600 square foot condo. To say they down-sized is an understatement. I have to admit, I was a little jealous that they were able to rid themselves of excess, but I had to be honest with myself, and I’m not there yet. This past weekend, we went to visit and you know me, I never go empty handed, so I made these cheese crisps.

When I made the gluten free version of cheez-itz, I rolled them a bit thinner than usual and loved how crisp they baked up, so this time, I adjusted the gluten recipe and rolled them out in my KitchenAid pasta maker and the results were exceptional. Thinner crackers baked up so crispy, I was hooked. If you like cheese tuiles, then you will love these cheese-flavoured, light, crisp crackers, but be warned, they are quite addictive.

I added a little album of our trip to Arizona at the end of this post, if you are interested. Basically, it was the coldest and rainiest time in Arizona this year. We experienced -15°C (59° F) and snow in The Grand Canyon and although the sun did make an appearance from time to time, it never really warmed up. I wore layered leggings and tops, a winter coat, gloves and scarf and ear muffs, most of the time while we were in The Grand Canyon and Sedona. It rained so much in Sedona; Sedona gets about 38 cm (15 inches) of rain a year, in two days we had 4 cm (1.5 inches)! Oh well, it’s another reason to go back!

Cheese Crisps

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 350 g crackers (about 6 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 240 g full-flavoured, hard cheese, grated (see notes)
  • 45 g unsalted butter
  • 15 g vegetable shortening
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika (see notes)
  • 1 cup (125 g) flour, plus more for rolling
  • 2 tbsp ice water

Directions:

  1. Combine everything but the water in the large food processor bowl and pulse until fully combined.
  2. Slowly pour in the ice water and process until the dough comes together. It may not look like it will, but it will.
  3. Sprinkle a generous amount of flour on your surface and roll out small bits of the dough thin enough to get through #1 on the KitchenAid Pasta maker attachment. Run each sheet through three times on #1, two-times on #2 and two-times on #3. Return to your work surface and cut with a variety of cookie cutters. I chose smallish ones because I wanted bite-sized nibbles. They shrink to about 65% of the original size.
  4. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  5. Transfer crackers to a baking sheet (I line mine with parchment).
  6. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden and crispy! Be careful – there’s a fine line with these between golden brown and overdone – and it only takes seconds to burn!

Notes:

  • Use whatever full-flavoured cheese you have. This batch was made with equal quantities of sharp Cheddar, naturally-smoked Cheddar and Beemster.
  • I prefer to use the pasta maker to roll the dough because it guarantees the dough to be the same thickness throughout the batch. I wouldn’t go thinner than #3 though, really thin crackers will burn very quickly before they crisp up.
  • Change up the flavouring from smoked paprika to granulated garlic, finely ground dehydrated onions, finely ground dehydrated mushrooms, but be careful not to have too large chunks as they will get caught in your pasta maker rollers!

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strawberrypreserves_first

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

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

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

Apple Sweetened Strawberry Preserves

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 500 mL (about 2 cups)

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

 

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KingMushroomScallops_First

With the holidays fast approaching, I thought I would post a few favourites. I created a “king mushroom ‘scallop'” recipe last year (here) but the pic was awful and I wanted to try the recipe again using Mycryo®, the powdered cocoa butter that sears and seals in flavour. The mushroom ‘scallops’ seared beautifully, just like a real scallop and as I mentioned before, they have an uncanny textural resemblance to real scallops, without the price tag!

Scallops, these days, are outrageously priced and I don’t know why. Costco has a bag of extra large frozen scallops that used to go for about $17 but over the years have snuck up to almost $30 which works out to just less than $3 each! Even though this recipe uses a vegetarian mushroom, you won’t miss real scallops. These tasty little morsels are sitting on a pillow of creamy avocado paste and then drizzled with caramelized shallots, deglazed with a hint of champagne vinegar. The flavours are sophisticated and the presentation is easily eaten by hand, good enough for any upcoming cocktail party, or before a dinner party and they are vegetarian. If you can’t get your hands on Mycryo®, use ghee, or if you wish to make them vegan, use a good quality oil with a high smoke point.

King Oyster Mushroom “Scallops” on Crostini

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 5-6 pieces

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 60 mL (1/4 cup) champagne vinegar (white wine vinegar works too)
  • 2 relatively thick stemmed King Oyster Mushrooms, cut into 2 cm (0.5 inch) thickness (tops removed and reserved for another recipe)
  • 2 tbsp Mycryo®
  • 2 tbsp avocado paste (recipe here) or pesto
  • 5-6 crostini

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter in a small frying pan, add the shallots and cook until caramelized. Deglaze pan with the champagne vinegar. Scrape into a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Coat the king oyster mushroom slices generously with Mycryo®. Heat the same frying pan until very hot, add the mushroom ‘scallops’ and sear each side until golden and heated through. Remove from heat.
  3. Return the caramelized shallots with vinegar to the pan with the seared mushrooms and coat mushrooms well. 
  4. Prepare each crostini with a good smear of avocado paste or pesto, add one mushroom ‘scallop’ to each toast and spoon caramelized shallots with deglazing sauce over the crostini. Garnish with tiny basil leaves. Serve warm.

Notes:

  • White wine vinegar is a good substitute for champagne vinegar.
  • Fry a little pancetta before melting the butter for added flavour (not vegetarian).
  • Substitute real scallops for the mushrooms (not vegan).
  • Try to get King Oyster mushrooms that are about the same thickness as a good-sized scallop.

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tejas-dulces_first

Happy Halloween Everyone! Hope you all have a ghoulish night!!!

While in Europe this past September, we spent four extremely hot days in Sevilla. It’s no wonder they call Spain the “Frying pan of Europe”! It wasn’t as hot as it had been (near 50° C or 122° F) but it was hot enough for us! The sun was relentless and most locals only walk in the shade (you can tell who lives there because they hug the shadows directly beside the old buildings!). The city has covered some of its sunnier streets with canopy sails to shade the citizens and tourists, it’s that bad!

Many of the historic town streets have these sails in both Sevilla and Madrid.

Many of the historic town streets have installed these canopy sails to protect citizens and tourist from the unyielding sun, in both Sevilla and Madrid, though I did not see them in Granada.

During one of our last walks though the beautiful historic part of town, we stumbled into the area where the locals actually live. There were no tourist shops, a few restaurants, just butchers, bakers, children’s clothing stores, kitchen stores (yes, I did buy something), grocery stores and specialty shops. One such shop was a beautifully designed little cookie shop where they sold only one type of cookie in three flavours: La Tejas Dulces de Sevilla, in almond, pistachio and coconut. A young lady was handing out samples in front of the beautiful store and we couldn’t resist. In one taste, we were immediately hooked on the simple almond flavour and lovely crunchy texture and we had to buy some. Upon returning to Toronto, I hid the small package so that I could work on a recipe and perfect it for the blog. I told JT it was for the greater good, he wasn’t impressed.

The cookies are light, airy, crunchy and full of flavour; imagine a genoise batter spread paper-thin, topped with almonds and baked until golden. They are so GOOD! The recipe is relatively simple but follow the instructions to get the signature airy, crunchy texture. I think this could easily convert to a gluten free variety, stay tuned!

I must warn you, though, because these are not like the French Tuiles, these have a bit more body than a traditional French tuiles. They are really more cracker-like than a tuile or a cookie.

Scroll down to the end of this post to see pictures from this part of our trip.

tejas-dulces_2

Delicately sweet, these crispy, flavourful cookies hit the spot for an afternoon craving!


original

These are the originals we brought back from Sevilla, sadly only three left and a mess of crumbs but I’ve finessed the recipe so I can make more!

Almond Tuiles of Sevilla (Tejas Dulces de Sevilla)

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 25 cm x 30 cm (10″ x 12″) sheet, cut to make cookies or various sizes

Ingredients:

  • 30 g (2 tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 75 g (3/4 cup) almonds, thinly sliced and toasted
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 80 g (~1/3 cup) sugar
  • 1/2 tsp almond flavour
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla
  • 50 g cake and pastry flour
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Toast the almonds until golden. Set aside to cool.
  2. Melt* the butter and set aside to cool.
  3. Beat the egg with the sugar until it reaches the ribbon stage, about 5 minutes. Beat in the flavourings and cooled butter.
  4. Sift the flour with the salt and fold into the egg mixture, cover and allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 265° F (130° C).
  6. Pour the entire batter onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and spread out until it is quite thin (about 3-4 mm (about 1/8-3/16 inch) works out to about 30 cm x 30 cm (12″ x 12″). Evenly sprinkle the toasted almonds onto the batter and gently push into the batter**.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until evenly golden, turn the pan once about halfway.
  8. While still warm, move parchment onto a cutting board and cut into uneven shapes with a pizza cutter. Transfer parchment to a cooling rack and allow to cool. Cookies will firm up as they cool.
  9. Once cooled, store in an airtight container for about a week, but they won’t last that long!

Spread batter out thinly (about 30 x 30 cm or 12 x 12 inches)

Spread batter out thinly (about 30 x 30 cm or 12 x 12 inches)


tejas-dulces_3

I made another batch but spread the batter out much thinner. They probably could have baked a little longer to get a little richer colour, but the flavour and texture is spot on.

Notes:

  • *for additional flavour, brown the butter in a frying pan until hazelnut in colour.
    ** to insure that all of the almonds are ‘stuck’ to the batter, I did a little toss of the pan quickly and that way I was able to move ‘unstuck’ almonds to a better place.
  • Add a teaspoon of lemon zest because lemon and almond go so wonderfully together!
  • Drizzle melted chocolate over the cookies once they are cool, refrigerate until set then store in an airtight container for about a week, but be warned, these won’t even last as long as the originals!

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CheeseBall_First

My parents entertained a lot, it’s probably where I get my love for entertaining (read, feeding) friends and family. Mom would make canapés (tiny little sandwiches) and often have a cheese plate for nibblies. Mom’s canapé repertoire was whatever we had on hand, sometimes leftover roast beef, hard boiled egg or even some pickled herring with a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of fresh dill.

Although this post is about a cheese ball, my dear Mom did not make cheese balls for entertaining purposes, they were for late night snacks*! Mom’s cheese mixtures usually consisted of whatever cheese was left over, grated and mixed together with butter (or margarine, in those days). Each cheese mixture was different because she never had the same proportions of cheese leftover.

I believe, I was the first to make an actual cheese ball in my family, the recipe was likely from a one of my beloved Recipes Only Magazines, a quarterly food magazine that premiered in April 1983. It was delivered free to 2,000,o00 Canadian homes in predetermined areas. The inaugural magazine touted “To celebrate the joys of Food and Cooking…Our goal at Recipes Only will be simply to bring you excellence; excellence of recipes based on the plentiful ingredients from Canadian stores and gardens; excellence of presentation based on the best photographs and illustrations our award-winning team…can design…” Well, they did their best considering the timeframe. Dark, moody photos with some but not many relevant props, not like the odd 70’s food photos with weird fabrics (or were they all shower curtains?) thrown in! I’m certain my first cheese ball came from one of the Recipe Only Magazines but I no longer have them all so I cannot be sure (makes for a good story, though).

RecipesOnly

Sadly, I have only saved up to and including Issue 7, November/December 1984,  I also saved Issue 11, from 1985 (which has the index for the first 10 issues) and for some bizarre reason, Issue 24 from October 1987 (by which time, they were charging $1.00 for them). I even saved labels from Bick’s Pickles to send away for a tidy binder to hold my cherished Recipes Only Magazines.

 

We’ve thoroughly enjoyed the more contemporary Potted Cheese at the beautiful Harbour House Hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake (we often go down during the Christmas Holidays) during a sampling of Local Vintages from 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm each day in the Library Lobby. My cheese ball is not nearly as highbrow as the Potted Cheese but it is very tasty. I would encourage you to create your own with your own blend of cheese, it’s a perfect accompaniment to cocktails on the dock on a lazy summer’s day.

CheeseBall_2

I served the cheese ball with home made toasted sourdough baguette, Mary’s Crackers, cucumbers and celery sticks.

A Tasty Cheese Ball

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 2 8-10 cm (3-4 inch) Cheese Ball

Ingredients:

  • 250 g Cream Cheese
  • 55 g Danish Blue Cheese
  • 50 g Gruyère Cheese
  • 1 green onion, finely chopped
  • 100 g of chopped, toasted nuts, cooled (I used 50 g each of pecans and cashews because it’s what I had on hand).

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients with the exception of the nuts, in the bowl of a food processor, process until smooth.
  2. Scrape out all of the cheese mixture and divide into two balls. Roll in the nuts to cover completely. Refrigerate or freeze until required.
  3. It’s best to allow the cheese ball to come to room temperature before serving.

CheeseBall_3

*Back in the 1970’s and early 80’s, we would often have a small snack of cheese, bread or popcorn while watching TV. We called it our “Late Night Snack”.

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AdultGrilledCheese_First

Cooking at the cottage means simple recipes using fresh ingredients. I don’t want to be in the kitchen any longer than I have to. Don’t get me wrong, I adore cooking but I also adore this view:

CottageView

This is the view looking out into the lake from our little bay.

Several years ago, our dear friend Barb (Profiteroles and Pony Tails) and her then beau (now hubby) came up to our cottage, The Upper Deck. We traded off days for cooking and for one lunch Barb made this excellent grilled cheese sandwich (Toastie)! We’re not talking about a processed cheese slice slapped between two slices of Mungie-cake white bread. No, this is a serious blend of cheeses with a splash of whiskey or cognac and some delicious green onion thrown in for good measure. Believe me, when I say: once you have this grilled cheese, you will NEVER want any other.

I posted this recipe originally in March 2009 and it was a bit of a sore spot because a named magazine asked to use my photo in a grilled cheese story but since I was relatively new to blogging, I wasn’t paying attention to the comments, so I missed out! Sigh. The flavour of the whiskey or cognac is essential, the cheese blend is entirely up to you, but I suggest hard cheese and not soft like goats cheese.

Adult Grilled Cheese

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 125-150 g shredded cheese, in total
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 slices sourdough bread, use this recipe
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp cognac or whiskey

Directions:

  1. Combine shredded cheeses, green onion and cognac and mix well.
  2. Butter one side of each bread, lay one slice buttered side down and top with the cheese mixture. Lay the other side of the bread on top, buttered side up.
  3. Heat a grill pan and place sandwich on top, lay a weight over it (I used 3 cast iron pans but I put a piece of parchment on top of the sandwich first).
  4. Grill until cheese has melted. Cut sandwich in half and serve with celery sticks and homemade salsa.

Notes:

  • For this sandwich, we used Applewood Smoked Cheddar, Extra Old Cheddar and Mozzarella.
  • We have also used Mozzarella, Gruyère and white Cheddar, the combinations are endless. It is nice to use a stringy cheese for this type of sandwich.
  • You could also put additional cheese on the exterior (omit butter) and instead of grill, lay a piece of parchment down in a cast iron frying pan and cook, repeat for other side. See instructions from my dear friend Lorraine, here.

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The marketing company that I work with from time to time recently moved into their new exciting office space and they invited me down for a look. I decided to bring them a baked treat (because that is how I roll) and created this new chewy chocolate peanut butter brownie recipe! I was inspired by your generous reaction to the Chocolate Peanut Butter Bark with Gold Sea Salt that I created, thank you. This is not an overly sweet brownie but it is richly flavoured with chocolate with the classic peanut butter combo. I used natural, chunky PB that isn’t sugared or salted, but feel free to use your traditional grocery store PB and omit the additional sugar and salt that I add in the later part of this recipe. The recipe is loosely based on my Go-To brownie recipe that my dear Mom cut out of the Toronto Star about 20 years ago (click here and here).

Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies 

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 25 brownies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 5 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 45 g (1 1/2 oz) semi-sweet dark chocolate chips
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup natural, chunky peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Sift flour, icing sugar, cocoa powder and baking powder.
  2. Melt butter  with chocolate chips, add vanilla and water and stir well.
  3. Beat in the egg whites (if the liquid is still hot, temper them so you don’t get scrambled eggs!)
  4. Add dry ingredients and stir well.
  5. Pour into a prepared 9″ x 9″ pan and line the pan with parchment paper, then spray with non-stick baking spray. Bake for 25-40 minutes until firm and cake tester comes out clean.
  6. Option to frost with a butter icing, but not necessary as this brownie is very moist and flavourful.

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Silvasgombocz_first

I recently read on a blog (which I can not find for the life of me, but if it was you, kindly mention it with a link in the comments) a rant about restaurant service where wait staff remove empty dishes from the table before everyone has finished eating. This is a HUGE issue in Toronto, particularly with the roadhouse-style (3 star or less) establishments. It is a disgusting trait, particularly when there are ONLY TWO people dining. Because JT inhales eats much quicker than I, I am often left eating at the table while his plate is cleared away. Just because restaurants here only pay servers minimum wage, it doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be training! UGH.

I mention this trend because on a recent dinner with neighbours (progressive dinner folks) at a fairly well reviewed French restaurant in our historic Distillery District they actually went one step further. It wasn’t a busy night but service was slow and we were through a bottle of wine before our first course even arrived; eventually we casually ate our appetizers and chatted up a storm so when they removed the dishes I got up for a quick bio break. I ordered my favourite bistro dish, Table Side Wellington Country Beef Tartar which is prepared in front of the guest. Can you guess what’s coming next? The server actually PREPARED MY DISH WITHOUT ME BEING THERE! OMG, did that really happen? Oh yes, it did. I was so aghast, I was speechless! So now, several weeks later I am ranting on my blog. Shame on you, French restaurant in the Distillery District, the remainder of the experience wasn’t even worth mentioning (OK, I will say the steak frites came in pieces (what? did they gather up the leftovers from other plates?) AND it was over-cooked). Strike that place off my list.

It is no secret that Hungarians love food and we love to cook; so while my cousin and his lovely wife, Éva were visiting, I asked her to show me how to make a traditional, light Hungarian supper called Szilvásgombóc (Plum Dumplings). I’ve read many a blog that this dish is NOT a dessert and the Hungarians are quite adamant about it. When I was a child, we had this dish during plum season but I can’t recall if it was a main or a dessert. I have never made it on my own so I was happy to have Éva make it while I watched. It is delicately sweet and seasoned generously with toasted bread crumbs and cinnamon. We always had it with sour cream so my presentation included Greek Yogurt, but Éva always had it plain with extra cinnamon or with some lekvár (thick jam).

We made the dish at the cottage, so I wasn’t able to document the weights and measures and I still have some in the freezer so I won’t be making it any time soon. For an experienced cook, like most of my followers, it is a recipe made by feel (similar to making Italian Gnocchi), but I will reference Ilona Horvath’s recipe from The Traditional Hungarian Kitchen published in 1996 and 2000. It is an excellent cookbook translated and worked into North American cooking standards and according to my dear Mom, good, old fashioned Hungarian recipes.

Below, I present my dear Mother’s recipe from her Mother’s cookbook that she brought with her on her escape from Hungary in 1956, Az Ínyesmester Ezer Új Receptje published by Athenaeum, 1935. It is a well-loved, faded copy and the recipe for szilvásgombóc in the book is entirely by feel (no measurements documented!).

Cookbook

That’s a recipe for Roquefort Dressing written in my Mom’s handwriting in Hungarian.

Magyar Szilvásgombóc (Hungarian Plum Dumplings)

Makes about 24 gombóc

Ingredients:

  • 12 sweet plums (the small Italian ones are best, we were not able to find them so we cut them in half)
  • Boiled potatoes (we used 5 medium-sized yukon gold potatoes)
  • All purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tbsp cinnamon, divided
  • 3/4 cup of unseasoned bread crumbs (we made our own from whole wheat bread)
  • 2-3 tbsp sugar

Directions:

  1. While boiling the peeled potatoes, wash, pit and cut the plums in half and season with 2 tbsp of cinnamon, set aside.
  2. Rice potatoes while still warm (Éva made a point of this). Beat the egg by hand and combine it with the riced potatoes.
  3. Slowly add flour to the potato and egg mixture to make a soft dough.
  4. Using about two tablespoons of dough, press out to about 1 cm thick in the palm of your hand (about the size of the palm of your hand), add a quarter of a plum to the centre and cover entirely with the dough, pinching the seams shut.
  5. Boil water with a pinch of salt. Boil plum dumpling until done (they should float to the top, just like gnocchi).
  6. Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, toast the breadcrumbs until golden and while still warm, add the sugar and mix gently until the sugar has melted and caramelized. It should not be a sopping mess. Turn off the heat. Add the remaining 2 tbsp cinnamon and mix well. Roll each cooked dumpling in the bread crumbs and plate.
  7. Serve warm or cold, with or without yogurt or sour cream

This plate survived two bombings during the second world war.

This plate survived two bombings during the second world war.

Notes:

  • We tested one plum ball first to make sure it didn’t fall apart during boiling and decided it was a bit too soft and we added more flour.
  • The old cookbook describes a good plum dumpling dough to be thinly wrapped around the plum, a fine and light texture, somewhat pillowy (not chewy). “A jó szilvásgombóc téstája vékony, finom és könnyu, sőt omlós.”
  • I wish we had tasted the plums because they had very little taste and we should have seasoned them with a touch sugar to bring out their plum taste. This dish should not be sickly sweet, it is delicately sweet.
  • Ilona Horváth adds lard to the dough but we did not.
  • My relatives LOVE cinnamon so the proportions may be a bit much for the average person, add according to your own personal taste. Cinnamon in Europe is the real McCoy and is a lot stronger than our Cassia. Too much cinnamon may make the dish bitter!

 

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SweetPotatoHummus_first

A couple of weeks ago my kitchen had all sorts of half used leftover vegetables from a testing I did for my recipe testing lady. They were for recipes that called for specific volumes of vegetables (such as, 1 cup) instead of the quantity of vegetables (such as 1 medium carrot). I always find those recipes a bit odd because I am left with bits and pieces that lay around for weeks without any specific purpose. Indeed, I could have thrown them into a soup or stew but I wasn’t making either of those things. Then I saw my lovely friend Lorraine’s Roasted Vegetable Hummus recipes and thought “GENIUS”! What a great way to use up bits and pieces of leftover veg. Thank you Lorraine, truly a great idea (ps, it was darn delicious too!).

Because this recipe was created to use up leftover vegetables, feel free to modify the quantity or variety to what you have on hand. This would also work beautifully if you had leftover roasted veg from a dinner. Hummus is an easy Middle Eastern dip/spread and the seasonings should be to your personal taste; we love the traditional flavours so I’ve kept it pretty much the same with the exception of substituting tahini with toasted sesame oil because that’s what I had (you can use peanut butter too, I know, GASP!!!).

It turned out that The Hungarians had never tried sweet potatoes (not sure if it’s a veg not available in Budapest or they were never introduced to it) but it was a grand success as a dip AND as a roasted vegetable side for our roast chicken dinner one night.

Sweet Potato and Carrot Hummus

makes about 1 cup, depending on the size of your vegetables

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into equal sized cubes
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into equal sized cubes
  • 1 large clove of garlic, whole
  • 3 tbsp EVOO, divided
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp each, cumin and coriander
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp water or vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp smoked sesame oil
  • toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 190° C (375° F).
  2. Add sweet potato and carrot cubes to a large roasting pan and drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil.
  3. Add garlic (peel and all) to a small ramekin, top off with 2 tbsp olive oil and and water. Season with sea salt. Cover with foil and tuck into a corner of the roasting pan.
  4. Roast vegetables for about 35 minutes or until very tender, try not to brown the vegetables so that the dip colour remains vibrant.
  5. Scrape vegetables from roasting pan into a glass bowl, squeeze the garlic out from its skin and pour the liquid from the garlic into the glass bowl with the sweet potato and carrot.
  6. Toast the cumin and coriander until fragrant, add to the glass bowl along with the remainder of the ingredients (with the exception of the sesame seeds). Purée until smooth, season with salt and pepper, if desired. For an ultra smooth dip, press through a fine sieve. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds. Serve at room temperature with bread, crackers or crisp vegetables.

SweetPotatoHummus

It’s creamy and naturally sweet.

My dear friend Genie of Bunny, Eats, Design suggested I submit this post to our growing edge for June, themed Picnic, hosted by Maddie from Supper Lovin’

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KaleChips_first

A few years ago we purchased a reasonably priced (read cheap) awning for our cocktail patio; I never loved the fabric, it was a pinkish/beige stripe that weathered into a more horrible pinkish colour over the years, but it was about 1/10th the price of one of those swanky awnings that you can order with custom fabric, so I compromised. It wasn’t bad enough that the colour sucked when it was new, it sucked even more over the years and the birds loved to bathe in the water that collected in the divot when it was closed and they also loved to peck little bugs that drowned. Sadly, their pecking caused many tears and eventually the awning looked so tattered and torn that we hadn’t unrolled it in two years!

Old Awning

This was the last time we unrolled the awning at my benchmark birthday party a couple of years ago. That’s my lovely SIL, Wendy. The colour just gets better and better.

Fast forward to 2015 and my cousin and his lovely wife are coming for a visit from Europe in June. What is better than an actual deadline to get those nagging projects completed? So we are in fix it mode! The list is long.

Last year, I priced replacing the fabric with an awning company and discovered that it’s still out of reach (I’d rather spend the cash on a vacation than an awning!) so I checked Youtube and found a really good video on how to remove and replace the awning fabric (click here for the video) and even though our awning is a different manufacturer, the basics are the same. So off I went to purchase 11 m or 12 yards of fabric! And specialty thread (nylon in case you are interested), a specialty sewing machine foot and of course heavy duty leather sewing machine needles! If you’re interested, I can post instructions on how to sew the awning, but it’s a cooking blog so I won’t bore you with it now.

The worst part of sewing this type of project is finding the space to accommodate the enormous volume of fabric (3.2 m x 3.4 m or 125″ x 135″ finished size) so I ended up sewing it on the dining room table and pinning and cutting on the wood floors in our bedroom. Sewing on the dining room table and that I can see the awning from my kitchen window is my reason for using this post in Celia’s In My Kitchen series.

PinningAwning

I had to fold the fabric in half because that’s all the room I had!

It didn’t take me long to make the awning but I had to wait 3 days to install it because it was raining and hailing (in April)! The installation went smoothly but you really do need two people to help feed the ends into the hardware. JT was great and we got it working in less than an hour! Now we wait for summer. Hopefully!

Awning3

This is the view from my kitchen window. I guess I could have opened the window and removed the screen for the pic.

Awning1

We chose a light grey fabric.

Awning2

The awning actually extends all the way to the far end of the deck but it was too windy and I didn’t want to risk issues.

A couple of weekends ago, we had amazing weather and JT and I enjoyed lunch on the patio. I had a lovely bunch of fresh kale and I wanted to try something different so I baked Kale Chips! I know it’s been done to death, but these things were actually really tasty and if you’re looking for a healthy snack, I would suggest you try and bake some of these. I used Charles’ recipe which you can find here, the only thing I did differently is that I dressed the chips in some grated parmesan and sea salt. They didn’t last long.

KaleChips3

The olive oil gives them a gorgeous sheen and helps maintain the bright green colour.

Kale Chips

Ingredients:

  • 400 g Curly Kale
  • 2 tbsps Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1/2 cup fine grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions:

  1. Pre heat the oven to 93° C (200°F )(I used my convection (fan) setting).
  2. Wash kale and remove thick ribs. Cut into bite-sized pieces keeping in mind that they will shrink to about half their raw size.
  3. Drizzle olive oil over kale and toss to coat evenly. I gave them a quick, light massage.
  4. Spread on a cookie sheet so they are on one layer and not over lapping. Bake for 15-20 minutes tossing occasionally until crisp. Sprinkle cheese over hot kale and toss to coat.
  5. Serve immediately.

KaleChips2

They were crispy and very tasty.

 

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VeganSpanakopita_4208

In converting a recipe to Vegan, I generally try to keep in mind all the flavours AND the textures in the non-vegan version. When I decided to make Vegan Spanakopita I became very excited until I remembered that there was crumbled feta in my recipe. Crumbled feta is not Vegan, so I began to think…what oh what can I use to replace the flavour and the unique texture this delicious cheese brings to the table. Yes, I could have omitted it altogether, but then it wouldn’t be as delicious!  Some time ago, I’d made a note to marinate tofu in ‘feta’ flavours like lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, salt, oregano and olive oil…so I did a little experimentation and came up with this version. It’s actually pretty tasty on its own, but I needed it for this recipe so there won’t be marinated tofu on the buffet table, but this spanakopita more than makes up for it. I don’t think the non-vegans will mind this version. But there will be pulled pork and bacon wrapped dates just in case ;-)!

Vegan Spanakopita

A kitcheninspirations original recipe.

Makes about 50, 6 cm (about 3 inch) triangles

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced thinly
  • 5 cloves garlic ~20 g, finely minced
  • 500 g zucchini grated (about 2 medium-sized)
  • 300 g spinach
  • 3-4 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
  • 350 g marinated tofu, drained, roughly chopped (recipe below)
  • About 8-10 sheets phyllo
  • 1/4 cup canola oil

Directions:

  1. Heat canola oil in a large dutch oven. Add the sliced onion and sweat it out a bit, add the garlic and cook for about a minute. Add the grated zucchini (click here for some clear steps on making this dish) and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until it has totally wilted.
  2. Remove from the heat and add the fresh dill, oregano and roughly chopped marinated tofu. Set into a fine sieve and allow to cool and drain.
  3. Once completely cool, prepare the phyllo sheets by cutting them into 3 cm or 2.5 inch strips and lightly spraying each one with canola oil. Use two strips per triangle. Place one heaping teaspoon of the cooled filling onto one end and start folding into a triangle. Brush or spray lightly all over with the canola oil.

    VeganSpanakopita_4196

    A heaping teaspoon of filling goes at the end.

    VeganSpanakopita_4197

    Begin folding into a triangle and continue until the length is used up.

    VeganSpanakopita_4198

    The nature of the folds covers in the filling very well.

    VeganSpanakopita_4200

    A tidy little triangle.

  4. Bake at 350°F for 12-14 minutes if saving for the freezer or 116-18 minutes to serve immediately.
  5. To reheat, place a single layer of the triangles onto a baking sheet and reheat in 300°F for 10 minutes or until golden.

VeganSpanakopita_4209

The oil makes the phyllo very crispy.

Marinated Tofu

Makes enough for one batch of Spanakopita (prepare 1-2 days ahead to allow tofu to absorb the marinade flavours)

Ingredients:

  • 350 g extra firm tofu
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano
  • 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground mixed peppercorns

Directions:

  1. Place the drained tofu on a cutting board over a sink so it’s tilting a bit into the sink. Place another cutting board on top and a heavy cast iron pan. Leave for 30 minutes to drain.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, water, EVOO, oregano, sea salt and peppercorns and mix well.
  3. Once drained, dry off the tofu and cut into 1 cm cubes. Place into a glass container and cover with the marinating liquid. Marinate in the refrigerator, shaking the jar intermittently over 1 to 2 days. Drain to use.

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A surprisingly creamy dip

A surprisingly creamy dip

We’re hosting the company Christmas party (the company I write social media content for) and 1/4 of them are vegans and vegetarians! As usual, I really didn’t feel like making two different things so other than 2 fish and 3 meat dishes, everything else is going to be vegan! I’m even testing my skills with some pretty interesting desserts and VEGAN CHEESE! Stay tuned, I’m looking forward to learning to cook gourmet vegan. BTW, thank you to a long-time friend and colleague (and loyal reader) Michela, who offered some excellent suggestions ❤️.

Did you know that purée-ing (with a stick blender) cooked red lentils become so incredibly creamy that it tastes like you’ve added cream or butter to it? It makes an incredible dip and it also could be used as a base for a gluten free, even vegan white sauce! I make a large batch and freeze in an ice cube tray for quick additions to ‘cream’ up a sauce! Recently, we had an incredible cauliflower-lentil ‘Alfredo’ sauce which was TDF! So good. Next time I make it I’ll be sure to jot the ingredients down and actually measure everything!

A few years ago I won the runner-up prize for a photo contest from Roger Mooking (a celebrity chef here in Toronto), the prize was a Crock Pot with a mini heated dip pot. The crock pot croaked last year but the mini dip pot goes on. I don’t know about you, but I have never liked using this unattractive pot on my buffet table, so about a year or so ago I did some testing to see how hot it actually gets and was quite surprised that you could actually cook in it! The temperature gets to around 165F which would be enough to cook meat, but I wouldn’t suggest it. It is however, perfect to make a batch of beans or lentils for dip! I’ve been using it almost every week to make healthy bean or lentil dips. So if you have one sitting on a back shelf gathering dust, bring it out and put it to good use. Put it on before you go to work and when you get home you have a delicious dip or base for a creamy soup or sauce.

Creamy Red Lentil Dip

An original Kitcheninspirations recipe.

Makes about 250 mL (1 cup) of dip

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c red lentils
  • 1 cup water or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp dehydrated onion flakes
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2-1 tsp toasted sesame oil

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients except lemon juice and toasted sesame oil to a mini dip crock pot, stir and then cover.
  2. Plug it in (only way to turn it on) and cook for 3-4 hours or when lentils are very soft.
  3. Turn hot cooked lentils into a tall container. Purée using a stick blender until smooth and creamy adding lemon juice and toasted sesame oil to taste. Refrigerate until needed.

I drizzled some toasted sesame oil over the top.

I drizzled some toasted sesame oil over the top.

The oven roasted tomatoes are incredibly sweet but still give this dip a piquant flavour.

The oven roasted tomatoes are incredibly sweet but still give this dip a piquant flavour.

RedLenilDipOvenRoastTomato_3984

These little water crackers were the perfect accompaniment to this cream dip.

Additional Flavours:

  • “Hummus”: to the recipe above, add additional finely chopped fresh garlic at the end as you purée to give it more of a hummus flavour.
  • Curry Dip: omit the lemon juice and toasted sesame oil and add 1/2 tsp curry powder with 2 tbsp coconut milk powder at the purée stage.
  • Oven dried tomato dip: Omit the cumin, coriander, lemon juice and sesame oil. Add to cooked lentils, 1 tbsp chopped oven (or sun dried) tomatoes plus 1 or 2 fresh basil leaves and purée until creamy and smooth.

Notes:

  • Other lentils (like green or du puys) don’t turn out as creamy, I’ve tried them and seriously prefer red.
  • I use granulated garlic (not the same as garlic powder) and dehydrated onions in this recipe because we preferred the end taste over cooking fresh cloves and onions in the mini crock pot. For whatever reason, the mini crock gave the garlic a very unusual flavour.
  • To make a base for ‘cream’ sauce, omit everything but the lentils, water and salt. Purée when cooked, allow to cool and freeze in ice cube tray for future use.
  • Note on December 8: Lentils cook in far less time than the prescribed 3-4 hours, it’s just that I’ve left it on for that length and the result was what I wanted, totally mushy and easily puréed lentils. If you’re around and can unplug the little dip warmer when the lentils are first cooked, then be my guest.

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Recently we watched Chef on video. It was a bit long, but the happy ending made it totally worth it and we resulted with The Cuban sandwich for dinner, which is always a win/win for me! We had most of the fixin’s from the Parrillada Mixta we created for the progressive dinner and some ordinary staples like, French stick, dill pickles, cheese and onion confit. It made for a very tasty meal.

Cuban_4093

My baguette turned out rather thin but it still had that delicious chewy texture that French baguette should have.

Cubano (adapted from Chef, the movie)

Makes 4 small sandwiches (about 8-10 cm or 3-4″ long)

Ingredients:

  • 4 smallish portions of baguette
  • 4 tbsp yellow mustard
  • 4 tbsp onion confit
  • thinly sliced leftover steak, to cover one side of bread
  • thinly sliced Argentine Chorizo, to cover one half of bread
  • 8 thinly sliced pieces of cheese (we used sharp cheddar)
  • 4-6 thinly sliced dill pickles (depending on the size of the pickle)
  • Butter

Directions:

  1. Preheat your double sided grill (like a panini) until smoking hot.
  2. Slice each baguette in half and reserve the top half.
  3. On the bottom half, spread 1 tbsp of onion confit on each slice.
  4. Layer the thinly sliced meat, then sausage, then dill pickles and lastly the cheese.
  5. On the top half, smear 1 tbsp yellow mustard on each slice.
  6. Top the sandwich.
  7. Grill the sandwich so that it’s heated all the way through and the cheese has melted. Eat immediately.

Cuban_4098-2

Perfectly grilled so that meat is hot, the cheese is melted and the bread is delicious.

Notes:

  • For the baguette, I used this recipe. It was very labour and time intensive but the result of the texture was perfect!
  • For the onion confit, I used this tried and true recipe.
  • The meat is generally slow cooked with a variety of spices and the onion confit is not a usual component of a Cubano, so that’s why I called it ‘adapted’
  • Even though the sandwiches were small, they were very filling and I would say one would have done us just fine. Yes, we’re pigs.

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Happy Canadian Thanksgiving everyone! We have so much to be thankful for! We’ve spent the weekend at my brother’s cottage up in the Muskoka’s and it was lovely even if the weather was not. Over the years we’ve had so many different experiences, from shorts n’T boat rides, to chilly walks in the country to snow flurries! Yes indeed, snow flurries. In October! This year there wasn’t snow but it was rainy and chilly, perfect for staying inside by a roaring wood fire and perhaps baking a thing or two!

When I first made these bars I wasn’t able to source puffed quinoa, even-so the original bar was tasty and full of texture. Since that first time, I have been able to source puffed quinoa as well I’ve made some other adjustments to the recipe: I replaced brown sugar with coconut sugar and have omitted the chocolate chips adding vanilla extract instead. Also, I added egg whites as the binder so it’s not as crumbly as the first go round. If you’re so inclined, you can dip one half into good quality dark chocolate.

These are crunchy bars.

These are crunchy bars.

Puffed Quinoa Bars

Makes 1  33 cm x 23 cm (9″ x 13″) pan of bars about 1 cm or 1/2″ thick.

Ingredients:

  • 60 g (2 cups) commercially puffed quinoa (like puffed rice)
  • 140 g (1 cup) unsalted sunflower seeds, slightly roasted in a frying pan
  • 180 g (2 cups) uncooked oatmeal, old-fashioned or instant
  • 45 g (1/4 cup) partly ground flax seeds
  • 60 g (1/2 cup) dried cranberries or other dried fruit
  • 120 g (1/2 cup) coconut sugar
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) agave syrup or honey
  • 30 mL (2 tbsp) molasses
  • 60 mL (4 tbsp) egg whites
  • 15 mL (1 tbsp) vanilla
  • 63 mL (1/4 cup) water
  • 2 mL (1/2 tsp) salt

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350° F (177° C ).
  2. Prepare a 33 cm x 23 cm (9″ x 13″) pan by lining it with parchment paper, enough to have the sides come up as handles.
  3. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Combine wet ingredients and whisk thoroughly to combine.
  4. Pour into the dry ingredients into the wet and mix well (I used a very large bowl with a wooden spoon). You want to make sure that everything is coated with the wet ingredients.
  5. Pour the combined ingredients into the prepared pan and press evenly into all corners (I used a glass as a rolling pin). Bake for about 20 minutes.
  6. Carefully remove from the pan with the parchment handles onto a cutting board and cut into 20 bars. Place onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and continue to bake for 12 minutes or until lightly browned. I wanted a crunchy bar and not a soft chewy one, if you would prefer a soft chewy bar, skip this bake step.
  7. Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.

Notes:

Depending on how dry your house is, you may need to adjust the wet ingredients as the final product can be a bit crumbly.

A delicately flavoured energy bar.

A delicately flavoured energy bar.

1 bar serving (recipe makes 20 Bars)

1 bar serving (recipe makes 20 Bars)

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Many years ago my family lived in an apartment building on the second floor and my parents became friends with the couple across the hall who had three kids. They were from Chile and the husband/dad worked for Motorola and was transferred to Canada (I believe he was an electrical engineer but I can’t be sure because I was only 8). The kids were, Edward, Malu and Christina; my brother fell in love with Christina (the youngest) and asked for her hand in marriage — they were 6 years old. Edward was my age but we were never interested in each other, after all, he was a creepy boy and I was certain he had couties! Malu was a year younger than I and we became friends. We were family friends for several years…7 or 8 I believe, and one day we came home to find that they had moved out without a single word or forwarding address. We haven’t seen them since. How weird is that? Have you ever had such a strange experience?

My dear Mom was always ready to try anything and when the opportunity arose, she would arrange to swap dinners with her Chilean friend. Mom also did that with an Indian friend and a Jamaican friend! This was our introduction to the family love of food. My Mom’s Chilean friend made us Empanadas which are a South American meat patty, often changed up from country to country by the spices added and the type of meat used. Last year when we were in D.C., we had Empanadas at a great little Spanish restaurant and they put their own twist into this delicious patty…they added soft cheese! Boy was it good. It was deep fried and the casing was soft and crispy and the centre filled with wonderfully spiced ground meat and a delicious soft cheese. When I realized that in my 7 years of blogging, I have never posted an Empanada recipe I decided that it was darn time! Shame on me because they are so easy to make and freeze very well. Pop a couple into the oven or microwave and you’ve got a delightful snack or appetizer or light lunch.

A couple of weeks ago, our lovely neighbours invited us for a tapas cocktail afternoon and she made a version of Empanada that got my attention (with chorizo) but for this recipe I shall post my dear Mom’s traditional Chilean friend version for the  filling. To be honest, I never really liked Mom’s recipe for the pastry so I made my neighbours pastry recipe instead and I think it’s pretty darn perfect. The pastry is a cross between bread dough and pie crust; the exterior is firm but the texture when you bite into it has some elasticity so the patty doesn’t fall apart. This time I made small one-bite sized patties and a slightly larger 3-4 bite luncheon patties. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

Empanadas2 It’s an optical illusion, the front ones are about half the size of the back ones!

Empanadas

Makes about 48  mini 5cm (2 inch) Empanadas AND 32 larger 15 cm (3.5 inch)

Ingredients, filling:

  • 1 kg ground meat (could be mixed veal with pork and beef)
  • 5 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1 cup chopped black olives
  • 1 cup of golden raisins
  • 2 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp paprika (sweet or smoked)
  • Salt to taste (but be careful because the olives are quite salty)
  • 1 ball of fresh mozzarella or Manchego, cut into 1 cm (1/2 inch pieces)

Directions, filling:

  1. Heat oil in a large dutch oven. Cook onions until soft.
  2. Add the spices and heat until you can JUST smell them.
  3. Braise the meat until completely cooked, add the raisins. and the chopped black olives.
  4. Allow to cool completely before filling dough.

Ingredients, dough:

  • 6 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs beaten with about 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup sesame seeds for garnish

Directions, dough:

  1. Pre heat oven to 375°F.
  2. Combine all dough ingredients until it forms a soft dough (kitchenaid is fine).
  3. Roll out dough to about 1mm thick (I used the #3 setting on my pasta maker) and cut with a round cookie cutter (small 1 bite size should be no larger than 5 cm or 2 inches and larger luncheon versions should be about 15 cm or 3.5 inches).
  4. Brush some of the egg wash all around the edge of each circle. Into the centre of each dough circle, add about 1‐2 tbsp meat mixture, making sure you have some raisins and olives in each circle. Add one square of cheese per round.
  5. Fold dough over filling so it is a crescent and seal the edges.
  6. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush each crescent top with the egg wash for shine and sprinkle with sesame seeds or Parmesan cheese.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until lightly golden. Serve warm and enjoy with a bit of jam or compote or mustard.
    They are pretty darn tasty. They are pretty darn tasty.

Notes:

  • These freeze very well, just pop them into a zip-lock baggy and freeze, use one at a time or as needed.
  • The recipe may be successfully halved or quartered.
  • If you don’t like black olives, leave them out, same with raisins but you will miss the salty and sweet combination.
  • We used fresh mozzarella because we could not find Manchego cheese. Regular mozzarella may be too hard so I would avoid it.
  • In hindsight, the cheese almost completely melted out of the empanada, so next time I doubt I’ll add it.
  • May 2017 update to recipe;
    • I increased the liquid measurement in the dough by 1/4 cup each.
    • JT wanted larger empanadas, so I used #1 on the pasta maker and a 10 cm (4 inch) diametre cookie cutter to make more luncheon-sized versions. We got about 35 out of the batch, but had a bit of the meat mix left over.

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Baked Onion_3

It’s like a globe of caramelized deliciousness.

I’ve been having so much fun and yes, it’s work and it’s wonderful. I even have a real styling gig booked and I’m super excited about it…5-6 solid days. It’ll be grueling  because we’re shooting around 50 shots in a week! I’ve already practiced some of the dishes to make sure the day goes smoothly. It’s for a line-up of proteins for home meal replacements using 9  fully cooked products in 4-5 applications each. I had to come up with the usage suggestions based on the client’s parameters (I actually had to come up with 10 each – 90 in total and from the 10, they selected 4-5 that I’m making during that week). It was fun but challenging in coming up with the ideas because I didn’t want just ordinary options. They all had to be relatively easy to put together, few ingredients that “Mom” would have easy access to and meals that come together in less than 30 minutes because “Mom” is super busy.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share a couple of photos that although I was assisting, the wonderful stylist allowed me to style entirely on my own. They were published this past spring by Viva Magazine Online.

Foodfeature_viva_spring2014-2

Rustic Breakfast Pizza

Foodfeature_viva_spring2014-7

These were incredibly delicious.

This is a pdf of the Foodfeature_viva_spring2014, we did all the food in this issue. I cooked most of it and the food stylist plated it, the only one I had next to nothing to do with was the duck confit. The photographer is Arash Moallemi, please click here to see his work.

I don’t often get the pleasure of watching specialty cable channels like Food Network Canada because we cancelled our cable service 2 years ago and now use a digital antenna. I could go on line to watch, but many of these channels now put advertising into the shows and you are unable to fast forward like the old VCRs and I no longer have the patience to watch it through. About 2 weeks ago, I was at someone’s house with cable TV and we watched Laura Calder’s French Food at Home. She made a few recipes that I would consider ‘keepers’ but this one really stood out for me so I made it at the cottage as a light lunch and rest assured I will be making this beautiful dish again and again. Next time, it’ll be an appetizer for a dinner party. I hope you enjoy it, it infuses the house with a gorgeous fragrance as it bakes and because it bakes on such a low setting, it won’t warm up your house in the middle of the summer. I hope you enjoy it too. Please click here for the original recipe because I made some alterations.

Baked Onions with Dijon Tarragon Vinaigrette

Makes 4 whole onions, serves 4.

Ingredients:

  • 4 ordinary cooking onions
  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp mayo
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp olive oil from roasting the onions
  • 1 tsp finely chopped tarragon
  • Good grind each of pepper and sea salt

Directions:

  1.  Pre-heat the oven to 425 F.
  2. Add 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil to a small Dutch oven.
  3. Remove only the exterior skin of each onion and cut the stem side flat. You want some skin left on the onion for presentation. Sprinkle with sea salt.
  4. Nestle the onions into the olive oil and bake uncovered  for 15 minutes at 425 F.
  5. Lower the oven temperature to 250F and cover the dutch oven with a lid or foil. Continue to bake for 2-3 hours or until the onion is extremely soft.
  6. Combine the white wine vinegar, mayo, Dijon mustard and olive oil and whisk well. Stir in the chopped tarragon and a good grinding of salt and pepper.
  7. Spoon a little bit of the baked olive oil in the centre of a plate. Put each onion on top of the baked olive oil.
  8. Cut the onion skins in about 4 places and peel back to reveal the creamy goodness. Drizzle the tarragon dressing over each serving.
  9. Serve warm with Crostini or just as is and wait for the accolades!

Baked Onion_1

The onion breaks down and becomes wonderfully soft and sweet.

 

Baked Onion_2

We were at the lake when I made them.

Notes:

  • Laura cautioned against using olive oil because she didn’t want the flavour to over power the delicate sweetness of the onion, I did not find that it did.
  • Laura placed her onions on little piles of sea salt, I didn’t have any so I did not employ that method.
  • Laura used a raw egg in her dressing, I used a tablespoon of mayo instead.
  • The baked olive oil is packed with flavour so save the left overs to make a very yummy salad dressing.
  • An additional serving suggestion is to serve it with a Gruyère crisp but I didn’t have Gruyère  at the lake.

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At the cottage we like to sit back and relax, put up our feet, read a good novel, scan some trashy magazines and on occasion have been known to enjoy a cocktail or two ;-). Simple is usually what I lean toward because of the effort one needs to make to bring everything up for the weekend. I know I’ve posted a guacamole recipe before (here and here) and even got flak for calling this one mocamole, but I thought I’d share a super simple rustic version made with the ripest avocado for a light snack at the cottage. This recipe has only 5 ingredients and you need only one bowl, a fork and a knife to make it. See, I told you it was simple.

Guacamole2

This dip comes together very quickly; I disappeared for less than five minutes to make it, our guests were surprised I made it from scratch so quickly!

Super Simple Guacamole

Makes about 3/4 to 1 cup of dip but it depends entirely how big your avocado is

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1-2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 5 small grape tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro and a sprig or two for garnish

Directions:

  1. Scoop out the flesh from the avocado, no need to be gentle as you will mash it with a fork.
  2. Mash the avocado with a fork (I told you so).
  3. Add the garlic and the lime juice and mix well.
  4. Fold in the chopped tomatoes and cilantro.
  5. Garnish with cilantro.
  6. Serve with celery sticks, cucumber rings, or crackers.

Guacamole

I love that mashing with a fork still leaves you with some lovely, creamy chunks of avocado.

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I developed this recipe in the mid 2000’s and for a brief second I thought I would take it to market, but I blinked and lost my window of opportunity when I noticed other gourmet flatbread/crackers selling for $9.00 a box! Damn. Anyway, I’m going to share it with you again because I’ve modified it over the years. It’s really so easy to make and takes such little time and effort that I basically throw it together on the day that I need it. You can leave them flat and break the crisp flatbread by hand to give it more of an artisan look; for this photo I cut them with a pizza cutter, just eye-balling and cutting directly on my cookie sheets before baking (don’t cut on non-stick cookie sheets, you don’t want to damage the surface).

Whole Wheat Oat Crackers with Flax

Makes enough for 4 people for cocktails

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup oatmeal
  • 1/4 cup ground and whole flax seeds (a mix 2/3-1/3 is nice)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup black and white sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup warm water (plus)

Flavourings: add as desired (not all of them)(pictured recipe has no flavourings other than sesame seeds)

  • 2 tbsp paprika (smoked is good), or
  • 2 tbsp cumin, or
  • 2 tbsp curry, or
  • 1/4 cup dehydrated onion flakes ground finely (not onion salt), or
  • 1/4 cup dehydrated garlic flakes ground finely (not garlic powder or garlic salt).

Directions:

  1. Pre heat oven to 177° C or 350° F.
  2. Sift all dry ingredients (including flavorings of your choice) together into heavy duty mixer with a dough hook.
  3. Add the oatmeal and mix. Slowly add the water with the mixer on low and mix until the result is a nice smooth ball of dough
  4. Generously dust your rolling surface with flour. Cut about 1 cm (1/2 inch) thick chunks of dough and roll out with a wooden rolling pin until the dough is thin enough to go through the largest gap in your pasta maker. Run this dough through gently until your desired thickness is achieved (I go to #4, it makes a very nice thin but not too delicate cracker).
  5. Cut into triangles (like I did on this batch) or simply bake in the sheets that come out of the pasta maker and roughly break into smaller pieces when done.
  6. Bake for about 10 minutes until golden brown and crispy. Cool and enjoy!

WW_Crackers_2468

These thin crackers can hold a lot of dip without breaking.

WW_Crackers_2466

Tasty treats.

Notes:

  • I use my Kitchenaid Pasta roller attachment because it makes all the crackers the same even thickness and I am able to whip up a batch in less than 30 minutes baking included!
  • Make sure you run the dough through a couple of times on each thickness so that the larger seeds get gently flattened so they don’t clog the machine and tear the dough.

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I found this clever idea in the latest LCBO magazine. My vases were a little smaller than the idea in the magazine so some of my tulips had to stick out at the top.

I found this clever idea in the latest LCBO magazine. My vases were a little smaller than the idea in the magazine so some of my tulips had to stick out at the top.

Recently, we hosted a dinner party for guests who were doing Weight Watchers and because I don’t like to sabotage anyone’s journey to a healthy weight I decided to make the entire meal WW friendly and that meant putting my thinking cap on.  Now I don’t know about you, but I adore guacamole, it’s so creamy, fresh and tangy and it really enhances a few dishes as a condiment but may also be used as a wonderful dip with fresh vegetables!

Now I know what many of you will say, “but wait, avocados are a good fat” and while that is very true, it’s all about balance and budget so if you can save a little here you can spend it there (perhaps on an extra glass of vino?), is all I’m saying!

Before I even searched on line, I had the idea of creating a mockamole from spinach. Why spinach? I chose spinach because #1 it’s a gorgeous green and you can purée it smooth uncooked and #2 it fits well into the WW point system.  Once I determined what my basic ingredients would be, I started to search “mockamole” on the net and found that the majority of them are made with green peas. Now green peas are quite healthy but when I did the nutritional calculation using peas, my 1 tablespoon mockamole resulted in 1 WW point whereas my spinach mockamole resulted in 0 points for 1 tablespoon. So that was it.

Guacamole is a simple yet flavourful combination of ingredients and other than subbing out the avocado, I kept it pretty true to form. I used 4 tablespoons of cooked puréed navy beans as my ‘creamy’ ingredient and it worked out great. I loved the bright green colour as well as the bright flavours in this recipe. JT said it was an excellent substitute for real guacamole! It’s quite garlic-y so if it’s date night, you may wish to tone it down a notch or make sure your partner has some too ;-)!

Mockamole_2308

May I interest you in a little dip?

Mockamole (Spinach ‘guacamole’)

Makes about 3/4 cup.

Ingredients:

  • 100 g fresh spinach (may be frozen)
  • 4 tbsp navy bean paste (see notes)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) lime juice
  • 1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tbsp green onion, finely chopped
  • Cilantro or parsley for garnish
  • Chopped tomatoes (optional)

Directions:

  1. If using frozen spinach, wring out well. If using fresh spinach, wash and dry well.
  2. Combine the spinach, navy bean paste, garlic, lime juice and cilantro in a small food processor and process until very smooth (I found my immersion blender did this beautifully). Fold in chopped tomatoes if you are adding them.
  3. Add chopped green onion and garnish with a sprig of cilantro. Serve with cucumber slices, celery sticks or cauliflower florets or use in a meal that requires guacamole as a condiment.

Mockamole_2310

Choose vegetables that hold onto the dip like a spoon!

Mockamole_2303

The cooked puréed beans give this dip its creamy texture.

Mockamole_2306

Who are you calling “dip”?

Per 1 tbsp serving

1 tbsp serving

Per 1 tbsp per serving.

1 tbsp serving.

Notes:

  • Navy bean purée: I usually make up a batch of plain navy beans for thickening soups, sauces and gravies and then freeze for later use. Cook navy beans in water without salt. Purée and press through a fine sieve. Allow to cool completely and put 1 tbsp portions into an ice cube tray (specifically for savoury things) and freeze. Once frozen, take each cube and put it into a larger ziplock bag and that way you have a creamy gluten-free thickening agent for future recipes.
  • If you add too much liquid to the puréed spinach mix, strain for a couple of hours in a coffee filter reserved for savoury things before serving.
  • To blanch spinach quickly, add spinach to a heat proof bowl with about 1/2 cup water and nuke for about 2-4 minutes until soft. Rince with cold water and wring out well.

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JalopenoCornbread_2215

This is the best Jalopeño Cornbread EVER.

Everyone has a favourite corn bread recipe, this one is mine. It came from an 80’s trendy restaurant called Fred’s Not Here in the theatre district in Toronto. I qualify that it was trendy in the 80’s because although it is still around, I haven’t been to it since the 80’s so I’m not certain it’s ‘trendy’ any more. I do know that the particular strip that this and many other restaurants reside on are fighting for their lives from being re-zoned and torn down to be made into condos. Like Toronto needs more condos; apparently we have the most condos under construction in all of North America, more than New York, Chicago and Boston, believe it or not. Even if you don’t believe that, surely you must believe that this is absolutely the best corn bread recipe EVER! It’s got great texture (thank you cheddar cheese), a slight sweetness and heat. What more can you want?

Originally posted on this blog in 2009 here, I found this recipe in the Toronto Star in the section that people wrote in and asked the Star to print a recipe from a specific restaurant. It wasn’t me who wrote in, obviously someone else also thought it was the best cornbread ever, so you needn’t take my word for it. I still have the original printed recipe. But I’ve immortalized it for you here and reposted it below because the original photo sucked. These are better.

Fred’s Not Here Jalapeño Corn Bread

Makes about 26 small corn-shaped corn breads. I have altered the original recipe, so if you’d prefer the actual Fred’s Not Here version, please click to my original post here.

JalopenoCornbread_2211

OK, you caught me, I didn’t have jalopeños, I only had hot Thai Chilies!

Ingredients:

  • 1  1/4 cups finely ground corn meal (not corn flour)
  • 1  1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1  1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1  1/2 cups milk
  • 2 tbsp finely diced jalapeños or hot chili peppers (or more if you really like it hot!)
  • 2 finely sliced green onions
  • 1  1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Pre heat oven to 400° F.
  2. Sift cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Stir in the shredded cheese.
  3. Blend eggs, milk and oil in another bowl. Add the finely diced jalapeños and green onion.
  4. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients and stir well to combine.
  5. Spray your cast iron corn shaped pan with non-stick spray and pre-heat until smoking.
  6. Spoon batter into smoking hot moulds and bake for 25 minutes or until firm and golden.
  7. Serve warm or at room temperature with fresh butter.

Notes:

  • In a pinch I’ve used dried chili flakes, it works very well.
  • You can substitute honey for the granulated sugar, but I haven’t tried it.
  • Keep your eye on the baking after the first couple of pans because the pan gets hotter; I had to reduce my baking time by a minute or so by the end.
  • Fill the cavity only to the top, this batter has a lot of leavening and will fill out very nicely.
  • I served it with this Sopa Azteca and it was very successful.

FredsNotHereCornbreadNut

Based on 1 cornbread.

FredsNotHereCornbreadWW

Based on 1 cornbread.

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I made these beautiful, heart shaped hors d’œuvres for Valentines day and I thought I’d share the simple recipe with you because making heart shaped hors d’œuvres shouldn’t be reserved for one day of the year! The fussiest thing about this recipe is cutting out the heart shapes from the smoked salmon. But you needn’t fuss at all, just piece the smoked salmon on the rice and cut out easy rectangles using a sharp knife! I ended up using a knife along the outer edge of a heart-shaped cookie cutter and assembling the salmon on top of the cut rice. Want to make it even easier? You can also purchase ready-made wasabi mayo.

SmokeSalmonHearts_2108

Choose a heart-shaped cookie cutter that is one bite.

Smoked Salmon Sushi Hearts

Makes about 16 bite-sized hearts, but it will depend on size of your hearts

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sushi rice, cooked to package directions
  • 1 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
  • 100 g smoked salmon
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp wasabi paste, or to taste

Directions:

  1. Mix the rice vinegar into the hot rice and set aside to cool completely.
  2. Line a 25 cm or 10 inch square cake pan with plastic wrap overhanging two opposing sides. Press the cooled cooked rice evenly into the pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to set in shape.
  3. In the meantime, combine the mayonnaise and wasabi paste and mix throughly. Refrigerate.
  4. Take the plastic wrap overhanging sides and lift the rice out of the pan onto a cutting board. Remove plastic wrap.
  5. On another cutting board, take a slice of smoked salmon and press your heart shaped cookie cutter into it, if it doesn’t cut through completely, use a sharp knife to cleanly cut the heart shape using the cookie cutter as your guide. Repeat as many times as you have smoked salmon. Remember that you can piece together a large enough block of smoked salmon to cut more hearts out.
  6. Once you have exhausted the smoked salmon, cut as many hearts out from the rice as you have salmon hearts; you can also reuse the left over rice bits to make additional rice hearts. Assemble by placing the smoked salmon heart directly on top of the rice heart, lining up as best you can.
  7. Dot a single dot of the wasabi mayo in the centre of the heart. Serve immediately, or refrigerate covered with plastic wrap so that the rice doesn’t dry out.

SmokeSalmonHearts_2115

The wasabi mayo is a lovely bit of heat

Directions for Rectangles:

  1. Mix the rice vinegar into the hot rice and set aside to cool completely.
  2. Line a 25 cm or 10 inch square cake pan with plastic wrap overhanging two opposing sides. Press the cooled cooked rice evenly into the pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to set in shape.
  3. In the meantime, combine the mayonnaise and wasabi paste and mix throughly.
  4. Take individual sheets of smoked salmon and piece it on top of the rice while still in the pan, overlapping slightly so that there aren’t any holes. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  5. Take the plastic wrap overhanging sides and lift the rice out of the pan onto a cutting board. Remove plastic wrap.
  6. Using a ruler or straight edge, cut even rectangles and dot each one with the wasabi mayo (you may need additional wasabi mayo for this)

Or take the easy route and cut out little rectangles instead of hearts!

My friend Susan made these for a pot luck dinner we had in November last year. I liked them so much I knew I had to make them sometime!

SmokeSalmonHearts_2109

The little hearts are very festive, but you needn’t reserve them for Valentine’s Day.

The nutrition is based on 2 hearts per serving.

The nutrition is based on 2 hearts per serving.

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