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Archive for the ‘Snacks’ Category

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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