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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 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:

  1. 6 cups all purpose flour
  2. 4 eggs
  3. 1/4 cup milk
  4. 1/4 cup olive oil
  5. 4 tsp baking powder
  6. 4 tsp salt
  7. 2 eggs beaten with about 1/4 cup water
  8. 1 cup sesame seeds for garnish

Directions, dough:

  1. Pre heat oven to 350°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 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden. Serve warm and enjoy withabitofjamorcompote.

    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.
Empanada and salad1

They make a perfect lunch or light snack.

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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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