Archive for the ‘Snacks’ Category

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


  • 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


  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.


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.


  • 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.


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)


  • 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


  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.

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


  • 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.


  • 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


  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.


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.


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


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:

  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.


  • 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.


Rustic Breakfast Pizza


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.


  • 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


  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.


  • 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.


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


  • 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


  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.

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


  • 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).


  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!

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


Tasty treats.


  • 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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