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FrenchOnionSoup_First

Recently we had some good friends for Brunch and my friend Angela told me how she makes the most delicious vegetable stock from vegetable trimmings. Of course, this isn’t the first time I’d heard of this frugal stock but to be honest, I was skeptical on how good it would be — stock from trimmings? That’s bunny food! I’ve been using roast chicken carcass for soups for a few years now but I’ve never jumped into the compost bin head first to make this vegetable stock before. Angela and her husband were quite convincing on how good this stock is, so I decided to give it a try.

My first attempt was a simple stock using vidalia onion skins, garlic skins, eggplant ends, zucchini ends, celery leaves, cilantro stems and green onion ends. I made sure to wash the skins very well and tossed them into a large stock pot with enough water to cover. I tossed in a tiny bit of salt and boiled, then I reduced to a simmer for about 4 hours. WOW! I can’t tell you how good this was! For a lunch, I simply sautéed more zucchini, eggplant, onions, garlic and celery and ladled the “Compost Stock” over it and drizzled it with parmesan cheese, boy was it GOOD!

When I saw how dark and rich the onion skins made the stock, I thought: why not make a French Onion Soup from it (we’ve made French Onion Soup here and here and here before)? And that is the way this recipe came about. It’s so easy and inexpensive that I urge you to try it. You can make it vegan by omitting the cheese or just use vegan cheese (not sure how good that could be!). And if you’re looking to save a few calories, omit the croutons and the cheese.

JT tried it and could not believe it was made with onion skins and caramelized onions, no stock at all — verdict, he loved it. For this version, we saved around $4 because I usually use an organic beef stock or sometimes I even roast some beef bones which would have saved us $6.00)!

Veg FrenchOnionSoup

Would you like a bowl?

A Vegetarian French Onion Soup

A Kitchen Inspirations Original Recipe.

Makes 1.5 L (6.25 cups) of soup

Ingredients:

  • 3 large organic Vidalia onions, including skins
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 4 L (roughly 4 quarts) water
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 100 g (3.5 oz) Gruyère cheese, grated (omit if vegan or vegetarian)
  • croutons, enough to fill 2 French Onion Soup bowls

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 250°F (121° F).
  2. Wash outer skin of the onions well. Peel onions, add skins with the bay leaves and salt to a large stock pot with 4L (4 quarts) water in it. Stir and bring to a boil then turn down and simmer for 2-3 hours.
  3. Slice onions very thinly on a mandoline (any larger bits that can’t be sliced, just add to the onion skin stock pot).
  4. Heat olive oil to a large Dutch oven and once hot (but not smoking) add onions; sweat onions until translucent and just beginning to caramelize (about 20 minutes). Add the white balsamic vinegar and stir well. Cover with a piece of parchment (as illustrated below) and bake for 2-3 hours at 250° F (121° C) or until golden and fully caramelized.
  5. When stock is a rich, dark colour strain through a fine sieve to remove skins and bits and finally through a very fine sieve to remove any fine particles (I use a reusable coffee filter). Combine stock with caramelized onions and heat through. Taste for seasonings and add salt and pepper as required.
  6. Plate in French onion soup bowls with croutons and mounds of Gruyère cheese, broil so it’s all melty and bubbly and serve hot!
  7. For a vegetarian or vegan version, omit the cheese or use vegan cheese.
parchment2

Parchment cover for the onions

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Based on 4 servings per batch without the Gruyère and croutons

Based on 4 serving per batch, without the Gruyère and crouton

Based on 4 serving per batch, without the Gruyère and crouton

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CreamedLentilSoup_First
Lunch in my new freelance reality is often something simple like cauliflower florets with a homemade bean dip but these last few weeks have made me crave soup like nothing else. Often I have something frozen that I can thaw on the range or in the microwave at a moment’s notice but because I had a head cold, I totally exhausted my stash. No canned soups here, homemade is way too easy!

We always have a pantry-full of dried beans and pulses, but as usual, I forgot to soak my beans so I used the next best thing and what I’d consider “instant” — the old standby, red lentil (they are Australian! Who knew?) The red lentil cooks up quickly and has a mild earthy flavour that takes to being flavoured with other vegetables and spices. I also noticed that I was very short in other ingredients so this soup was dictated by what was on hand, a few button mushrooms, onions, garlic and about 1 celery rib. JT loved it, as did I so I was very glad I had the forethought of jotting down the ingredients as I made up a batch. I netted about 600 mL which makes for a hearty meal for two but can be served as smaller portions for four as a starter. Definitely going to bookmark this one for the future, it’s a keeper!

Creamed Lentil Soup with Warm Goats Cheese & Mushroom Relish

A Kitchen Inspirations Original Recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried red lentils
  • 1 celery rib, chopped
  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp EVOO
  • 4 cups water or vegetable stock

Directions:

  1. Heat the EVOO in a small Dutch oven, add the celery, onion and garlic, sauté until soft and onions are transluscent.
  2. Add the lentils and sauté for a moment, add the water and stir well.
  3. Cook the lentils over medium heat until soft. Transfer to a glass bowl and purée until smooth and creamy with an immersion blender. Set aside while making the warm relish.
  4. Garnish with crumbled herbed goats cheese and warm csramelized mushrooms.

Ingredients for the Warm Relish:

  • Handful of button mushrooms, cubed very small
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 2 tbsp herbed goats cheese

Directions for the Warm Relish:

  1. Melt the butter in a small cast iron frying pan, add the mushrooms and sauté until caramelized. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Garnish soup as indicated above.
A comforting, smooth, filling soup with some great flavours.

A comforting, creamy, filling soup with some great flavours.

Notes:

  • The herbed goats cheese was something I had on hand from another dish, it is simply softened goats cheese, finely chopped parsley, thyme and sun dried tomatoes, sea salt combined.
  • Feel free to substitute plain goats cheese, crème fraîche, sour cream or Greek yogurt.
  • I usually press a soup like this through a fine sieve but did not feel it necessary this time, it was super creamy and smooth.
  • I would have loved to garnish with some finely chopped fresh herbs but sadly my herb garden was put to rest a few weeks ago.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 3.51.27 PM

Based on 4 servings, without mushroom & goats cheese relish.

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Based on 4 servings, without mushroom & goats cheese relish.

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CoconutPumpkinSoup_first

Sorry guys, I’m a day late with this post…it’s been a little busy!

It’s definitely fall up here in the big smoke; the weather went from 25°-30° C (77°-86° F) to 5°-10° C (41°-50° F). That’s chilly. Mind you, it would help if I started wearing socks in my shoes, I just can’t bear that claustrophobic feeling my tootsies get all confined in socks/shoes/boots. How about you, do you dread confining your dogs in socks and shoes?

This soup came about because I bought a couple of smallish pie pumpkins for social media; I actually carved a client’s logo into one of the pumpkins! It turned out really well and I had an entire pie pumpkin left over. Then I got two more social media clients (bittersweet, story to come) who sells Caribbean food and sauces so I was dying to try their organic coconut milk! I checked my dear friend Lorraine’s blog for an easy pumpkin roasting technique and a delicious starter was born for thanksgiving dinner. This soup would be lovely with butternut squash if pumpkins aren’t in season. I suggest smallish portions (125 mL or 1/2 c) because it’s quite rich.

Coconut Pumpkin Soup

Makes about 875 mL (3.5 cups) depending on how thick you wish to have it.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small pumpkin, oven roasted
  • 1/2 onion, oven roasted
  • 2 cloves garlic, oven roasted
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 3/4 c coconut milk
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • Pinch of nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Pre heat oven to 350° F (177° C). Prepare pumpkin as Lorraine does in this post. Lightly coat onions and garlic with the coconut oil. Roast until soft.
  2. When Pumpkin is cooked through, onions and garlic are soft, add pumpkin flesh, onions and garlic to a blender contain with the vegetable stock, coconut milk, banana, curry powder, ginger and a pinch of nutmeg. Pulse blender until completely smooth. Set aside.
  3. Minutes prior to serving, re heat soup and pulse in blender once more to ‘lighten’. Serve immediately.
CoconutPumpkinSoup_7011

The banana adds a very subtle flavour, try not to overdo it as it will overpower the soup.

Notes:

  • Sadly cottage season is over and we’ve closed it down.
  • The banana is an interesting undertone, omit if you don’t care for bananas.
  • To have a lighter soup, don’t use full fat coconut milk or reduce the amount and replace the difference with skim milk.
  • A seared scallop would be a wonderful garnish in this decadent soup.

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GuinessOnionSoup

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! 

Do you have any St. Patrick’s Day traditions? Years and years ago, my friend Barb (Profiteroles and Ponytails, on hiatus right now) used to drag us and a bunch of her buddies to some Irish pub uptown. It became quite the tradition, each year a different venu, drinking beer and getting silly (and by getting silly, I am specifically referring to the particularly exuberant cheers when we smashed our beer glasses and broke a few!). When she moved out west, we just stopped celebrating. Then about 6 years ago (actually, 6 years and 2 weeks), my dear friend and colleague Andy and his partner Mark opened an Irish Pub in Leslieville called The Roy Public House (named after Mark’s dad who passed a few years earlier) and ever since we’ve been celebrating this holiday with a beer or two there (I might add, with mature calmness!). I just love heading over to the east end of Toronto, the pub is always filled with locals and friends and it’s a great spot to catch up over a pint. The food is pretty tasty too, the Cobb Salad and the Half Pound Beef Dip are a couple of our favourites. If you’re ever in the big smoke, you MUST drop by and have a pint and grab a bite. This particular St. Patrick’s Day will be no different…sometime tomorrow afternoon we’ll pop over to The Roy and raise a glass or two in honour of St. Patrick.

Have you ever had a recipe in your head for months and months? This Irish inspired soup was something I had at a rather unassuming Irish pub in Barrie last fall…we were heading up to my brother’s cottage for Thanksgiving and our normal Sushi lunch place, just off the highway had unexpectedly closed down so we needed a new place, fast. We had been running late and were very hungry so we literally stopped at the first place we found in old downtown and what luck that we did. They have a chef who insists on house-made menu items and the Guinness Onion Soup is one of her specialties so I had to try it. It actually floored me on how delicious it was! The Guinness caramelizes the onions beautifully and brings a rich (not bitter) flavour to the soup — dare I say, even better than the traditional French Onion Soup. I had this soup in my head all winter long and knew eventually a recipe needed to be developed so what better time to develop it than for St. Patrick’s Day. Other than a little slicing, it’s a pretty easy recipe, I even made my own no knead bread (because JT was up at Limerick Township doing his Councillor duties!).

The recipe makes 1.75 L and it’s totally freezable (or you can have it for three lunches and three dinners like we did — I liked the soup THAT much).

GuinessOnionSoup2

The broth is a bit richer than traditional French Onion Soup

 

Guinness Onion Soup with Cheddar and Croutons

Makes 1.75 L (depending on how much you boil it down)

Ingredients:

  • 650 g sweet onions, finely sliced
  • 200 g leeks, finely sliced
  • 440 mL Guinness draft
  • Quick spray of canola oil
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup unpasteurized Apple Cider Vinegar 1 L beef stock
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup grated old cheddar per serving
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Sweat the onions and leeks in a large oven proof Dutch oven until translucent and have begun to caramelize (about 30 minutes).
  2. Pre-heat oven to 300° F (149° C)
  3. Add the Guinness and apple cider vinegar and bring to a boil. Add bay leaves and give it a stir.
  4. Cover with a loosely cut piece of parchment with a hole in the centre like the illustration and place in oven until onions are richly caramelized and Guinness has cooked down about 30-45 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and add 1 L of beef stock and bring back to a boil on the stove, taste and season now (keeping in mind that the cheddar will also add some saltiness).
  6. Create large homemade croutons from a couple of slices of no knead bread (cut into 2-3 cm (1″) cubes and toss with a little canola oil, toast until crispy all over.
  7. Ladle about 1 cup of soup into each pre-warmed bowl with a generous serving of cooked onions. Add broth to cover and sprinkle some grated cheddar over the onions. Add a few croutons and add more cheddar. Broil on high until cheese melts and is bubbly. Serve immediately, don’t stop to take photos.
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Notes:

  • There are a lot of onions in this version because I was looking for a hearty soup.
  • Notice I didn’t do the calorie calculation, there are some things we just don’t need to know.
  • The vinegar adds a little bite and bit of sweetness, if you don’t like my Onion Confit then omit it or add less (or even substitute a good, rich balsamic vinegar).

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RoastedTomatoSoup

This time of year, those of us who live in the northern hemisphere are not quite as fortunate as those who live in the southern hemisphere; I’m referring to being able to source the best produce, of course. Personally, I think tomatoes are the greatest disappointment by far (next to strawberries). More often than not, I bite into a tomato and taste nothing. Nadda. Mealy. Pasty. Nothing. This time of year, I tend to gravitate toward the best canned tomatoes, knowing that they were picked and packed at their prime. But somehow, when it comes to using the humble tomato as the main ingredient, the STAR as it were, I feel that canned just wouldn’t cut it and alternative measures must be taken.

Some of you who have been on this journey with kitcheninspirations will recall that I posted a rant and a solution about unseasonal tomatoes a few years ago (4 to be exact) and todays post is about a great use for those oven-dried tomatoes. Oven drying is a long procedure but well worth it, particularly because there is little to no effort involved. Just a few clicks on the hydro metre and you’re almost all the way to a delicious tomato recipe.

Roasted Tomato Soup

Serves 4-5 150-175 mL servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg (2.2 lbs) tomatoes ~ this doesn’t have to be precise (I used vine ripened)
  • 500 mL to 1 L chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
  • 6 cloves of garlic, roasted
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (or chicken stock stock)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 4 tbsp goats cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 tsp unflavoured yogurt

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 250° F (121° C).
  2. Remove all loose skin from each garlic clove, leaving the tight skin on. Place the cloves into a small ramekin and add about 2 tbsp olive oil and some sea salt. Cover with foil wrap and tuck into the corner of the oven. If you prefer not to bake the garlic at the same time as the tomatoes, you may roast the garlic in a 350° F (177° C) oven for 40-45 minutes or until soft.
  3. Wash and slice the tomatoes into thirds (believe me, the tomatoes lose a lot of water in the dehydration process so you must leave them THICK). Place cut side down on some paper towel for about a minute.
  4. Rub a cooling rack with a lightly oiled paper towel and place directly over a baking sheet (to catch any drippings).
  5. Arrange the tomatoes cut-side up on the prepared cooling rack and place in the centre of the pre heated oven. “Bake” for 4-5 hours until most of the moisture has been eliminated from the tomato.
  6. Once dehydrated, add all of the tomatoes and the roasted garlic (skin removed), baking soda into a heat-proof bowl and slowly add the stock. Blitz with the immersion (stick) blender until smooth, adding more chicken stock until the desired consistency has been achieved. Season with salt as desired.
  7. Push through a fine sieve and blitz once more for added creaminess.
  8. Combine the goats cheese and the yogurt and whip until fluffy. Set aside for serving.
  9. When ready to serve, heat the soup through and add a dollop of the goats cheese and yogurt into the centre. Serve piping hot.
RoastedTomatoSoup2

This thick, creamy soup is perfect for cold, snowy days. It would also be delicious chilled on a hot summers day.

Notes:

  • The addition of baking soda came from JT, he uses this trick in his delicious Chicken Cacciatore to quell the acidity of the tomatoes. It really brings out the tomatoes’ sweetness — try it instead of adding sugar!
  • I whipped the goats cheese with yogurt to make it easier to melt into the soup, we swirled it in and it was delicious.

Screen Shot 2015-01-25 at 10.05.29 AM Screen Shot 2015-01-25 at 10.06.12 AM

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This past weekend was unseasonably cold at the lake.

This past weekend was unseasonably cold at the lake.

A very dear friend of mine invited me to a taping of a daytime lifestyle show called Steven & Chris last week. It was their first show of their eighth season so it was very special, that’s a long time to be on a show and what’s even more impressive is that they’ve been life partners for 22 years! My friend has been a long-time fan of the show and has been to several tapings over the years so we got the VIP treatment; we were the first to be ushered into the studio and first to be seated (front row, no less). It was truly an action packed show of which I’ll share the details after it airs, but I will share a few pics.

This is an HD camera.

This is an HD camera.

Our very excitable Audience Coordinators.They knew my friend by name!

Our very energetic Audience Coordinators.They knew my friend by name!

An ussie. Yes, it's a new word.

An ussie. Yes, it’s a new word.

Steven is the handsome devil on the left and Chris is the cutie-pie on the right.

Steven is the handsome devil on the left and Chris is the cutie-pie on the right.

Chef Michael Smith is a special guest.

Chef Michael Smith is a special guest (centre)

My dear friend invited me to another taping on September 30 when the special guest is a World Famous Chef! But I can’t say who just yet! I’m so excited. Thanks so much Angela, I really appreciate that you chose me for these exciting events!

DeconstuctedFrOnSoup-1

A caramelized, baked onion in a bed of beef stock and a Gruyere tuille

Deconstructed French Onion Soup

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 ordinary cooking onions
  • 3 cups beef stock
  • a few stems of fresh tarragon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Please refer to this recipe on baking the onions and proceed to step 4.
  2. Lower the oven temperature to 250° F (121° C), add the beef stock, bay leaf and tarragon stems and cover the dutch oven with a lid or foil. Continue to bake for 2-3 hours or until the onions are extremely soft.
  3. To make the tuiles, line a baking sheet with parchment. Turn oven to broil, high heat. Pile 4 evenly spread circles of the grated Gruyere onto the baking sheet, about 5 cm or 2 inches apart. Broil on high until cheese is completely melted and begins to colour. Watch carefully as the cheese will burn very quickly. Remove from heat and place the parchment with cheese tuiles on a cooling rack and cool completely. When cooled, gently remove the tuiles and set aside.
  4. Discard the bay leaf. Remove onions from the beef stock and cut into the skins in quarters to reveal the soft centre. Remove the inedible onion skin. Place cut onions into the centre of a pretty bowl and ladle in a little stock. Garnish with the Gruyere tuille and the baked tarragon stems.
DeconstuctedFrOnSoup-2

It tastes just like French onion soup.

DeconstuctedFrOnSoup-3

I just can’t get enough of these tasty baked onions!

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A nice thick soup to help keep ourselves cool over the summer.

A nice thick soup to help keep ourselves cool over the summer.

Recently we had a half a watermelon left over from a weekend and I needed some space in the fridge for a styling gig so I had to do something with the watermelon, pronto! Summer was still in full swing so something cool and refreshing was on my mind. I’ve been seeing a lot of almond milk on the blog-o-sphere so I thought I’d like to get in on the band wagon and incorporate it into this soup. The almond meal adds some lovely texture and a subtle almond flavour, so I beefed it up with a small splash of pure almond essence. The yogurt make it very creamy and the basil and mint flavourings are just subtle background flavours. A sophisticated soup for a warm cottage evening.

This soup has body.

This soup has body.

Chilled Watermelon Gazpacho Scented with Almond, Basil and Mint

Serves 4 as appetizers

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 kg water melon
  • 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 tsp pure almond essence
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1 tbsp chopped basil
  • 1 tsp chopped mint
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Chop watermelon into a large bowl, add the almond flour, essence, yogurt and herbs. Blend until very smooth. Set aside in the fridge for 2-4 hours so the almond flour has time to absorb some liquid and thicken the soup.
  2. Blend again and press through a fine sieve. Serve chilled garnished with pomegranate seeds or more mint.

A brighter Watermelon Gazpacho can be found here.

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I’ve been doing quite a bit of recipe testing lately. It’s a lot of fun because many of the recipes are ones I wouldn’t normally try, so it pushes me to try and taste new things. One of the recipes needed baking potatoes but of a specific size so when I had some left over, I figured why not make soup (plus I had lots of stock left over too!)? I knew from past experience that if I called this Vichyssoise I would be lambasted because I didn’t use leeks nor did I use cream so, to nip it in the butt, I just called it Chilled Baked Potato Soup! 😛

I made this for lunch and I didn’t have anything else with it so I wanted it hearty. Add more stock if you don’t want it as thick.

ChilledBakedPotatoSoup_3123

JT: “It really does taste like a baked potato!”

A Room Temperature Baked Potato Soup

Makes about four servings 375 mL each (1 1/2 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 1 large baking potato, scrubbed clean
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock (or vegetable stock for vegetarians)
  • 1/4 strip of bacon, cooked until crispy, per serving (substitute with feta or crumbled vegan feta (recipe to come))
  • 1 tsp of sour cream or crême fraiche or Greek yogurt, per serving (or vegan sour cream)
  • 1 chopped green onion
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Pierce the baking potato with a fork (so it doesn’t explode) and wrap with parchment and then foil. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until a cake tester inserts easily.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small ramekin, add the garlic cloves (with skin on), the chopped onion and cover with 1/2 cup of chicken broth. Season with a little salt and cover the ramekin with foil. Bake along side the potato for 30-45 minutes or until the garlic is very soft.
  3. When the potato is done, cut in half and scoop out all of the flesh with a spoon into a glass bowl. Squeeze out the garlic cloves from their skin and add to the potatoes, pour in the chicken stock with the onions and salt into the potato mix. With your stick blender, purée adding stock until you achieve the consistency you want. Press through a fine sieve to ensure it’s silky smooth.
  4. Serve at room temperature (or reheat), garnished with 1 tsp sour cream, crumbled bacon and chopped green onion.
It really does taste like a baked potato!

A creamy, dreamy room temperature soup. No that’s not a fish bowl back there!

Notes:

  • I’m in the process of creating a recipe for vegan feta (a brined cheese) so stay tuned!
  • The soup definitely tastes better at room temperature rather than chilled, you get more of the potato flavour at room temperature.
  • If you heat the soup, add some grated cheddar on top, I didn’t because I thought it might be weird because it wouldn’t melt.
  • You may replace the stock for roasting the garlic with olive oil, I did not because I wanted it a bit healthier.
Based on 4 servings

Based on 4 servings

Using non-vegetarian ingredients

Using non-vegetarian ingredients

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I’ve been busy :-). You already know that I’m writing social media content for a marketing company’s food related client(s) and now they’ve up’d the ante and put me on contract to write for them, every month until September! Plus last week they’ve scored yet another food related client! YAY! I’m totally loving it, but it means even less time for blogging, boo. These days my mind is filled with possible posts and brand related photography for their posts and not mine…and then last week my recipe testing gig also started up again and I’ve been working hard at testing recipes for my recipe developer client. But I’m not complaining, just letting you know that I may not be by to comment on every post you make but I do read them (in the middle of the night) so know that I’m out there thinking of you ;-).

And my food styling is still going on, last week I actually styled (not assisted) for a shoot for my old (boss, friend, neighbour, Kim) and it was fantastic! Here’s a photo of the photographer and Kim as we wait for an approval for the shot from the client (not at the shoot).

Waiting for approval.

Waiting for approval.

Temperatures in Toronto and the cottage have been on the cooler side but it’s been incredibly humid; for example one day last week we had 98% humidity! That’s what we call close, one would comment that “it feels very close today.” I’m still not complaining because it’s not -25C and it’s not snowing…yet. But it does feel close!

We had a friend over for dinner and I wanted a refreshing starter for our dinner so I came up with this tasty soup. I know I’ve already posted about a chilled melon, kiwi and prosciutto soupbefore but this one is different. For vegetarians, I suggest you use feta instead of prosciutto for the saltiness.

HoneydewSoup_3058

Chilled Honeydew Melon Soup with Crême Fraiche and Prosciutto and frozen melon balls

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 800 g honeydew melon
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 75 g cucumber
  • Mint to taste
  • 1 large basil leaf
  • 3 tsp Crême fraiche
  • Frozen melon balls
  • 1 slice prosciutto, crispy fried

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients except the crême fraiche, frozen melon balls and prosciutto into your blender or immersion blender container and process until smooth.
  2. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  3. Make tiny little melon balls with a very small melon baller like this. Place on a piece of parchment and freeze for several hours.
  4. Garnish with frozen melon balls and crumbled crispy fried prosciutto or crumbled feta.

Notes:

  • Our melon was very sweet so we didn’t need to sweeten it further, but you may use honey to taste.
  • Vegetarians should replace the prosciutto with a very salty feta to get a similar profile.
  • Vegans could get a similar profile replacing the prosciutto with chopped sun-dried olives.
  • The frozen Mellon balls were made with this tiny melon baller

HoneydewSoup_3054

 

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The ice is melting. Thank God! We are so over winter. This past weekend was warm enough to walk outside in a light jacket and no hat (ok, I did start out wearing gloves, but took them off). The ground is defrosting and the air smelled like my childhood spring; do you remember that wet mud, musty smell? I don’t know about other ladies in our hemisphere but I’ve stopped wearing socks! There I said it. My poor dogs are so sick of being all locked up and claustrophobic in socks and boots that they needed to be liberated! Yes, they may still get a bit chilled at times, but I don’t care! I’m done. And sadly the start of this week is back down to 2C (xxF) so this soup post is not entirely outside of expectation even though it was made about a month ago.
This soup was a last minute St. Paddy’s Day effort to make something green for dinner and I dare say it turned out even better than expected, so here it is on the blog for posterity and for me so I remember to make it again (it was that good)! It’s so creamy and smooth you’d never guess there is no cream in it!

BroccoliSpinachSoup_2286

The smooth creamy texture makes you think it’s much more sinful than it is!

It’s a nice thick vegetable soup without cream or any type of starch in it. The beautiful green colour comes from purée-ing raw baby spinach leaves into the warm broccoli soup and blitzing it for about two to three minutes to get the creamy consistency you see, I didn’t even push it through a fine sieve. There is no butter nor cream but you can add a pinch if you’d like.

The garnish is oven dried baby spinach leaves which I was hoping to make into a post on their own, but alas they were far too delicate and did not make the test! But they do make a gorgeous garnish, n’est pas?

Broccoli and Spinach Soup

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch broccoli florets, including stems
  • 1 Vidalia onion, roughly chopped
  • 6-8 medium cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 3-4 cups water or stock
  • salt and white pepper to taste
  • 2 handfuls of baby spinach leaves, raw

Directions:

  1. Sauté the onion and garlic in a quick spray of non-stock or olive oil, adding water as needed until they are translucent. Add the broccoli florets and stems and cook stirring often until they are very tender. Add a couple of cups of water or stock and simmer for about 15 minutes.
  2. Pour contents into a heat proof beaker and purée using your immersion blender (or you may do this step in a regular glass blender). Purée for a minute or so and then  add the raw baby spinach and purée for another 2-3 minutes until very smooth. Salt and pepper to taste. Add more water or stock if you feel it’s too thick.
  3. Serve warm garnished with dried spinach leaves*.

Notes:

  • To oven dry spinach leaves: Pre-heat the oven to the lowest temperature, mine is 170°F. Take the largest leaves from the package of baby spinach and lay over a dry cooling rack making sure they do not overlap. Place in the warm oven and watch for 15-20 minutes until they are completely dry and crispy. This would also work wonderfully with basil leaves. This is a great alternative to deep frying them.
BroccoliSpinachSoup_2291

The bright green colour is attributed to the raw spinach that’s been puréed into the cooked broccoli soup. Do you think I have a thing for green?

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ChillyTemps_1842

-22°C is -7.6°F (wind chill: -38°C is -38.4°F)

We had some very cold weather in December and I know some of my dear readers are experiencing some very hot weather — I can’t say which I prefer more, but at least one can put a few more layers on in the cold, not much you can take off after you’ve taken it all off in the heat (or maybe that was a vision we didn’t need!). To help combat the chill over the holidays, I made a big batch of beef barley soup which we had for a lunch and then froze the remainder for quickie servings in the future; it’s always easier to eat healthful if you are armed with healthy food.

BeefBarleySoup_1846

A thick soup flavoured with lots of mushrooms and chunks of beef

Slow Cooker Beef Barley Soup

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sweet onions, finely chopped
  • 1 cup or 3 stalks celery, cubed
  • 3 cloves garlic finely minced
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 1 L Low Sodium beef stock
  • 5-7 dried  “fa goo” Chinese mushrooms, sliced (hydrated but save the liquid and strain it through a fine sieve)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 1″ sprig of rosemary, finely chopped
  • 400 g cubed beef (relatively small)
  • 1 1/4 cup sherry
  • 1-2 tsp canola oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste.
  • water, if necessary

Directions:

  1. Allow the beef cubes to come to room temperature. Preheat the slow cooker on high.
  2. Add 1-2 tsp canola oil to a hot cast iron dutch oven and brown the beef on all sides. Add to the slow cooker pot.
  3. In the same dutch oven, cook the onions until translucent, then add the garlic until fragrant. Stir in the pearl barley and toast for a few moments. Pour into the slow cooker with the beef. Add the beef stock to the slow cooker and give it a good stir.
  4. Deglaze the dutch oven with the sherry and add it to the slow cooker and add the bay leaf, thyme and finely chopped rosemary. Cook for 4-6 hours on low temperature or 3-4 hours on high.
  5. For the final hour, add the sliced hydrated mushrooms and the strained mushroom stock and give it a good stir.
  6. After the final hour, test the barley for doneness and soup for thickness, should you want a slightly less thick soup, add more water.
  7. Remove the bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper and serve with a dollop of fat free Greek Yogurt and a sprig of rosemary.
  8. Cool leftovers completely and pour into plastic containers for freezing.
BeefBarleySoup_1843

A nice dollop of fat free Greek Yogurt is always a nice addition. Of course the crostini with brie never hurts either!

Although December and January were very cold, in late January and early February we were bombarded with snow. A lot of snow, all at once. I know other parts of the world get snow, but this is a lot for us, particularly those of us living in the city with smaller lots which means we have a really hard time finding the space to shovel the snow off the sidewalks and driveways! Enjoy the photos below and just be grateful you didn’t have to shovel it.

Feb5Snow_2041

This snow mound is just about 1 metre high (39″)

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You can see how high the snow is piled from our gorgeous little tree!

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These are our Rose of Sharon ‘trees’. They are about 3 metres (10 feet) tall, but they just look like shrubs with the snow piled up to their canopy!

 

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My nephew Brian came for dinner in late January and it was a bitterly cold day so I thought starting out with a soup would be welcome. I’ve always enjoyed Italian Wedding Soup but recently had a very bad version while shopping in Buffalo which has jaundiced me from ordering it again at a restaurant, surprisingly it was in an Italian restaurant, but it was a chain, so I should have known better.

I have updated the traditional recipe using some unusual ingredients, I hope you’ll give it a try and let me know what you think. I ground my own beef and pork but you can easily buy already ground meat (extra lean of course). You’ll be surprised that I used puffed quinoa in the meatballs because I didn’t want to use bread crumbs or panko! Pretty clever don’t you think? I also used kale instead of the traditional spinach because I like the way kale holds up in a soup. Israeli couscous was my clever substitution for the pasta, it’s still pasta but I really liked the look of the balls in the soup.

ItalianWeddingSoup_1882

A flavourful broth with a variety of textures make this soup a welcome addition to my soup repertoire.

Italian Wedding Soup, my way

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup sweet onions, finely chopped
  • 1.5 g each of lean beef and pork
  • 1/3 cup puffed quinoa
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp freshly chopped oregano
  • 1/4 tsp each nutmeg, salt and freshly ground pepper (I use a mix of mainly white, s little black and a little red)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup Israeli Couscous
  • 1 1/2 L (about 1 1/2 qt) Home-made or Low Sodium Chicken stock
  • 1/2  (about 1 1/2 cups) large sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 bunch kale (about 4 cups) finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots (about 2-2 1/2 cups), cubed
  • 2 celery ribs (about 1 cup), cubed
  • 3 tsp canola oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • water, if necessary
  • 1 good size Parmesan rind

Directions:

  1. In a large, chilled metal bowl, combine the onion, beef and pork, puffed quinoa, parmesan cheese, oregano, nutmeg, salt and pepper and the lightly beaten egg. Shape into smallish meatballs and set on a cookie sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour.
  2. Pre heat the oven to 177° C 350°F. Heat a skillet with 1 tsp canola oil and fry each meatball to brown all sides in two batches. Use the second tsp of canola oil for the second batch. Replace on cookie sheet lined with clean parchment and bake the meatballs until done (about 30 minutes).
  3. Cook the Israeli Couscous as per package directions to al dente. Set aside.
  4. Pre heat a large soup pot with 1 tsp canola oil, sauté the sweet onion until translucent, add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add the chopped kale, carrots and celery and stir for about 4 minutes.
  5. Cover with chicken stock and top off with additional water if desired. Salt and pepper to taste. Add the Parmesan rind.
  6. Bring to a boil and cook until vegetables have reached their desired consistency, I like a very slight crunch so that they are not mushy in the soup. Add the couscous and baked meatballs just before serving to heat through.
  7. Remove theParmesan rind and eat.
  8. Serve garnished with shaved Parmesan cheese.
ItalianWeddingSoup_1887

The shaved Parmesan adds a delicate saltiness to this delicious soup.

Tips:

  • If you are making this soup to freeze, I would recommend freezing the meatballs and the Israeli couscous in separate bags to the soup and adding to heat just at serving. I kept a batch in the fridge with the couscous and meatballs and they got mushy in two days.

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 12.29.17 PM

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Several years ago we dined in a lovely bistro in the heart of the financial district downtown Toronto called Forte Bistro and Lounge. JT had read about Chef Greg Argent in one of our foodie magazines and he knew right away we had to experience his cooking! Sadly, the restaurant is no longer around but the delicious memories of Chef Argent’s cuisine still lingers on.

A delightful combination of rich broth and caramelized onions in a perfectly bite-sized pillow.

A delightful combination of rich broth and caramelized onions in a perfectly bite-sized pillow.

One such dish was the unique French Onion Soup Dumplings ($11): a tender pasta dumpling filled with braised veal broth and gruyère cheese; what made this tasty dumpling so unusual was the surprise of the explosion of veal glacé that would fill you mouth with flavour after biting into the tender pasta, immediately reminding you of French Onion Soup! I have tried many times to recreate this wonderful dish without success and then Chef Argent revealed his ‘secret’ when I asked how he does it. Today I will share with you the secret of the tasty, unassuming little dumpling, but you must swear never to speak of it again! Although the recipe is laborious, I urge you to make a batch to serve as an amuse bouche or little hors d’œuvres at your next Super Bowl party (you may freeze uncooked dumplings on a parchment lined sheet lightly dusted with flour and then put them into a zip-lock bag), you will not only thank me for the wonderful compliments your lucky guests bestow upon you, you may even wish to send me gifts! 😉

Did you figure out the 'secret'?

Did you figure out the ‘secret’?

French Onion Soup Pillows

makes 60 single bite pillows

Ingredients for the broth:

  • 0.5 kg (about 1 pound) Beef bones or oxtail bones
  • 130 g (about 4.5 oz) sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp merlot salt (from my friend Kristy at Eat, play, love; our family food adventures)
  • 600 mL water, divided
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp cooking sherry
  • 3 g (a scant teaspoon) powdered gelatine (agar agar will not work here)
  • 1 cup caramelized onions (please click here for a great recipe)
  • Home made pasta dough or 60 square won ton wrappers (for a great pasta dough recipe, please check out Chicago John’s kitchen)
  • Gruyère cheese to garnish

Directions for the broth:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F 177°C. Put a 11.5 cm x 21.5 cm (4 1/2″ x 8 1/2″) metal loaf pan into the freezer.
  2. Sear the beef bones well on high heat. Remove from pan and set aside. Deglaze the pan with 1 tbsp cooking sherry or port. Add the onions to the pan and sauté for a minute or so on the residual heat from searing. Spread the onions out evenly on the bottom of the pan. Return the beef bones to the pan and nestle into the onions, add the merlot salt, bay leaf and 300 mL water. Cover with tin foil and roast in the oven for about 1 hour, checking occasionally to make sure the water hasn’t evaporated, top up as needed.
  3. Remove pan from oven and remove tin foil. Add an additional 200 mL water and boil on the stove top until liquid is reduced to about 150 mL (about 5 oz). Strain through a fine sieve and press as much liquid out of the cooked onions as possible.
  4. Set aside about 60 mL (1/4 cup) of the stock and cool. Keep the remainder stock on a soft boil.
  5. Stir the gelatine into the cooled stock until melted. Add the boiling stock and stir well. Allow to cool to room temperature and pour into the super cooled loaf pan. Refrigerate until set.
FrenchOnionSoupPillows_1960

You can develop a little assembly line to speed up the process!

An unexpected, rich, delicious soup explodes in your mouth when you bite into each pillow.

An unexpected, rich, delicious broth explodes in your mouth when you bite into each pillow.

Directions for assembling the pillows:

  1. Roll out the pasta dough to #4 thickness on the Kitchenaid Pasta roller (less than 1 mm or 0.125 inch). Using a 6-7cm (2.5″ -2.75″) oval cookie cutter, cut out the ovals to make both sides of the pillows.
  2. Remove the jelled broth from the fridge and cut into 0.5-1cm (0.25″-0.5″) rectangles.
  3. Onto each oval, more or less centred, add one jelled broth rectangle and about 1/4 tsp caramelized onion. Wet your finger and run a wet bead along the outer edge of the pasta oval. Turn up both sides of the oval and squeeze the edges together to bind — you don’t want these pillows to burst open when boiling.
  4. Lightly flour a parchment lined baking sheet and add each finished pillow to it so as not to touch each other. Freeze and bag frozen pillows into a zip lock bag or container. Use as many as needed.
  5. Bring an appropriate  amount of salted water to a boil. Add frozen pillows and boil until they float to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon onto a clean dish cloth to drain off water. Present on a Chinese soup spoon and garnish with a small amount of finely grated gruyère cheese. Brûlée the cheese until it is golden and crispy. Serve immediately.
FrenchOnionSoupPillows_1950

The Brûléed Gruyère cheese taste just like the burnt bits on a French Onion soup bowl.

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I have three Indian cookbooks from which I can usually find something I want to make, perhaps with some additional guidance from a cooking site or blog. The one cookbook I bought because every single recipe had a lovely photograph! It’s relatively small 12 cm x 15 cm (5″ x 6″) which makes it even more adorable! It came with a ribbon book mark attached to the spine so you can mark the recipe you are making or the next one since it has lay-flat binding. With all these things going for it, you would think I would love this cookbook, but sadly I don’t. In fact, I have not enjoyed one of the recipes I’ve made from this book without significant changes! I should just chuck the thing but I can’t because I really like the way it looks. I know it’s silly but it is what it is.

This is a recipe I altered after having acquired a Meyer Lemon from a shoot in November and I wanted to make something with it. I puréed the soup to a smooth velvety consistency and I dressed it with a cumin yogurt drizzle with green onion slices, you could also drizzle with a flavour olive oil. The Papadams are from our trip to Chicago when Chgo John took us to his favourite ethnic stores.

Lemon Lentil Soup_1334

The earthy lentils burst with fresh, lively flavour with the lemon

Lemon Lentil Soup

Serves 2 generously (1 cup portions or 250 mL each)

Ingredients:

  • 100 g dahl or yellow lentils
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, peel and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2-4 cups water (depending on how thick you prefer your soup)
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • grated rind of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup yogurt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • Shopped green onions as garnish
  • papadums

Directions:

  1. Rinse the lentils and cook with the ginger, garlic, chill and turmeric and 2 cups water until soft.
  2. Add the salt, lemon juice and rind and blend with an immersion blender until smooth, adding water to achieve the consistency you prefer.
  3. Press through a fine sieve and set aside.
  4. In a small frying pan add the cumin and toast until fragrant. Cool. Once cool add to the yogurt and mix well. Salt to taste. Transfer to a small plastic squeeze bottle.
  5. Reheat soup and pour into rimmed soup bowls. Begin piping the yogurt from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock, then 2 to 7 and finally from 9 to 3. Then using a sharp knife beginning in the centre of the bowl, draw a spiral circle culminating at the outer ring (this will make the pattern). Garnish with the chopped green onions and papadums.

Print

Lemon Lentil Soup_1337

It’s super creamy and super filling

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Happy New Year! Are you doing anything special? JT and I usually go out to our favourite French restaurant but this year we’re having good friends come over — we’ll be snacking tapas-style all evening. I’m really looking forward to our intimate New Year this year.

Although I didn’t make this soup for New Years Eve, I did make it several weeks ago when I needed to use up some kale and wanted a hearty and satisfying lunch. I adore soup, in fact I often say that I love it so much, Soup could be my middle name. JT is not as fond of soup as I am but he still eats without griping too much. My dear friend Kelly (Inspired Edibles) made a gorgeous and colourful version here and although I am posting it a few weeks after her recipe went live, I actually made it last month. The  Original recipe is from Gourmet, 2003, and contained chestnuts but I wanted to keep my version is little lighter in calories so I omitted the chestnuts, but I would encourage you to add them, they would definitely take this warming soup to the next level.

KaleNavyBeanSoup_1315

The kale retains its texture and the beans are creamy in contrast

Kale and Navy Bean Soup

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound dried white beans such as cannellini, Great Northern, or navy (about 1 1/4 cups), picked over and rinsed
  • 1/4 pound thinly sliced pancetta, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (28 fluid ounces)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (roughly 3 by 2 by 1/2 inch)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 pound cavolo nero or regular green kale, stems and centre ribs discarded and leaves cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • Optional Garnish: Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings

Directions:

  1. Soak beans overnight by covering them in about two inches of water. Or you can cook the beans relatively quickly in a pressure cooker or make this soup in a slow cooker. Drain well.
  2. Sauté onion and garlic in a pinch of oil large heavy pot over moderate heat. Add the kale and sauté for 5 additional minutes. Add the beans, broth, water, cheese rind, salt and pepper and simmer uncovered, until beans are tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour (or in a slow cooker on high for 4 hours). Discard or eat the cheese rind.
KaleNavyBeanSoup_1314

A deliciously warming soup

Tip:

I usually keep all my parmesan rinds in a zip lock bag in the freezer and use them in various stews and soups because they add so much flavour. I always eat them and never discard them as the instructions indicate, they are really very tasty and I know my friend Sissi (With a Glass) would adore the texture.

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It’s time to do the Christmas decorating and traditionally I’ve finished my exterior before I even think of the interior! Since I can remember I’ve been making my own urns for the front, not because I’m cheap (OK, maybe a little) but because I like to have creative license and design my own! Over the last few years it has become increasingly popular to use birchbark branches to achieve height, but in my hood these branches cost $6.00 EACH! I have 2-3 in each of my four urns! That’s $60 before I’ve even added my evergreen boughs! So JT and I bring them back from the cottage! A little walk in the forest, about one hour of time is all it costs! And it’s fun (I’d like to add that we only take branches from property we own, never from other property). I have bobbles and pine cones from years past and some gorgeous red sparkly ribbon from last year (note to self, make the sparkly ribbon outside otherwise the sparkles will litter the house for years!). This year I bought eight bunches of various evergreen boughs at $5 each; so for about $40 and a little creative time outside, I have my four gorgeous urns ready for the holidays. Tell me, how do you decorate your home for the holidays?

Bobbles_1460

I think I’ll get one more year out of the red ribbon; I’ll buy another roll when they go on sale after Christmas! The pine cones will last a lot longer. The Bells were a dollar store find!

Step1 Urns_1458

We brought back new branches to add to the collection we had from last year!

Step2 Urns_1456

I like to start with the floppiest evergreens with the longest needles.

Step3 Urns_1454

I love to add cedar branches because they smell so good.

Step4 Urns_1453

I keep filling in the empty spots but for my final row I like to add something with berries; this year I was able to get little white berries. Boxwood is also lovely and it adds a totally different texture but this year my “guy” didn’t have it.

The finished product, with all the bells and whistles.

The finished product, with all the bells and whistles.

Final Urns_1452

The urns in the foreground are well lit with spot lights and the urns in the background have some lovely snowflake solar lights (from the dollar store!).

And with the house all dolled up for the season, I’m ready for a bite and these days that means soup so I’m constantly on the look out for new and innovative soups. I created this one for a dinner we were hosting for my nephew. Roasting really concentrates the sugars and makes this soup deliciously sweet and creamy. I’ve made it healthy so I haven’t added any cream, but you’re welcome to. Roasting the squash seeds adds a lovely texture to this soup. To take off the shells, simply squeeze the pointy end between your fingers (or mini pliers in my case) and off will one side pop! Simple like that.

SquashSoup_1273

Creamy and slightly sweet. The crunchy roasted squash seeds really made the soup.

Acorn Squash Soup

Serves 4 smallish bowls

Ingredients:

  • 1 acorn squash, cut in half and seeded
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 head garlic, outer skin removed but leave individual skins intact
  • 4 tbsp EVOO
  • 1/2 Vidalia onion
  • Chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Pre heat the oven to 350°F. On a cookie sheet, place each half of the squash cut side up with 1/2 tbsp butter in each side.
  2. Toss the onion with a spot of EVOO and add to the cookie sheet.
  3. Put the garlic head into a small ramekin and add 3 tbsp EVOO, season with sea salt and cover tightly with foil. Put this on the side of the cookie sheet with the squash and onion. Bake for 45-60 minutes until very tender.
  4. Once everything is very tender, scoop out the squash into a glass container, add the roasted garlic WITH the salted EVOO and the baked onion and the vanilla extract. Blend until smooth adding stock until you achieve the desired consistency (I prefer it slightly thicker). Set aside and reheat to serve.
  5. To make the squash seed garnish, clean off the seeds and let them dry on a clean cloth. Add to a lightly non0-stick sprayed cookie sheet and bake for 30-45 minutes until toasted.
  6. Allow to cool and using your fingers or mini pliers, take the pointy end of the seed and press the edges into each other allowing the sides or side to pop off. Remove the toasted seed from the shell and reserve.
  7. Reheat the soup, pour into bowls and serve with the seeds drizzled over top.

Additional ideas for garnish:

  • Sear a scallop in butter and serve on top with the butter drizzled over it.
  • Sear a shrimp with the hard tail removed (I hate having to dig out the tail with my fingers) with a little lemon juice drizzled over the top.
  • If you don’t have the seeds from the squash, use toasted sunflower seeds.
  • Make a crostini with squash seed pesto smear on top.
  • A nice dollop of crême fraiche or sour cream.
  • Balsamic or pomegranate syrup reduction drizzled on top.
  • Maple syrup drizzled on top.

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I’ve been busy! And the next couple of weeks will be even busier! I’m so excited to tell you about an amazing opportunity that’s come up, I have been actually assisting with real food styling jobs. One of the recent jobs was for Food & Drink magazine assisting a prominent stylist; the next one will be on location somewhere up north for three days! The Food & Drink magazine is a gorgeous magazine produced by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (the single largest purchaser of alcohol in the world). They have a lofty budget to produce this gorgeous, glossy magazine; I’m also booked for about 4 additional days in December with a couple of other equally talented stylists so my life has become rather exciting. But because I’m away from my computer and not able to access my phone while on set I’m sorry if I miss a comment on your blog in the next while but I hope you’ll understand.

Let me tell you about my experience so far in assisting. Sometimes it means grocery shopping; I was fortunate enough to shadow a food stylist assistant as she shopped Toronto grocery stores for some rather unique ingredients. It starts with an email list and a call with the food stylist to chat about what is needed that day. Often the groceries are perishable so we buy only for what will be used that very day. After we clearly understand what each ingredient is for, we make lists and action plans. Remember my cottage lists? Let me say that my list-making abilities will come in very handy. We began our grocery journey at around 10am at the Maple Leaf Gardens Loblaw and were on the go until 3pm non-stop, visiting no less than 8 stores to pick up about $300 of various ingredients for recipe development. You may wonder what the most unique ingredient we sourced was? It was a mediterranean salt-cured fish which is also dried called Botargo (John – From the Bartolini Kitchens, please comment on what this might be used in). It was very expensive, clocking in at $79.99 for a piece that looked no more than 150 g or 5.5 oz! We also visited a very cool Asian grocer on Cherry Street called T&T where we bought fresh Galangal (Thai Ginger) and Chinese Chives (which are long, flat leaved, grass-like greens), but they had so much more. You just know I’ll be visiting that store again in the very near future. At the St. Lawrence Market we bought soft-shelled crabs, rabbit (did you know they leave the head on so you can be sure it’s not a cat?), Chorizo (raw and cured), farro and La Bomba rice (this is the same Paela rice I recently used here)! My imagination is going wild with the possibilities for these lovely ingredients. Our job is to buy the food ONLY. There is someone else called a Prop Stylist who is responsible to source all the cool props you may see included in a recipe photo.

But shopping is only half of it, the other half of assisting is advance preparation (which I haven’t done as yet) and on-site cooking where we are actually cooking the food for the camera. On my first shoot for F&D I had figured that I would be relegated to clean-up and general prep but I actually had the opportunity to cook for the actual shots — I made pesto, browned chicken, made savoury waffles to name a few! It was more than I dreamed it would be. The job is not for everyone, but I love being in the kitchen and I found it interesting and very satisfying. Working with the photographers, their assistants, the food stylist and prop stylist on-site is an amazing experience and I am excited and very grateful to be part of it. I think I’ve unexpectedly stumbled upon my dream job :-), which is pretty incredible because I thought I LOVED what I did before!

It’s definitely fall in Toronto, and while there are barely leaves clinging to the trees, while the colour of the sky has morphed into shades of grey (not fifty, let’s not go there), while the colour of the lake is more black than blue, our slow cookers are chugging away in our cozy kitchens up in Canada, brewing secret and not so secret recipes to fend away cold and flu season with the nutrition and comfort of soup. Take a look at any website, blog or even magazine and it’s about soup. I definitely have my favourites but I also like to switch it up a bit and so I’ve developed this tasty, all be it green, Broccoli Soup, without a spot of cream in it! Of course, you can add cream if you wish to your taste, but I’ll pass thank you very much.

BrocoliSoup_1164

The polenta fries were a nice touch and a perfect colour contrast

Creamed Broccoli Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 good-sized head of local organic broccoli, cut into even florets, woody stems removed.
  • 1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 1-2 medium-sized parsnips, cut into cubes
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • Water or stock to cover
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Sauté the onion until translucent, add the garlic and parsnip and sauté 5 minutes longer.
  2. Add the broccoli and cover with water. Cook until all vegetables are fork tender.
  3. Using an emersion blender, blend until smooth adding water or stock to desired consistency, salt and pepper to taste. Press through a fine sieve. Serve hot with Cheddar Polenta ‘Fries’
BrocoliSoup_1165

There isn’t a spot of cream in this delightful soup

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JT enjoyed a soup similar to this at the Ritz Carlton Toca in Toronto on his birthday and I told him I would replicate it as soon as the Ontario corn was available.
To be truthful, I made this very soup when our dear friends Barb and Kevin (Profiteroles and Ponytails) spent a weekend at the cottage, but I forgot to take photos and I know better than to post a recipe sans photos so I had to make it again, this time with notes and photos! The soup I made for Barb and Kevin used a combination of white corn and fresh Peaches and Cream Corn. The white corn was part of my shopping spree with Chgo John From the Bartolini Kitchens. I didn’t include the white corn in this recipe because I found it too starchy tasting and decided it didn’t enhance the soup at all, so my second attempt used only fresh Peaches and Cream Ontario Corn.
It’s creamed but there is not a spot of cream in it; the inherent texture of the corn makes it velvety smooth and you really don’t need cream at all.
Crab and corn are a match made in heaven and turns this simple soup into a meal, avocado added to anything really ups the ante! We grilled the corn on a charcoal grill to enhance the smoky flavour, but if you can’t grill it, just add it to the pot and cook the kernels a bit longer. Frozen corn also works well in a pinch, but shhhhhh — that’s our little secret!

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Creamed corn, avocado, crab and more corn. YUM!

Creamed Corn Chowder with Avocado and Crab

(makes about 3 to 4 cups depending on how thick you wish the soup to be)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup Vidalia onion finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups charcoal grilled corn
  • 1 bacon rasher
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika (optional if you can’t grill the corn)
  • 1 tin crab meat with whole legs
  • 1/2 small avocado, in cubes and sprinkled with lime juice
  • juice of one lime
  • 2-3 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 500-1,000 mL vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • Sea salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Grill fresh corn on a charcoal grill. Slice off kernels and reserve.
  2. Heat a pan with olive oil and sauté the bacon adding the onions and cooking until translucent, add the garlic, cumin and smoked paprika (if using).
  3. Add all the corn kernels but 1/2 cup (set aside for the garnish)
  4. Add stock and purée until smooth with an immersion blender, adding stock until desired thickness is achieved. Season with sea salt to taste.
  5. Press through a fine sieve.
  6. In a small bowl, combine drained crab, corn, cubed avocado, chopped cilantro and freshly squeezed lime juice. Season with sea salt to taste. Stir well.
  7. Ladle hot soup into bowls and garnish with a generous spoonful of the crab mixture in the centre. Serve with a grilled crostini on a deck over looking the lake. That last bit is optional, but it does enhance the experience.
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We eat out on the deck as much as possible.

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May I offer you a bowl?

We’ve been spending a lot of time at the cottage this August and I thought I’d share a few of the meals we’ve been enjoying. Cottage is for laid back times, but that doesn’t mean soup out of a can or even ready made products, for me it’s time to really enjoy having time to do things right.

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I made a pulled pork Tenderloin in the slow cooker and it provided a variety of meals such as pulled pork flatbread.

The pulled pork recipe can be found here.

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A wonderful hors d’œuvres of seared scallop wrapped in Prosciutto on Avocado paste smeared crostini.

Click here. for this tasty recipe.

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A nice lunch of deconstructed Caesar Salad, with avocado and Canadian Bacon

Links can be found here and here.

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Mulligatawny Soup with Shrimps. This soup transformed itself into BBQ sauce (add vinegar and brown sugar and a dash of soy sauce), and to Shakshuka (a middle eastern tomato based egg dish).

Muligatawny recipe can be found here.
Shakshuka recipe can be found here.
I made the BBQ sauce on the fly, so there is no recipe!

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Summer is finally here. There I said it. It’s hot, humid, did I mention humid? But don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to complain because the summer just took too damn long to arrive, so BRING IT. What I will complain about unbashedly is our transit system. I had the misfortune to ride the 504 King the other day in the heat of rush hour and it was B-R-U-T-A-L. Although it is the twenty-first century and we don’t live in a third world country, for some reason our street cars still don’t have A/C. Oh yes, the windows do open, but there is not a lot of air coming in when you are sitting in traffic or moving slower than the pedestrians on the side walks. So I got out and walked to the Metro (Subway) because I had somewhere really important to go, yes I was meeting someone ;-)!

About a month or so ago, I had extended the Blogger Girls Night Out invitation to Norma (From Garden to Wok) a very dear blogger friend, but unfortunately she was unable to make it up from Upstate New York. We were both rather disappointed so when she decided to make the trip to visit her sister in early July, she emailed me to see if we could meet. Of course, I was all over it, but work was busy and I wasn’t able to confirm until a day or two before but she was patient and waited as I finally finished what needed to be done and made the commitment. We had tried to include my old friend Barb (Profiteroles and Ponytails) but sadly she had a commitment and was not able to join us but rest assured, she was missed.

I met Norma a few years ago and to be honest, I can’t recall how I came across her blog or whether she left her lovely words on my blog first, but the point is that we’ve known each other in the blogging circles for a couple of years. Norma writes a beautiful blog documenting her escapades in her garden in which she grows a number of beautiful flowering plants and vegetables for the wild life in her area (well, she doesn’t really grow them specifically for the wild life, they just help themselves). Every Monday Norma posts her harvest from that week and it’s really cool to see the variety of vegetables she is able to grow, but then again she is a Master Gardener! Norma also blogs about recipes she makes with her home grown vegetables, giving us handy tricks and tips along the way. Norma is an accomplished food writer, having published two cookbooks as well as running cooking classes in her home town. I’ve made several (this and this) of Norma’s lovely recipes and would encourage you to visit her blog and write some lovely words for her.

Because we were both at opposite ends of Toronto, we picked a central location right at Bay and Bloor at La Societé a trendy French Bistro in the hoity toity area of Yorkville. We talked and talked and talked, honestly — the waiter was so sweet, he came over a number of times and finally said, very politely that he would stand over there and when we wanted something we should give him a nod. We talked for 3 hours straight — we ate too, but completely forgot to take photos! The conversation was lovely and we truly enjoyed each other’s company, just like old friends. Thank you Norma for a wonderful evening and we will see you again, perhaps even in Upstate New York.

We had a lovely three hour dinner, with lots of conversation!

We had a lovely three hour dinner, with lots of conversation!

Speaking of old friends, on a recent Sunday we had an old collegue friend and his wife over for brunch;  I’ve known Gordon for 27 years. We met standing at a window in one of the sky scrapers downtown where we both worked, watching as the snow fell upwards! How could you not chat about that? Gordon and I became fast friends and had lunches from time to time catching up on life, then a handful of years ago we started seeing each other as couples and it’s been lovely — I knew that his wife Angela and I would become fast friends and that JT would get on with the similarly tempered Gordon and I was right, of course.

When I planned this brunch I had hoped that we would have summer weather, so I made this delightful and surprising Chilled Caramelized Vidalia Onion Soup, but on that Sunday, as the morning progressed with rain and cold winds I decided to serve it hot instead. We did a little taste test and yes, it was just as tasty; so if the weather isn’t cooperating and you need to do a quick change, this soup is perfect.

And then shortly after they arrived, the sun started coming out, the clouds disappeared and we opened up windows! I made a quick decision to chill the bowls while we chatted sipping on orange juice and sparkling water and I changed the soup back to a refreshing cold starter!

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The first time I made this soup, I was able to slowly lower the gruyère crisp so it didn’t drown in the soup looking like a brûlé.

Chilled Caramelized Vidalia Onion Soup with Gruyère Brûlé

Makes about 450 mL  but it depends on how thick you want your soup to be

Ingredients:

  • 600 g Vidalia Onions, finely sliced
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • pinch of fresh thyme
  • Short spray of non-stick coating
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 400-500 mL chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 4-5 tbsp finely grated Gruyère cheese
  • 1 tbsp chopped chives
  • 1 cup non-fat Greek Yogurt

Directions:

  1. Spray a heavy bottom pan with the non-stick spray and begin cooking the onions with the balsamic and white wine. Cook slowly and steadily until you achieve a lovely golden colour. You may wish to add a bit of water in this process (or you can use EVOO, but I’m trying to keep it lower in fat). Or you can use this technique.
  2. Add the thyme and stir well.
  3. Remove from heat and begin adding the stock a little at a time, whilst blending smoothly with an immersion blender. Keep adding stock until your desired thickness is achieved. Press through a fine sieve and refrigerate.
  4. Preheat the oven’s broiler to high. Place a piece of parchment onto a flat baking sheet and place about 1 tbsp of the Gruyère into rounds being careful to keep them well separated. Watch as they broil because they can burn very easily. The oils from the cheese will render and you will see this beautiful lace pattern appear.
  5. Remove the parchment from the cookie sheet to allow them to cool a bit, then carefully lift each one onto a bit of paper towel to soak up the extra oils. Store flat, uncovered until needed — these may be made in advance!

Plating:

  1. With the immersion blender, give the chilled soup one more blend adding in the Greek Yogurt and blend until very very smooth. Return to the fridge.
  2. Chill the bowls for about one hour. Ladle the chilled soup carefully into each bowl, garnish with the gruyère crisp and some chopped chives.
  3. Serve immediately.
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The second time I made this soup, the first gruyère crisp slipped from my fingers into this exact position, and I really liked it, so they were all plated this way!

Notes:

  • Some bloggers have commented that the amount of vinegar is too acidic for their taste in the onion confit or caramelized onion, so you may cut it down, or alternatively add a tbsp of brown sugar to the caramelization process to balance. We did not find it too acidic.
  • For the gruyère brûlé, you can use a small brûlé torch to brown it up a bit more if it’s not crispy enough coming out of the oven.
  • For my first attempt with the brûlé on top of the soup, in addition to broiling the cheese in the oven, I actually used the torch while it was one the soup, it was an interesting combo of cold and hot.

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When I wrote this post in early June, it was supposed to be summer in Toronto but the temperatures had not been warm to say the least and we’ve had to turn the heat on or have had a fire in our wood burning fireplace a few more times than I would have liked in June, but being a Canadian just means we buckle down and bear it; I refused to stop wearing my open toe shoes and sandals and I’m cooking like it’s summer. But now, the high humidity has rolled in and lots of rain and thunder, so this is a perfect little refresher particularly when it’s dark and drizzly outside.

We had my best friend from University Kim and her hubby here for a brunch the other week and I wanted to make a chilled soup with lots of colour so I did what I normally do, I Googled it. Up came the New York Times 12 cold soups and I was immediately smitten! I loved the layout of this spread, the colours and the variety if soups. I settled on the Chilled Watermelon Gazpacho because the combination of ingredients really called out to me — so fresh and clean and the colour is gorgeous. Do check out the link because you too will be impressed; I know I will be inspired to make a few of these beauties over the summer months. I would suggest you make extra and freeze it, it makes a gorgeous little amuse bouche for your next dinner party, served in little shot glasses.

The original recipe can be found here, but of course I had to change it up a wee bit. Thanks to Kelly at Inspired Edibles for putting me onto Pineapple Sage, I found it at my garden centre and immediately bought a plant for my patio and I was inspired to add a few leaves to this delicious soup.

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This soup is AWESOME!

Chilled Watermelon Gazpacho

Makes 500 mL give or take (100 mL each of four servings with 100 mL to freeze for another dinner party)

Soup Ingredients:

  • 700 g seedless watermelon, cubed
  • 200 g seedless cucumber, peeled and cubed
  • 150 mL (1/2 cup) seedless, skinless tomato purée
  • few leaves of lemon mint
  • 1 large mint leaf
  • 2 large pineapple sage leaves
  • 1/3 up lime cordial (or just use lime juice if your watermelon is super sweet, ours was not)
  • splash of lime juice

Salsa Ingredients:

  • 150 g finely cubed seedless watermelon
  • 60 g finely cubed seedless cucumber
  • 50 g finely cubed celery
  • 4-6 tbsp crumbled sheeps milk feta
  • 1 mint leaf, fine julienne
  • 2 pineapple sage leaves, fine julienne

Directions:

  1. Put all the soup ingredients into a large bowl and purée with your immersion blender until you get a smooth thick soup. Strain through a fine sieve.
  2. Refrigerate overnight so flavours can build.
  3. Combine the finely cubed salsa ingredients and toss with the herbs of herbs.
  4. Serve in chilled rimed soup bowls, garnish with a spoonful or two of the salsa.
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The bright colour of the soup tells the story of the flavour

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A refreshing combination of flavours

We had one gorgeous day and then it turned cold and rainy again.

We had one gorgeous day and then it turned cold and rainy again.

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Remember back in March, we held our second progressive dinner on our street and it happened to fall right smack in Earth Hour? Our course was the appetizer and I chose to make Sopa Azteca or Tortilla Soup. The soup was a resounding success, full of flavour, colour and texture, but I did the unthinkable — I completely forgot to record my recipe which worked out to be a hybrid of Rick Bayless’s Sopa Azetca and a recipe that my good friend Barb of Profiteroles and Ponytails posted about some time ago!

Cinco de Mayo was just a few weeks ago and I thought it’s a perfect time to recreate this wonderful soup, before the weather starts getting too hot to enjoy soup. There is a bit of prep work, but once it’s all done, you pop it into a slow cooker and forget about it. I would even suggest you make it the day before you want to serve it because it’s just that much tastier the next day.

This soup is well worth the effort.

This soup is well worth the effort.

Sopa Azteca (Tortilla Soup)

Serves 4, dinner portions

Ingredients:

  • 100 g onions, coarsely chopped
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 2 small smoked dried haberno chili peppers, seeds removed (haberno is hot)
  • 1 large pasilla chili pepper, seeds removed (pasilla is much more mild)
  • 4 coriander stems with roots (rinsed well)
  • 2-3 epazote stems (I could only find dried, you could probably use a bay leaf instead, but remember to remove it or omit it entirely)
  • 800 mL strained tomato purée (I prefer low sodium)
  • 2 L low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 tsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp coriandre
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups frozen corn (or fresh on the cob BBQ’d and kernals cut off)
  • 1 small whole wheat soft tortilla shell

BBQ’d Chicken or Turkey Breast (omit if you are using a previously roasted whole chicken)

  • 400 g skinless, boneless chicken or turkey breast or 1 previously roasted chicken
  • 1 dried haberno pepper, seeds removed
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

Avocado Garnish (or use guacamole):

  • 1 small avocado
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • juice of one lime
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves
  • 2 green onions, roughly chopped

Other Garnishes:

  • 4 tbsp low fat yogurt
  • 4 tbsp shredded Mexican melting cheese (like Chihuahua or mozzarella)
  • 1 lime cut into wedges

Directions for the Soup:

  1. Prepare your slow cooker by preheating it. Add the tomato sauce and chicken stock to the slow cooker; add the dried epazote and cilantro stems and roots.
  2. If you are using a previously roasted chicken, remove all the tiny bones and add it to the slow cooker, covering with the liquid.
  3. Add the seeded, dried chilli peppers (if you prefer less heat, put these peppers into a cheese cloth bag and tie off).
  4. Add the onions and garlic and cocoa, cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika and coriander into the tomato sauce and stir well. Add  1 cup of corn.
  5. Cook on a medium low setting for 3-5 hours.
  6. Remove the woody stems and roots of the cilantro and epazot and discard, blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve to remove all the corn husks return to the slow cooker and add the other cup of corn. Keep warm until you wish to serve.

Directions for the Chicken or Turkey (omit if you are using a previously roasted chicken):

  1. Combine everything for the rub but the chicken or turkey in a dedicated coffee grinder for spices and grind until it’s a fine powder.
  2. Remove any bits of fat or skin from the chicken or turkey and completely coat with the dry rub. Refrigerate while soup is cooking.
  3. BBQ (with or without smoke) until the internal temperature is 74°C or 165°F. Set aside for 10 minutes and then using a fork, tear bite size pieces off. If you’re not going to use it right away, refrigerate and reheat when ready to use.

Directions for the Avocado Garnish:

  1. Peel and chop the avocado into half centimetre cubes (1/4″).
  2. Combine with the garlic, lime juice, cilantro and green onions and stir well.
  3. Refrigerate until serving.

Tortilla Cones:

  1. Preheat the oven to 175° C or 350°F.
  2. Lightly brush the tortilla shell with olive oil to prevent it from drying out.
  3. Using a pizza cutter and a kitchen ruler, cut the tortilla shell into 5-7mm strips (1/4″).
  4. Join 3 strips together end to end using a bit of water and pressing the strips firmly together.
  5. Carefully wrap each strip, oiled side in, on the cannoli cones. I found that pressing some tin foil on the tips prevented them from unraveling.
  6. Bake for about 10 minutes turning once. You are aiming to dry out the tortilla into a crisp, cracker cone.
  7. When finished, allow to cool for a minute and gently pry the cone from the cannoli mold. Reserve for presentation.
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The strips are being attached to each other.

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I won’t lie and say it’s easy, but with a little practice, it worked out very well.

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The cones are ready for the oven

They released perfectly without casualties.

They released perfectly without casualties.

Soup Assembly:

  1. Reheat the soup and chicken/turkey separately until piping hot. Ladle a generous amount of soup into each bowl, if using BBQd chicken or turkey breasts, shred into bite sized pieces and pile the chicken/turkey in the centre. If using the whole pre-roasted whole chicken, remove from bones and shred and pile into the centre of the bowl. Add a tablespoon of the avocado mixture and a tablespoon of yogurt. Sprinkle a tablespoon of the grated cheese over the hot soup and add the tortilla cone last to stand in the centre.Serve immediately with a wedge of lime.

Serving suggestions:

  • Serve with Jalopeño corn bread.
  • Instead of fussing with the tortilla cones, just toast the sliced tortilla strips until crisp and serve piled in the centre like a Tee-Pee.

 

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Did I mention that I prepare my posts well in advance? Here’s proof!

I know I’m a (lot) late for St. Patrick’s Day, but perhaps you will bookmark it for next year or any time. The Friday before St. Patrick’s Day I saw a lovely post for Beef and Guinness Pie at my friend Karen’s Back Road Journal and even though I can’t tell you how tempting it was, I had to resist making it as we’d already had beef a few times that week and I usually like to keep it to once per week, maximum three times per month. So when she suggested we pop over to Colin Bofin’s blog, an actual Irish dude in Ireland, I was all over it! Colin prepares a Guinness Stew that has the most irresistible dumplings and I’m certain that his home has incredible aromas when he prepares this dish. Still having had too much beef that week, I started to wonder through Conor’s blog and I came across a lovely Irish Seafood Chowder and Scones. I couldn’t help but think that I had found my St. Patrick’s Day recipe. Thanks Conor, I’ll be stopping by your blog for inspiration again.

Colin made his own prawn stock from scratch (actually, they look more like our langoustines) but I remembered I had a bag of lobster carcass in my freezer and I knew I had the ingredients for my stock. At the time, we were still off eating fresh salmon because I wasn’t sure what the influenza implications were, so I used a tin of salmon instead. I also omitted the potato and cut down the carrot just because I’m still trying to reduce my carbs. The broth is a luxurious, creamy, velvety broth with much resemblance to the Provençal Fish Soup I made in October 2011; I cannot resist adding tomatoes and saffron to fish soup, it’s such a compelling flavour combination for my taste.

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Don’t be fooled, there is an incredible amount of flavour in the carcass of a lobster, even if someone already ate all the good bits!

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An incredible smooth, creamy fish velouté

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A few chunks of seafood added to the centre spices up the soup and adds an incredible texture and flavour; the Shrimp was so sweet.

“Irish” Fish Chowder

Makes ~1.5 litres of stock

Ingredients:

  • ~542 g lobster carcass (or you can use the actual beast with the meat). Use only larger bits of shell (the smaller one’s may jam up your blender) or wrap the entire carcass in cheese cloth to contain
  • 260 g celeriac, chopped finely
  • 250 g onion, chopped finely
  • 160 g carrot, grated
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 1 tomato
  • 200 g skinless, boneless canned salmon (or use fresh)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 tsp saffron
  • 2 L water
  • sea salt to taste
  • 1-2 tbsp canola oil
  • 50 g per serving mixed seafood, such as shrimp, calamari, crab, whitefish, mussels and such

Directions:

  1. Soak the saffron in 1/2 cup of white wine. Set aside.
  2. Heat the canola oil in a large stock pot. Sauté the onions, garlic, carrot and celery root. Turn the heat down.
  3. Add the lobster carcass, bay leaves, salmon and saffron wine and stir well.
  4. Drain the oil or water off the salmon and add it to the pot.
  5. Cover with 2 L of fresh cold water and turn the heat up.
  6. Gently simmer for about 1 hour or until vegetables are soft and the broth is fragrant with the ingredients.
  7. Strain the liquid into a large bowl with high sides.
  8. Remove all the bits of shell from the strained vegetables. Return the vegetables to the broth and blend until smooth and creamy with a good heavy duty immersion blender. Strain through a fine sieve, reserving the pulp. Add cup of the strained soup to the pulp and blend again with the immersion blender, you will be surprised how much more of this pulp can be blended down fine enough to be pushed through the sieve. Press through the fine sieve again into the reserved strained soup. Return this liquid to the soup pot and begin to boil it down to reduce to about 1.5 L. What you want to end up with is a thick, flavourful chowder.
  9. When you have the consistency you want, add the mixed seafood (about 50 g per person) and cook through. Ladle the hot chowder into lovely rimmed bowls and pile 50 g of mixed seafood into the centre of each bowl, serve with warm oat scones and butter (pop over to Colin’s blog for the scone recipe).
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The oat scones were wonderful with a small pat of butter oozily melting into them.

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The oat scones had more texture than a regular scone and was perfect for dipping into the soup.

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I find inspiration in your blogs, thank you! A few weeks ago, my Hungarian friend Zsuzsa prepared a very beautiful Leek and Potato soup that looked so gorgeous and creamy, I knew I wanted to make it for a dinner we had with my nephew Brian. But I was lazy because I didn’t feel like heading out to buy potatoes, so I used what I had which were parsnips (I had three left over from a chicken soup I made to help combat our persistent colds)! When ever I see leeks on sale, I buy a few bunches and slice them into thin slices and freeze on a cookie sheet and then transfer them to a plastic baggy, that way I have leeks when ever I need them, and I needed them for this!

I was surprised at how well the parsnips replaced the potato, adding just a touch of sweetness to the soup (by oven roasting them) and not compromising the creamy texture that potatoes generally add. Parsnips have slightly fewer carbohydrates than potatoes but they also contain fibre, and potatoes do not; they are also effectively lower on the glycemic index (for a similar weights, a potato can be 56-110 where the parsnip is a lowly 10!). I think I have found my new vegetable combo for this traditional soup!

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Crispy fried Chorizo and grated Parmesan add just the right amount of salt to this creamy soup.

Creamed Leek and Parsnip Soup

Makes around 1000 mL or 4 quarts, depending on how thick you want the soup.

Ingredients:

  • 200 g (about 1.5 cups) parsnips, peeled and cut into relatively equal chunks
  • 100 g (about 1 cup) onions, cut into large slices
  • 250 g (about 1 1/2 cups) leeks, finely sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • sea salt to taste
  • 4-6 cups low sodium chicken stock (or vegetable stock if you wish to make this vegetarian)
  • non-stick spray
  • 2-3 tbsp crispy fried chopped chorizo (omit for vegetarian version)
  • Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 177°C or 350°F. Give a small pan a couple of squirts of non-stick spray and roast the parsnips and the onions until soft.
  2. In a small ramekin with 2 tbsp EVOO, add the unpeeled garlic and a good pinch of sea salt. Cover with aluminum foil and roast along side of the parsnips.
  3. Spray a couple of squirts of non-stick spray into a good size soup pot (one that will take at least 1000 mL or 4 quarts). Cook the leeks until softened.
  4. When the garlic is soft enough to easily push a fork through, remove and pop out of the peel (be careful, it’s really hot). The parsnips and onions are done when they are soft enough to push a fork through as well.
  5. Remove the leek pot from heat and add the roasted parsnips, onion and roasted garlic (including the oil) to the leek pot. To start, add 2 cups of stock and begin blending with an immersion blender and blend until smooth. You may need to add more stock until the desired thickness is achieved. Taste and salt as desired, keeping in mind that the chorizo and Parmesan will add a certain amount of saltiness to it.
  6. To ensure a super velvety texture, press the soup through a fine sieve. Take the bits left over in the sieve and put into the immersion blender container and add a cup or two of the strained soup. Blend again for a couple of minutes (you will be surprised at how much additional thick soup you can get out of this). Press through a fine sieve into the soup. The left over pulp can be a tasty treat if you don’t mind the texture!
  7. To crispy fry the Chorizo, chop into small pieces and in about 1 tsp of canola oil, fry the bits until crispy. Blot on paper towel to remove the oil.
  8. Warm the bowls in a low temperature oven and reheat the soup (I usually reheat in my Microwave); run the immersion blender through it one last time before serving (our chef in Lyon suggested this aerates the soup and makes it even lighter in the mouth!).
  9. Ladle the soup into each bowl and grate about 1 tsp of Parmesan cheese onto the centre, add about a tsp of crispy fried Chorizo. Serve while hot.
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There is no cream in this soup.

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This is a wonderfully creamy soup that has no cream in it. The Hungarians know only celery root, they really don’t eat the stalks like we do (the stalks are an amazing snack, I ALWAYS keep some washed in a sealed container in the fridge for snacking. I once read that it takes more calories to eat one that the calories in the stalk!). I do add a bit of Olive Oil (EVOO) to the soup and I used butter to toast the croutons, but there is no other fat in this dish.

It's creamy and rich without a drop of cream!

It’s creamy and rich without a drop of cream!

Celeriac Velouté

Serves 4 (one cup portions)

Ingredients:

  • 1 celery root, cleaned, peeled and cut into relatively equal cubes.
  • 1/2 a large sweet onion, cut into quarters
  • 1 small head of garlic, bottom chopped off and excess skin removed.
  • 3 tbsp EVOO
  • Vegetable stock
  • Salt
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • Left over onion confit focaccia cut into diamond shapes
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • sea salt

Directions:

  1. Spray a large cookie sheet with non-stick spray and distribute the onion and celeriac cubes evenly. Roast in a pre-heated oven set at 350°F until soft.
  2. Add the EVOO to a small ramekin and place the garlic cut side down. Salt with sea salt. Cover with aluminum foil and bake with the rest of the vegetables until soft.
  3. In a large pyrex bowl, add the cooked vegetables with the olive oil from the roasted garlic, and squeeze the roasted garlic into the same bowl. Add vegetable stock and purée with your immersion blender until very smooth. Press through a fine sieve to make sure your soup is very creamy.
  4. Melt the butter in a small frying pan and toast the focaccia so that it is crispy on all sides.
  5. Reheat the soup to serve; pour into your rimmed soup bowls, garnish with the focaccia toasts and enjoy.

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