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Archive for the ‘Vegan’ Category

Like many blogs have already declared, it is officially soup season in this part of the world. I often use lentils to “beef” up soups because they are super filling. JT loves creamed soups and I love brothy soups, so to be fair, I try to make a variety of each type to keep us both happy. That way he doesn’t complain when I make Phố or chicken soup at least once a month (read: week). This was a spur of the moment creation that was so tasty, that I wanted to make sure that I remembered what I did. Hope you enjoy it too.

Creamed Cauliflower, Lentil and Coconut Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 750 mL soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut into florettes
  • 1 small sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 50 g red lentils
  • 250-400 mL vegetable or chicken stock
  • 250 mL coconut milk
  • 15 mL EVOO

Directions:

  1. Heat a large dutch oven with the olive oil and sauté the onions until translucent. Add the cauliflower and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the 250 mL chicken stock and lentils and cook until everything is soft. Blitz with an immersion blender slowly adding coconut milk, blending until smooth. Add more chicken stock to achieve your desired thickness, if necessary.
  3. Serve piping hot.

 

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Summer has finally rolled in along with the humidity that comes along for fun. I get tired of the humidity but I won’t complain, winter is just around the corner and I’ll be longing for the sunshine and heat soon enough. I am constantly looking for cool summer dishes that don’t need a lot of heat or kitchen time and this salad fits the bill. Shirataki noodles are an acquired taste, they have an unusual aroma straight out of the package and the texture can be a bit off-putting. But once you get the taste for it, it’s really addictive. I love the fresh ingredients that we toss in with the noodles, it’s a wonderful summer meal. And it’s very little effort other than marinating the noodles overnight. The marinating helps manage the strong aroma of the noodles.

Shirataki Noodle Salad

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2 as mains or 4 as sides

Ingredients:

  • 1 package shirataki noodles (about 200 g)
  • 30 mL dark soy sauce
  • 30 ml rice vinegar
  • 15 ml hoisin sauce
  • 25 mL sesame oil
  • Coleslaw
  • Salad shrimp
  • 30 mL rice vinegar
  • 5 mL honey
  • 15 mL toasted sesame oil
  • 15 mL soy sauce
  • Sesame seeds and green onion for garnish

Directions:

  1. Rinse the noodles 5-6 times in cold water.
  2. Combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar and hoisin sauce and mix well.
  3. Pour over the rinsed noodles and turn several times until well coated.
  4. Refrigerate overnight.
  5. Strain and stir fry the noodles in the hot sesame oil until most of the moisture has dried off, some bits can be crunchy.
  6. Allow to cool completely.
  7. Toss the noodles with the coleslaw and shrimp. Set aside.
  8. Make up the dressing by combining the second rice vinegar, honey, toasted sesame oil and soy sauce and mix well.
  9. Pour over the salad and garnish with sesame seeds and thinly sliced green onions.

This salad is quite versatile, in the photo below, I had some shredded spinach in the fridge so in it went!

This salad has a lite marinade and I used shredded BBQd chicken.

b

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Our last trip to Europe was a culinary shopping success, but sadly failed miserably in the Fashion area, particularly shoes. My shoe shopping times were constantly thwarted by siesta, and when there wasn’t siesta, I just wasn’t in the mood. I guess it just wasn’t my time. That isn’t to say that there wasn’t shopping, because there was quite a bit of shopping to be had, and I did my fair share, in the culinary field.

I brought back a variety of things that will be revealed in due time but now I shall direct you to this very delicious dessert/snack of peach and coconut jelly squares made with agar-agar. I have been wanting to buy this stuff but I have only ever found flavoured product so when I spotted it at my favourite grocery store in Almeria, I was all over it. Figuring out what to do with it was another story, so many interesting recipes. But what I really needed was a test experiment to see what exactly the texture of jelly that agar-agar creates. You see, we had the most luxurious, smoked fish mousse at our favourite French bistro and I was determined to recreate it. I was fairly certain that it was not made with gelatin because the texture was way to creamy and easily spreadable. It was so silky and smooth spread across some toasted baguette, it was a wonderful textural and taste experience. Making this light dessert showed me the proportions I needed to make a smooth, yet spreadable smoked fish mousse.

This is a recipe modified from this tasty recipe. I used peaches because I had peaches at home (frozen from the previous spring). It’s refreshing and the texture is smooth and creamy but it also has a bit of a gelatinus mouthfeel.

Peach and Coconut Jelly Squares

Ingredients:

Peach Layer

  • 100 mL grilled peach purée (roughly about 2 peaches peeled and chopped)
  • 5 mL lime juice
  • 150 mL water
  • 2 g 1 agar-agar powder
  • 30 g monk fruit crystals 
  • 5 mL vanilla

Coconut Layer

  • 200 mL cup water
  • 1 tsp agar-agar powder
  • 45 g monk fruit crystals
  • pinch of salt
  • 200 mL coconut milk

Directions:

  1. Add the water to a saucepan and add the agar-agar, slowly bring to a full boil, and stir until the agar-agar has completely dissolved. Add the monk fruit crystals and stir until dissolved.
  2. Add the peach purée and vanilla and stir to combine well. Pour into the mould.
  3. For the coconut layer, add the water to a saucepan and add the agar-agar and slowly bring to a full boil and then stir until the agar-agar has dissolved. Add the monk fruit crystals and stir until dissolved, add the salt and coconut milk and stir to combine well.
  4. Once the peach layer has set (this happens as it cools, does not need to be refrigerated), carefully pour the coconut layer over it. Both layers should be warm so that they stick together.

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

Kale Chips

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2 to 4

To print recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Notes:

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

Nutritional facts for kale chips

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Recently, we were dining at our favourite French restaurant in our hood. We were sitting at the bar chatting with the staff and another patron when, for no apparent reason, a wine glass slid off the top shelf and plummeted to the ground, shattering!

Well, that was interesting! No one was near it, and the manager said that they put rubber mats on the shelves to prevent this type of thing. Yet, it slid off the shelf entirely on its own. Later, someone mentioned that the location had been a funeral home when it was first built in 1923 (we’ve been here 17 years and have only known the location to be restaurants!). You decide what happened, but my bet is on a sneaky ghost giving us a fright!

Smoked Garlic and Roasted Cauliflower Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Please click here to print the recipe.

Makes 1.5 L (6 cups) soup

Ingredients:

  • 25 g smoked garlic (about 5 cloves)
  • 560 g cauliflower (about 1/2 a large head), cut into smallish florets
  • 1 L (4 cups) chicken stock (or vegetable)
  • 90 g (1/2 cup) red lentils
  • non-stick spray
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • sea salt

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400° F (200° C).
  2. Add the unpeeled garlic cloves to a small ramekin, sprinkle with a little sea salt. Pour about 1 cm (1/2 inch) stock over cloves and cover with either foil or ramekin lid.
  3. Spray a large baking sheet with non-stick spray and add the cauliflower, sprinkle with a little sea salt. Add the ramekin with garlic to a corner of the baking sheet. Bake cauliflower and garlic for 30-40 minutes or until quite soft, turning frequently to avoid burning. I like to add a little stock to the bottom of the roasting pan to make sure I get all the little bits from the pan.
  4. Pour the cauliflower into a large pot. Peel the garlic and add it to the cauliflower, add some of the stock and purée until smooth. Add the red lentils and cook until lentils are soft. Purée again until smooth, adding stock until you achieve the desired consistency. You may wish to run this through a fine sieve to make it even more luxurious.
  5. Serve hot.

The cloves are cold smoked and are still raw.

Perfect timing as it’s getting pretty darn cold!

Notes:

  • A dear friend gave me a couple of heads of smoked garlic, she picked it up at a local farmers market. I had never seen or heard of it before but you can bet that I’ll be trying to make it soon!
  • The smoked garlic is raw and therefore needs some cooking when used in this quantity, I prefer roasting, usually with olive oil instead of stock, but we are trying to lose a few summer pounds.
  • The smoke in the garlic is very subtle, that is why I added the smoked paprika, but be careful, it can get overwhelming very quickly.
  • I added the lentils to get some protein into this meatless meal, and it also is an amazing thickener that becomes so velvety smooth when puréed.
  • Some topping suggestions:
    • Crumbled crispy bacon
    • Crispy onions
    • Grilled cheese croutons
    • Grated cheese (like gruyère or sharp cheddar)
    • a dollop of Crème Fraiche or sour cream

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vegetarianbutternutsquashchili_first

We had a bunch of dear friends for Superbowl a few weeks ago and I made this vegetarian chili. I know I’m a little late, but I wanted to capture the recipe for next year. It was delicious and it makes a huge amount (1 L or 8 cups). It has a lot of great flavours and textures, I’ll definitely add it to my repertoire for future Superbowl parties.

Vegetarian Butternut Squash Chili

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1 L (8 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 180 g (1 cup) dried red kidney beans (soaked for 12 hours)
  • 1 small onion, diced (100 g)
  • 1 small carrot, diced (100 g)
  • 1/2 butternut squash, diced (150 g)
  • 2 celery ribs, diced (100 g)
  • 250 mL puréed tomatoes (200 g)
  • vegetable stock or water, to cover
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp red pepper paste
  • 2 tsp ground cumin, toasted
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp smoked sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup Pearl Barley, cooked
  • 1 avocado, for garnish
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, for garnish
  • chopped cilantro, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Put the beans in a pot, cover with 2 inches of water, and bring to a boil. Boil for ten minutes. Drain.
  2. Combine beans with everything but the frozen corn, cooked barley and the garnishes in the bowl of a slow cooker. Add enough water to cover. Cook for 8 hours on low or until beans are tender. Add frozen corn and cooked barley about 30 minutes before serving to allow to heat through.
  3. Serve with garnishes or plain.

vegetarianbutternutsquashchili

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strawberrypreserves_first

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

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

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

Apple Sweetened Strawberry Preserves

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 500 mL (about 2 cups)

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

 

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gazpachogelato_first

One of the first courses we had at the One Star Michelin Restaurant, Alejandro, just outside of Almeria (in the quiet town of Roquetas de Mar) was a wonderful Gazpacho Sorbet. During our Paella Lesson in Madrid, we discovered that Gazpacho is a staple in most Spanish households. They make a few batches each week, drinking a cup-full when peckish or feeling down. It makes total sense, as it’s packed with raw vegetables and full of vitamins. I, too, have begun to keep a litre or so in the fridge, particularly now, with the seasons changing, and it’s so easy to catch a cold.

gazpachosorbet_alejandro

This is the original Gazpacho Sorbet at Alejandro’s in Spain. I didn’t care for the odd presentation in the glass so mine was more freestyle. It was garnished with a candied lemon slice.

You may use any old Gazpacho recipe, I used the one we made during our Paella Cooking Lesson at Cooking Point. The main difference is that the Spaniards add a slice of bread (for body) and a significant amount of olive oil to balance the acidity. The New York Times published a beautiful description of a good Gazpacho (see original article here), “The texture is always smooth and light, with a mouth feel similar to that of whole milk. It is not the watered-down salsa or grainy sludge often served in the United States under the name of gazpacho, but an emulsion of fat (olive oil) in liquid (vegetable juice and vinegar) that is light and fluffy on the tongue and a fantastic conductor of flavor, just like vinaigrette or hollandaise.”

The recipe below is perfectly balanced, I wouldn’t change a thing. There is just a hint of onion and garlic, you don’t want this to be too oniony or garlicky. And while I would normally shudder at the volume of olive oil in this recipe, you really need it to balance out the acidity and it adds that silky mouthfeel Eric Asimov of the New York Times described above. Turning it into Sorbet is a surprising, yet satisfying dish. Definitely bookmark for the warmer weather.

gazpachogelato_2Authentic Spanish Gazpacho

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 500 g ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 50 g green pepper (about 1/2 an ordinary sized pepper)
  • 40 g cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped (English is fine)
  • 30 g onion, roughly chopped
  • 20 g bread, crust removed
  • 1/2 garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • 15 mL sherry or red wine vinegar
  • 5 mL cumin
  • salt, to taste
  • 60 mL EVOO

Directions:

  1. Add all of the ingredients but the Extra Virgin Olive Oil to a blender or a large measuring cup. Blend or use an immersion blender to blend until smooth.
  2. Pass the liquid through a fine sieve. Return the liquid to the blender or large measuring cup and blend in the Olive Oil in a slow, steady stream to emulsify. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. Pour the soup into the bowl of your chilled ice cream maker and turn it on until it has thickened and frozen like sorbet. Serve immediately or store in an airtight freezer container in the freezer for no more than one hour, it will freeze solid.
  4. Garnish with herbs, or finely chopped vegetables. Alejandro served it with a slice of candied lemon.

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pomegranatesyrup_firstRecently, JT and I spent three wonderful weeks touring through London, Almeria, San José, Granada, Sevilla, Madrid and finally Paris. It was awesome. I will recount some wonderful meals and memories in future posts but I wanted to share a quick and easy recipe to make pomegranate syrup because my dear friend Sissi (With A Glass) recently posted a beautiful salad which included pomegranate seeds and the dressing was created with pomegranate molasses, a slightly sweet and sour syrup.

Sissi’s post went live around the time we had just spent the day in Granada, a large, historical city in the south of Spain. We did a wonderful walking tour of the city with Panchotours with Registered Tour Guide, Veronica and at one point she mentioned that the word Granada in Spanish means pomegranate! What a coincidence! The name is appropriate because the streets are lined with gorgeous pomegranate trees. Yes, you could just reach up and grab a fresh pomegranate, how cool is that? Sadly, they were not quite ripe enough, otherwise, you know I would have!

granada-pomegranate

ourtourguide

Our lovely tour guide, Veronica.

Several weeks prior to our departure, we purchased something and for some unknown reason were given a 473 mL bottle of Pom Pomegranate Cherry Juice for free. We don’t normally drink juice as it is far better to eat your fruit than drink it so it sat in the refrigerator until now! Making the syrup is so easy, I won’t even list it as a recipe. Simply pour the entire content of the bottle into a non-reactive pan and boil it on medium-high for about 30 -40 minutes or until it reduces to about 100 mL. I didn’t want an overly thick syrup (the viscosity is about the same as maple syrup) so you could boil it down even more — but be very careful, after a very short time, it can burn very easily! Allow to cool and pour into a sterilized bottle. Store in a cool, dark location.

pomegranate-syrup

It’s a thick, sweet and slightly sour syrup. that is delicious on chunks of Parmesan.

alhambra

The view of the Alhambra.

granadaview_new

Panoramic View of Granada.

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CHilledAppleSoup_First

Recently, I assisted on a motion shoot (defined as a video/film shoot) on location at someone’s very lovely home. These shoots can be challenging particularly when the kitchen is part of the set that they are shooting. In the past, I’ve had to prepare everything in advance and simply plate on location (on the floor, no less) but this was a much bigger production and we were provided a specially designed portable, professional kitchen! This portable kitchen was such a luxury because we were off on our own (no one bugging us) with 2 ovens, 1 upright freezer, 2 refrigerators a bakers rack and lots of counter space! And best of all, we had Air Conditioning because with two full-sized ovens running at 218° C (425° F), it can get pretty toasty inside!

This is an example of a prep area that is less than perfect!

This is an example of a prep area that is less than perfect because the kitchen was part of the set!

The story of this professional kitchen is rather interesting. The creator noticed that Food Stylists were usually provided less than satisfactory circumstances even though the food they were preparing was the hero of the shoot, so this guy took it upon himself to purchase a cube truck and convert it to a professional kitchen, he has two now and is as busy as ever! To be honest, we cannot thank him enough, it is such a luxury (compared to prepping on portable burners in the garage or on the lawn!)

These shoots take many people to run smoothly, there are the usual suspects: director, camera people, prop stylists, food stylist and all the support staff! It’s a pretty amazing thing to be a part of. We even had our own on-site caterers (called Craft Truck) who provided delicious food throughout the day; for example, shortly after 7am, there was a BLT sandwich, then a granola berry parfait, then smoked salmon on toast smeared with cream cheese and capers (that one, I couldn’t resist, the rest of the snacks, I passed on), followed by a hot lunch of grilled salmon, grilled whole chicken legs, pork tenderloin, several salads, steamed veg, potatoes, rice and beans and a variety of desserts, then around 5pm, snack sandwiches were passed around. We were definitely well fed! Coffee, juice and water were available all day long.

KitchenTruck

This is the exterior of our mobile professional kitchen. Fortunately, we were parked at the end of the driveway so we only had a short run to the set.


KitchenTruck_2


Our portable kitchen is ready for action. Sebastion was setting up the kitchen, complete with stand alone freezer, 2 glass door refrigerators, 2 full-sized ovens, 2 sinks, a bakers’ rack and A/C!


KitchenTruck_3

There were 3 food stylists for this shoot (one lead and two assistants). We were non-stop from 7am until after 5 all day!

The food on site was plentiful and we were never hungry or in need but this chilled soup would have been a lovely addition considering how sweltering hot it was that day. Let’s just say I had a lovely glow on all day, if you know what I mean!!!

This is a refreshing, chilled soup served on a hot, muggy day in the city and it’s very easy to prepare.

Chilled Apple, Cucumber and Coconut Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 600 mL Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium shallot (about 30 g), finely chopped
  • 1 Granny Smith apple (about 175 g), cubed (reserve 1/4 for garnish, as pictured)
  • 2 stalks celery (about 60 g), roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 1 cup vegetable stock (I used pea broth*)
  • 1/3 English cucumber (about 65 g), roughly chopped.
  • 2 tbsp coconut milk powder (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Sauté chopped shallots until translucent. Add celery, apple and vegetable stock, cook until softened (about 10 minutes), . Remove from heat and add the cucumber.
  2. Using an immersion blender, blend several minutes until smooth.
  3. Chill for several hours or make a day or two in advance.
  4. Serve cold and garnish with very thinly sliced apples. For other garnishes, please see notes.
Apple Soup

A tasty and refreshing soup that is only lightly sweetened with apple flavour.

Notes:

  • The pea broth was the result of the liquid used to blanch freshly shelled peas and then I cooked the shells again, then strained the broth through a fine sieve.
  • I chose not to strain this soup through a fine sieve because after I blended it for several minutes, I didn’t mind the final texture (some apple skin and cucumber skin, you can see how minute they are in the photos).
  • The cucumber adds a piquant note, omit if you are adverse to such flavours.
  • The apple flavour is very subtle but adds a lovely sweetness and tartness to the soup. I did not add sugar, but if you like a sweeter soup, consider using a sweet apple (like Gala) or adding coconut sugar in addition to the coconut milk powder.
  • Consider garnishing with some crispy cooked bacon.
  • This soup would be elevated if you garnished it with one large scallop caramelised in butter and drizzle with the scallop butter.

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Gazpacho_First

Recently, my long-time blogger friend Liz, of That Skinny Chick Can Bake posted a delightful Gazpacho recipe which made me immediately crave this summer sensation! Liz’s recipe took her back to her childhood when her dear Mom recreated the recipe on a summer car vacation to Aspen after having it at a favourite restaurant. My recipe isn’t quite as romantic, in fact, it has no history nor does it conjure up childhood memories because cold soup in a Hungarian household is Sour Cherry Soup, a delicious soup made from European Sour Cherries in a lightly sweetened syrup, yogurt and cinnamon — it is delicious but it does not come anywhere near the complex flavours a Gazpacho has. Each vegetable contributes a certain aspect and my proportions are intentional. Some gazpachos are onion heavy so I used a very small French shallot, and I didn’t use garlic this time, I wanted a mellow flavoured soup with depth. Liz chose tomato juice or V-8 which adds a lot of flavour, I went with plain ordinary vine-rippened tomatoes and water — you could use a veg stock instead. I like a smooth soup so I press it through a fine sieve several times, I find the tomato seeds and the red pepper skin adds a little too much texture, and I do blend for several minutes a few times to get as much out of the pulp as possible. I loved Liz’s crouton garnish, because it adds such texture and interest but we’re going light this week and omitted it. Thank you Liz, your inspiration was perfect timing as we’ve been having 35° C (95° F) with high humidity.

To see more chilled soups that I created in the past, please click below:

Gazpacho

A full flavoured soup, perfect for hot and muggy summer days.

Gazpacho

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1.5 L strained soup (about 4 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 300 g Red Pepper (Capsicum)
  • 125 g celery
  • 140 g zucchini
  • 100 g radish
  • 120 g cucumber
  • 15 g shallot
  • 25 g avocado
  • 430 g vine ripened tomatoes
  • 500 mL water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • mint
  • basil
  • parsley

Corn Salsa

  • 40 g sweet corn
  • 40 g cucumber, finely cubed
  • 40 g celery, finely cubed
  • 5 g cilantro, chiffonade
  • zest of one fresh lime
  • splash of lime juice
  • sea salt

Directions:

  1. Chop everything roughly and add to a large 4 L bowl. Blend with a stick blender (immersion blender) until smooth.
  2. Press through a fine sieve and blend the remaining pulp with about 500 mL of the strained soup, press through a fine sieve again. I usually repeat twice to get the most out of the pulp. Discard pulp (or compost) and refrigerate strained soup for a couple of hours.
  3. Combine sweet corn, cucumber, cilantro, lime juice and salt, stir well. Top each bowl with 1 tbsp of the salsa just prior to serving.

Note:

  • I used about 2 large mint leaves, 20 basil leaves and 4 parsley sprigs.
  • Avocado would be an excellent addition to the salsa garnish.

GazpachoWW

Based on 4 servings without the garnish.

GazpachoCalories

Based on 4 servings without the garnish.

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CoconutCauliFriedRice
A Chicken Mole Enchilada is not a low calorie dish, it’s about balance so I decided that I wanted a lighter side, hence the Coconut Cauliflower “Fried Rice”. It’s really easy to prepare and goes well with Mexican and Thai dishes. The coconut flour absorbs moisture and helps the cauliflower “fry” instead of steam.

Coconut Cauliflower “Fried Rice”

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 1 L or 8 cups coconut cauliflower “fried rice”

Ingredients:

  • 2 heads cauliflower, washed and chopped roughly
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp EVOO

Directions:

  1. Add cauliflower to the bowl of your food processor (blender or emersion blender will not work), plus a few times until cauliflower resembles rice. Add the coconut flour and pulse to combine.
  2. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat the EVOO in a large Dutch oven, add the cauliflower rice in batches (we don’t want to steam it, just heat it and give it a rough fry, like fried rice). Continue until all of the “rice” has been fried. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Notes:

  • Coconut flour absorbs moisture so the coconut cauliflower rice actually retains a similar texture to rice.
  • Coconut flavour may not work with all dishes but it was absolutely wonderful with the Chicken Mole Enchiladas.
  • You may also add some spices to this dish, like cumin or coriander but the mole was flavourful enough, I did not want to confuse the palette.

 

CoconutCauliflowerRice NutFacts

Based on 15 servings.

CauliflowerCoconutRice

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I’ve been thinking about zucchini noodles a lot lately. Both JT and I love them because they maintain a similar texture to traditional flour noodles, yet they are considerably lower in carbohydrates and that, my friends is something I am always on the lookout for! I’ve created this recipe lower in calories than traditional lasagna and it’s absolutely delicious if I do say so myself. I won’t kid you, it does take some planning and some playing in the kitchen but as far as I know, you guys are excellent at both so I urge you to give it a try. Double or triple the recipe and make a large casserole-size version, freeze for a few hours and cut into single serves and bag individually and presto, you have instant lunch or a quick casual dinner. I know I will try the vegetarian version over the summer because I am always on the lookout for interesting vegetarian recipes for our vegetarian friends when they come up to the cottage.

ZucchiniLasagna

Allow this dish to sit for about 15 minutes so that the excess liquid can be reabsorbed. It would be much too hot to eat anyway!

ZucchiniLasagna_plated

Like most things, this is much tastier the second day, if you have any leftovers, that is!

Zucchini Lasagna (Gluten Free and Easy to Convert to Vegetarian or Vegan!)

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1 cast iron enamel terrine 30 cm long x 11 cm wide x 8 cm high, 6 servings.

Ingredients for noodles and cheese:

  • 2 zucchini, sliced to about 3 mm (1/8″) (leave the ends, first and last slice and any leftovers for your compost broth)
  • 2 roasted red peppers, seeded and peeled, cut into 1 cm (1/2″ slices) (see notes)
  • 180 g (1 cup) mozzarella cheese (omit for vegan)
  • 300 mL ‘Béchamel’ (recipe below)
  • 500 mL (2 cups) Meat Sauce (recipe below, for vegan see notes below)

Ingredients for the ‘Béchamel’:

Makes 300 mL or 1 1/3 cups ‘béchamel’

  • 90 g (a heaping 1/3 cup) red lentils
  • 250 mL (1 cup) vegetable stock or water, plus a bit more to loosen the cooled sauce
  • 50 g (1/2 cup or so) gruyère cheese, shredded (omit for vegan, see notes below)
  • 250 mL (1 cup) milk, plus a little to loosen if required (vegan use vegetable stock or rice milk, see notes below)
  • Pinch of smoked paprika
  • Pinch of sea salt (to taste)

Directions for the Béchamel:

  1. Cook the lentils in water or stock until very soft. Remove from heat and purée until smooth. Add the liquid of choice slowly as you purée until it is extremely smooth and creamy. If you’re making this vegan, stir in the smoked paprika and salt, set aside.
  2. Return to low heat and stir in the cheese all at once and whisk until melted, smooth and thickened (about 2-5 minutes, don’t worry, this WILL thicken as it cools). Remove from heat and stir in the smoked paprika and salt. If the sauce has become grainy (as lentils sometimes do), just blitz it again with the immersion blender. Set aside.

Ingredients for the ‘Meat’ Sauce:

Makes 500 mL (2 cups) Sauce

  • 5 mL (1 tsp) olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
  • 15 g (about 3 cloves) garlic, finely minced
  • 300 g of lean ground pork (vegans, use your favourite cooked beans or ground tofu)
  • 300 g fresh tomatoes, puréed (or 1 1/2 cups passata)
  • Pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • pinch of baking soda
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 piece of parmesan end (omit if vegan)

Directions for the Meat Sauce:

  1. Blitz the fresh tomatoes with an immersion blender until you can no longer feel the seeds and skin (no need to pass through a fine sieve, once incorporated into the lasagna you will not feel any tomato seed or skin texture).
  2. Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized Dutch oven and sauté the onions until soft. Add the minced garlic and stir until fragrant.
  3. Add the ground pork (beans or ground tofu) stirring occasionally, breaking up the larger bits of meat. Add the tomato sauce, baking soda, oregano, basil, nutmeg and Parmesan end and simmer for 15-20 minutes until thickened and not overly liquid.
  4. Remove the parmesan end (chef’s treat!) and transfer the ‘meat sauce’ to another bowl to cool.

Assembly:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350° F (177 ° C).
  2. Lightly grease a cast iron enamel terrine pan 30 cm long x 11 cm wide x 8 cm high (12 in long x 4 1/2 in wide x 3 in high).
  3. Lay strips of the thinly sliced zucchini on the bottom of the pan. Add 125 mL (~1/2 cup) of the meat sauce and spread out evenly. Lay strips of the red pepper on top of the meat. Spread 75 mL (~1/3 cup) of the ‘béchamel’ sauce evenly over the pepper layer (if ‘béchamel’ becomes too thick, loosen it by whisking in a little vegetable stock or ‘milk’). Sprinkle with 63 mL (1/4 cup) grated mozzarella cheese (omit if vegan), repeat until the pan is filled or you’ve used everything up. End with the béchamel sauce on top and sprinkle the top with the remainder of the shredded mozzarella (omit if vegan).
  4. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and the zucchinis still have a bit of a bite to them (al dente). The internal temperature should be about 140° F. Broil the cheese version for about 10 minutes to caramelise the top.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 10 minutes. Cut into 6 portions and serve with a light salad.

Do NOT omit the roasted red peppers, they ad incredible flavour.

Do NOT omit the roasted red peppers, they add incredible flavour.

ZucchiniLasagna_Unbaked

Just before I popped it into the oven.

Notes to make this a Vegan Lasagna:

  • Béchamel:
    • substitute vegetable stock or rice milk for the “milk” component.
    • leave out the “cheese” component altogether, the lentils make a delightfully flavoured béchamel even without cheese (plus I am skeptical about vegan cheese, what is that?)
  • Almond milk and coconut milk are too strongly flavoured, that is why I didn’t recommend it. On top of everything, I would avoid coconut milk because we are making this an Italian flavoured dish.
  • Want to omit the ‘béchamel’? Add slices of Chinese eggplant, it will add the creaminess mouthfeel we crave with lasagna.
  • Meat Sauce: substitute your favourite cooked beans or ground tofu in similar measures for the ground meat.
  • Want to add even more flavour? BBQ the veg for a few minutes before you assemble, the smokiness adds a lot of flavour.

Notes:

  • I had pork from a previous meal that I ground up fresh for this recipe, use whatever meat or beans you wish.
  • The lentil béchamel will thicken as it cools, just whisk in a bit more milk, rice milk or vegetable stock to loosen.
  • I like the stringiness of mozzarella in lasagna but if you are lactose intolerant, feel free to substitute goats cheese, the tang will be incredible in this dish.
  • Whenever I see beautiful red peppers, particularly if there is a sale, I buy a bunch, roast them on the BBQ and save the slices in the freezer for future pizza’s or in this case, lasagna (freeze on a parchment lined cookie sheet and when frozen, place in a plastic bag. Leave in whole pieces to give you more options in usage). Omitting the roasted red peppers is a mistake because they add incredible flavour and sweetness.

This is the nutritional facts for the meat version of my recipe above, based on 6 servings.

This is the nutritional facts for the meat version of my recipe above, based on 6 servings.

This is the vegan version using navy beans and omitted all cheese.

This is my vegan version using navy beans and omitted all cheese.

This is an epicurious recipe based on 6 servings.

This is a Food Network recipe based on 6 servings.

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GreenPea&BasilSoup_First

In my line of work, sometimes I acquire excess food from time to time — it’s just stuff that’s left over. The protocol is to offer it first to the client, then the photography staff, art director and lastly the food stylist (me). Recently, we were shooting a video ad for a popular small appliance on location in someone’s home, I had to shop and prepare about 12 recipes in advance and arrive only to do last minute plating and garnishes. It’s not the best situation for food because the food can look wilted and old very quickly, but it had to be done, so I persevered and it was done. It was an extremely professional group and the video team was equally as lovely (everyone came over to hug me after the job was done). Because the location was a private house, we had to vacate very quickly, packing up in warp speed — no time to wash anything, everything was put into bags to be washed at home. The leftover food was repackaged and everyone helped and carry everything to my car. Many of the items (everything on set) was garbage because we didn’t have proper refrigeration (like chicken wings and drumsticks that sat out at room temperature for about 4 hours) but some of the vegetables were entirely usable, including the ingredients in this recipe. The bag of frozen petite pois (small peas) had defrosted but were still very cold so they were fine and the basil was in tip top shape and so this soup was born. Peas and basil are a lovely combination and I urge you to give it a try, it really is so refreshing and moreish plus it is an absolutely gorgeous colour. You can serve this simple soup hot or cold, we had it hot for dinner with a nice dollop of goats cheese melting into the soup. Bon Appetite!

Green Pea and Basil Soup, chaud ou froid

Makes about 1 L of soup

Ingredients:

  • 750 g bag frozen petite pois (sweet peas), defrosted
  • 500 mL vegetable stock (preferably homemade like this easy, economical recipe)
  • 10-20 large basil leaves, to taste
  • 4 basil leaves, chiffonade
  • Sea salt, to taste

Directions:

  1. In a large glass container, combine the petite pois and vegetable stock with 10-20 basil leaves. Blend with an immersion blender until very smooth, taste and season accordingly.
  2. Press this liquid through a fine sieve (the pea skins are not a great texture in this soup). Serve hot or cold with a chiffonade of basil or a dollop of goats cheese.
GreenPea&BasilSoupNew

This simple yet versatile soup may be served hot or cold. Think about garnishing it with a caramelized scallop!

Notes:

  • This is a light soup, if you would like it to have more body, consider blending an avocado into it, starting with half and blend until smooth and taste for richness, blend in the second half if necessary.
  • If you are not fond of basil, try mint, it also pairs beautifully with sweet peas.
  • The beauty of this soup is its simplicity, no cooking, few ingredients.

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CompostBroth_first

Warning, night photos with very bad lighting!

Many years ago, a woman from Florida started commenting regularly on my blog. Of course, I began reciprocating on her blog (which was the point, I guess) and I discovered that the more blogs I commented on, the more comments my blog would garner. That can get old really fast. I nick-named the task ‘comment whoring’. These days, I only comment on a select few blogs, many of them I have actually met the author in person and have a non-blog relationship. It’s not that I don’t like lots of comments (it makes me feel very popular, unlike real life), but I’d rather have a few of real value than a bunch of “yum!”. I’d love to hear what you think. I like to leave value comments too, you may have noticed that they can be a bit wordy! 😉

That woman from Florida was a Military wife and she knew how to make a dollar stretch. One of her posts was about a vegetable stock made entirely from vegetable trimmings. At first, I thought it was strange (OK, and a bit gross) but a really good friend recently mentioned she does the same thing, so I decided to give it a try. I am proud to say that I am now totally a convert. The stocks are always richly flavoured and a beautiful colour due to the onion skins. Onion skin broth is supposed to be a natural blood pressure remedy, although I have no idea how much you need to have for it to work! I keep a ziplock bag in my freezer and not one Veggy trim goes in the bin, it all goes into the freezer bag and once I have filled the bag, I take out my broth pot and fill it with water and simmer with all the trimmings for 3 hours, give or take. At the end, I turn the gas off and allow it to cool off. I strain the liquid 2-3 times, having the final strain through a metal, fine coffee filter (not the paper kind, they bung up too quickly). The straining allows you to capture any bits of dirt and gunge that may have gotten in the stock. The stock is delicious on its own or used in recipes. No two broths are alike. I encourage you to give this a go, there are no rules other than washing your trimmings well or just buy organic (although, I’d still wash well). And as usual, I don’t salt until I use it because everything requires different seasonings.

 

CompostBroth

This pot was comprised of some leftover shoot veggies and lettuces.

 

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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

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 1.45.35 PM

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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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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CherryJam_First

I read David Lebovitz’s recipe for No-Recipe Cherry Jam and loved it from the start because it was just ratios! Usually I have to take down recipes to suit the volume or quantity of ingredients I have on hand and David’s recipe made it super easy, plus I liked his first direction: “1. Wear something red.”

David suggests to cook the cherries and measure the volume and then add 3/4 of it in sugar (apparently the sugar is required so that it doesn’t spoil, otherwise I would have reduced it).

Delicious goodness of homemade jam.

Delicious goodness of homemade jam.

Cherry Jam

Makes 300 mL jam.

Original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 350 g fresh Ontario cherries (you can use any old cherries, but I thought I’d give our Province a plug!)
  • 400 mL cherry juice (I had some left over from cherry squares I made a few weeks ago)
  • 375 mL sugar
  • zest and juice of 1 fresh lemon

Directions:

  1. “Put on something red.”*
  2. Pit all of the cherries and chop about 2/3 of the cherries into smaller pieces and the remainder into halves.
  3. Cook the cherries and cherry juice in a non-reactive pot. David suggests a slightly larger pot because the juices bubble up. Put a plate in the freezer (this will help you determine when the jam is done).
  4. Add the lemon juice and zest (I used a peeler to peel large slices of lemon so that I could remove them after). Continue to cook until the cherries are soft (about 20 minutes).
  5. Once cooked, measure the volume you have, including the juice. I netted 500 mL so 3/4 of that is 375 mL sugar. Stir in the sugar and continue to cook on higher heat until the bubbling diminishes and the jam congeals when a drop is put on the super cold plate and returned to the freezer for a moment. Be careful not to overcook the jam it will caramelize the sugar and it will taste terrible! It’s best to test often (David suggests it’s better to test often than to overcook the jam). My volume took 20-25 minutes to the perfect viscosity. Remove from heat.
  6. David suggest to add a bit of kirschwasser, but I was all out so I added a tiny drop of almond extract as he advised. Stir well.
  7. Cool to room temperature and bottle as you would normally. He suggests this jam will keep in the fridge for several months.

*From David Lebovitz

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CrispySage_First

I hesitate to call this a recipe because it really is just one ingredient and it’s so easy, I almost didn’t put it on the blog. But then I thought it’s a lovely garnish that is quite underrated. And it’s NOT FRIED!

As you are aware, we’re going through the Tosca Reno Eat-Clean Vegetarian Cookbook and I made Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Hazelnuts and Crispy Sage (page 192) and was fully intending on frying the sage leaves (in 1 tbsp olive oil) when it dawned on me that I could nuke them, the way I nuked thinly sliced potatoes to make potato chips. Yes, indeed.

It was a success! They literally melt in your mouth; although they are rather tasty, they do lose a bit of their perfume which is not a bad thing as I sometimes find sage a little overpowering.

The time spent in the microwave will depend on your machine, each one is different. I found 2 minutes with the amount in the photo was just perfect.

Wash sage leaves and dry well. arrange on a folded paper towel so that they do not overlap. Microwave for 1-2 minutes or until crispy. I found that the little ones crisped up a lot faster than the larger, thicker ones but they were all lovely and crispy.

CrispySage

It’s a beautiful garnish and it’s not fried!

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AvocadoHollandaise_First

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Lorraine Elliott of Not Quite Nigella, in Toronto. We’ve been following each other for four years now and when we met in person it was like we’d known one another for ever. I wanted to do something special with her so I contacted an acquaintance who produces several Food Network Canada shows and she made it happen – we spent the morning on the set of Chopped Canada, Season 3. But you’ll just have to wait to hear all about it in the new year (don’t worry, it’ll be here before you know it!).

Eva & Lorraine behind the scenes!

Eva & Lorraine behind the scenes!

Lorraine was in Toronto with the Canadian Tourism Commission and made a special request to come to Toronto to meet me! I was flattered beyond belief. For Lunch, we met up with my dear friend Barb (Profiteroles & Ponytales) and a new friend, Trudy Bloem, a Personal Chef from Ottawa (the DIL of a lovely neighbour) at one of my favourite Italian restaurants, Bar Mercurio. We shared a number of tasty dishes that I’m sure Lorraine will blog about. The CTC sure kept her busy and she saw many of the Food significant parts of TO, but not everything so I’ve invited her back! And one of these days, we’ll travel to Australia to visit her (and Charlie, Maureen & Liz)!

Lorraine wasn’t the first positive experience with an Aussie I’ve ever had, after all there was the “gravy boat incident”.

About 12 or 13 years ago, I was trying to finish off some stray pieces to our wedding China. I checked our local supplier and as I suspected it was unaffordable, so I checked eBay. I’ve purchased many things over the years from eBay and my experiences have always been exceptional. I found the exact gravy boat, you guessed it, in Australia. It was a young couple recently married and for some strange reason were given a gravy boat to a set that they didn’t want, so she was selling it for a very reasonable price on eBay. I contacted her to make sure she would ship it to Canada and she said she would. She was not registered on PayPal so she asked for a money order. No problem, but I needed an address. She gave me an address and off we went to get a money order. We don’t often need money orders so we were inexperienced (this will make sense later in the story). The money order was mailed and we waited. And waited. Weeks went by and the girl didn’t receive it. I called the post office and asked how long a letter from Toronto should take to travel to Australia and they said six to eight weeks. So we waited in the meantime corresponding with said girl almost weekly. At 10 weeks she still hadn’t received the money order but she was tired of the game so she said she would mail the gravy boat to me anyway and hope to receive the money order. I felt bad about it, so we got another money order but when we went to cancel the first one, we discovered that we had included the receipt in the original envelope so we couldn’t cancel it (read inexperienced)! I bit the bullet and got another money order anyway (still marginally cheaper than buying the gravy boat in Toronto). I wanted to make sure I had her correct address so I asked her to confirm. You guessed it, she had given me the wrong address the first time (sweet girl but…) so the new money order was mailed and within a week the gravy boat arrived! Then two days later the girl wrote to say the second money order arrived and that she would destroy the first one if it ever arrived. I’m not kidding you, a day later we received back the first money order (with receipt) marked “unknown address, return to sender”! This drama took over three months! We were able to get a refund with the original money order, I got a deal on the gravy boat and a great story out of it! Do you have any cool stories like this? Share in the comments.

If I were serving this avocado hollandaise at home, I would have definitely used the Australian gravy boat, but I served it at the cottage for a tasty vegetarian breakfast!

Ready4Hike_6259

It’s still quite buggy in Canada’s north so we were well prepared with our bug shirts!

Vegan Avocado ‘Hollandaise’ Sauce

Makes about 3/4 cup of ‘hollandaise’ sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 small very ripe avocados
  • 1/2-3/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Purée everything together until very smooth adding water until desired consistency is achieved, season with salt and pepper.
  2. Serve warm or room temperature.

Notes:

  • This is a much ‘lighter’ feeling sauce than the traditional eggyolk-butter-based version.
  • I didn’t want to add more lemon juice as I feared it might make the sauce bitter so instead I added a teaspoon of white vinegar and a tablespoon of Dijon, it was a flavourful sauce.
  • Add only as much water to the sauce to achieve the consistency that you want. I wanted mine pourable and I almost used the entire 3/4 cup, just a hair less.
AvocadoHollanadaise

I served this on Asparagus and Spinach bennies one weekend.

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 1.42.27 PM

This is 1/4 of the total yield of sauce

This is traditional Hollandaise Sauce made with 4 eggs and 1/2 cup of unsalted butter. Although the calories are fewer than the avocado version, take a look at the fat and cholesterol!

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ScallopKingMushroomHD_FIRST

Spring has finally sprung in Toronto and our weather is finally behaving as it should; the greenery is no longer terrified to show itself and many have already begun their journey into Summer 2015 — the saucer magnolias are spectacular in the hood. The Japanese Cherry blossoms in High Park are still tucked away but a few days of warmth and sunshine should remedy that and they’ll be in full bloom in no time. We had our first drinks on the back patio on Friday and we celebrated with some tasty bites.

Now about these bites, I came upon this discovery quite by accident…I was exploring a recipe for bacon-wrapped mushrooms I saw on Greg’s lovely blog (BTW, exceptional recipe) using King mushrooms and as I was cutting into them, I couldn’t help but think they looked a lot like scallops. So a few days later, I dug out an old favourite recipe I posted in 2008, Grilled Scallop Bruschetta with Avocado Paste — The King mushrooms made a wonderful substitution for the scallops but sadly I didn’t have any of our favourite avocado paste (I freeze it in ice cube trays and then put them into plastic baggies for quick hors d’œuvres). It’s a classy hors d’œuvres for a summer cocktail party that I hope you will give a try. For a vegan version, you can omit the parmesan cheese from the pesto or serve it over the avocado paste as I had intended. The King mushrooms not only look like scallops but cooked well, they even have a lovely scallop-like texture.

ScallopKingMushroomHD copy

King Mushroom “Scallops” on Pesto Crostinis

a Kitcheninspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 thick King Mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp of your favourite sugary vinegar, or a sauce with a high percentage of sugar (for caramelization) (I used a Baco Noir & Blueberry Balsamic)
  • 1 tsp canola oil (or oil with a high flash point)
  • 4 thin crostini bread, your choice
  • 1 tbsp pesto (please click here for recipe)
  • sea salt

Directions:

  1. Wipe/wash the king mushrooms and dry off well. Cut into 4 thick slices. Marinate the slices in the vinegar for 5-10 minutes. Reserve marinating vinegar.
  2. Toast the bread on both sides and slather with 1 tsp of the pesto on each. Set aside.
  3. Heat a cast iron frying pan until very hot add the oil and heat up. Drop each slice of mushroom onto the hot pan and lower the temperature to medium. You want to cook the mushroom while developing a beautiful caramelization on each side.
  4. Add one slice of cooked mushroom to each avocado slathered crostini. Add the marinating vinegar to deglaze the pan and thicken by cooking it down (shouldn’t take long). Drizzle the pan juices onto each crostini, sprinkle with a little sea salt. Serve immediately.

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VeganTruffles_4256

Do not be fooled that these are Vegan, they are surprisingly, incredibly truffle-like.

This is the last of the vegan recipe series that I’m doing for the time being. It was a great experience to cook this way and I’m very happy to have been able to document it. Cooking vegan is not nearly as difficult as I originally thought and like most everything, it’s not always healthy. If I were to be serious about this type of cooking, I would definitely research different types of fats to use because I really did not like the vegan margarine one bit. The blog resource I found is excellent and I would definitely recommend it to anyone cooking vegan.

I have definitely left the best for last, these vegan truffles are the pièce de résistance!

VeganTruffles_4257

Incredibly creamy truffles, just as they should be.

Vegan Truffles

Makes about 3-5 dozen, depending on size

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Belgian chocolate)
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk (full fat)
  • 1 tbsp margarine or coconut oil
  • 1 tsp orange extract
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 1 tsp espresso powder + 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • Espresso powder and icing sugar for rolling in

Directions:

  1. Combine chocolate, coconut milk and margarine in a saucepan and heat until chocolate has melted and mixture is thick. Divide into two portions, about the same volume. Add your choice of flavourings to each portion.
  2. Pour into a bowl , cover with plastic wrap and set in refrigerator overnight (I actually had mine sit a couple of days and it was fine).
  3. Using a melon baller, sprayed with oil or vegan butter,  shape into spheres. Roll into your favourite topping. Store in the refrigerator.

I was completely floored by how authentic these truffles tasted.The coconut flavour was quite subtle, if any and what it brought to the table was total creaminess. I would make these again, even for non-vegans. I think this recipe is totally a keeper and I hope you like it too. These truffles act much the same way as real, cream version truffles so you need not worry about them melting into a puddle.

VeganTruffles_4260

Indeed, they are as creamy as they look.

 

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VeganSpanakopita_4208

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

Vegan Spanakopita

A kitcheninspirations original recipe.

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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

  1. Heat canola oil in a large dutch oven. Add the sliced onion and sweat it out a bit, add the garlic and cook for about a minute. Add the grated zucchini (click here for some clear steps on making this dish) and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until it has totally wilted.
  2. Remove from the heat and add the fresh dill, oregano and roughly chopped marinated tofu. Set into a fine sieve and allow to cool and drain.
  3. Once completely cool, prepare the phyllo sheets by cutting them into 3 cm or 2.5 inch strips and lightly spraying each one with canola oil. Use two strips per triangle. Place one heaping teaspoon of the cooled filling onto one end and start folding into a triangle. Brush or spray lightly all over with the canola oil.
    VeganSpanakopita_4196

    A heaping teaspoon of filling goes at the end.

    VeganSpanakopita_4197

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

    VeganSpanakopita_4198

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

    VeganSpanakopita_4200

    A tidy little triangle.

  4. Bake at 350°F for 12-14 minutes if saving for the freezer or 116-18 minutes to serve immediately.
  5. To reheat, place a single layer of the triangles onto a baking sheet and reheat in 300°F for 10 minutes or until golden.
VeganSpanakopita_4209

The oil makes the phyllo very crispy.

Marinated Tofu

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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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The thing that’s quite a challenge in Vegan baking is not being able to use eggs. I can understand and convert recipes to use Vegan margarine or even substituting coconut oil but the egg thing is a biggy because of the science behind the egg’s participation in the recipe. At first I avoided egg recipes because they are just too difficult to convert but then the blog Vegan Baking came to my rescue, again. Although this recipe does not contain eggs the next one will. Substituting coconut oil for butter was an easy conversion because the cookie already had coconut in it — it was a no brainer. True Anzac lovers might miss the butter, but if it means not being able to indulge at all, I think it’s worth the slight difference in flavour. I hope you like it too.

VeganAnzac_4202

I wasn’t disappointed with the coconut oil substitution.

Vegan Anzac Biscuits

Makes about 22 cookies (I used a 4 cm ice cream scoop)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup flaked quinoa
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoons Lyles Golden Syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon plus a bit baking soda
  • 1/8 cup boiling water

Directions:

  1. Pre heat the oven to 350° F (177° C)
  2. Line baking sheets with parchment or some other non-stick surface (this is a greasy cookie).
  3. In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, flaked quinoa (I ran out of oats!), sugar, and coconut oil and stir well with a wire whisk. Set aside.
  4. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt coconut oil with syrup. (I do this in the microwave on 30% so the oil does boil over and make a mess)
  5. Dissolve baking soda in boiling water, and add to butter mixture. Stir to combine. (Be careful; if the oil is hot, it will bubble up considerably.)
  6. Add oil mixture to dry ingredients, and stir to well combine. This will be a very crumbly mixture.
  7. Using a 4 cm ice-cream scoop (be sure to pack the scoop tightly so the mixture doesn’t crumble), drop onto prepared baking sheets, about 4 cm apart. Flatten cookies slightly with the palm of your hand.
  8. Bake until bottom and sides golden brown and firm but not hard, about 10-12 minutes (larger cookies will take longer). Coconut oil seems to have a lower burning point so watch because they’ll go from raw looking to too dark in an instant!
  9. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
VeganAnzac_4201

It’s still the same chewy texture we’ve all come to know and love.

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