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I’ve been a little busy since we’ve returned from Arizona, you may have noticed my absence commenting and that I didn’t post last week. I was going to fret about it and try and throw together something but decided against it. Life happens.

One of our dear friends sold their home in the burbs and moved into their condo just before we left for holidays. JT and I helped them paint before the move, with the move, and a little organization. You see, their home was around 2,500 square feet and they moved into a 600 square foot condo. To say they down-sized is an understatement. I have to admit, I was a little jealous that they were able to rid themselves of excess, but I had to be honest with myself, and I’m not there yet. This past weekend, we went to visit and you know me, I never go empty handed, so I made these cheese crisps.

When I made the gluten free version of cheez-itz, I rolled them a bit thinner than usual and loved how crisp they baked up, so this time, I adjusted the gluten recipe and rolled them out in my KitchenAid pasta maker and the results were exceptional. Thinner crackers baked up so crispy, I was hooked. If you like cheese tuiles, then you will love these cheese-flavoured, light, crisp crackers, but be warned, they are quite addictive.

I added a little album of our trip to Arizona at the end of this post, if you are interested. Basically, it was the coldest and rainiest time in Arizona this year. We experienced -15°C (59° F) and snow in The Grand Canyon and although the sun did make an appearance from time to time, it never really warmed up. I wore layered leggings and tops, a winter coat, gloves and scarf and ear muffs, most of the time while we were in The Grand Canyon and Sedona. It rained so much in Sedona; Sedona gets about 38 cm (15 inches) of rain a year, in two days we had 4 cm (1.5 inches)! Oh well, it’s another reason to go back!

Cheese Crisps

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 350 g crackers (about 6 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 240 g full-flavoured, hard cheese, grated (see notes)
  • 45 g unsalted butter
  • 15 g vegetable shortening
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika (see notes)
  • 1 cup (125 g) flour, plus more for rolling
  • 2 tbsp ice water

Directions:

  1. Combine everything but the water in the large food processor bowl and pulse until fully combined.
  2. Slowly pour in the ice water and process until the dough comes together. It may not look like it will, but it will.
  3. Sprinkle a generous amount of flour on your surface and roll out small bits of the dough thin enough to get through #1 on the KitchenAid Pasta maker attachment. Run each sheet through three times on #1, two-times on #2 and two-times on #3. Return to your work surface and cut with a variety of cookie cutters. I chose smallish ones because I wanted bite-sized nibbles. They shrink to about 65% of the original size.
  4. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  5. Transfer crackers to a baking sheet (I line mine with parchment).
  6. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden and crispy! Be careful – there’s a fine line with these between golden brown and overdone – and it only takes seconds to burn!

Notes:

  • Use whatever full-flavoured cheese you have. This batch was made with equal quantities of sharp Cheddar, naturally-smoked Cheddar and Beemster.
  • I prefer to use the pasta maker to roll the dough because it guarantees the dough to be the same thickness throughout the batch. I wouldn’t go thinner than #3 though, really thin crackers will burn very quickly before they crisp up.
  • Change up the flavouring from smoked paprika to granulated garlic, finely ground dehydrated onions, finely ground dehydrated mushrooms, but be careful not to have too large chunks as they will get caught in your pasta maker rollers!

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gf-tejas-dulces_first

Last week I shared with you a traditional Sevillian Cookie, the Tejas Dulces and I was so smitten with it that I had to develop a gluten-free version. There are some recipes that are not worth converting to gluten free, they simply would not work, but some, like this particular recipe, shines brighter than its glutenated counterpart! I absolutely love this recipe, to the point that I’ll probably make this one my standard.

The original tuiles we brought back from Sevilla.

The original tuiles we brought back from Sevilla.

Gluten Free Almond Tuiles of Sevilla (Tejas Dulces de Sevilla)

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 25 cm x 30 cm (10″ x 12″) sheet, cut to make cookies or various sizes

Ingredients:

  • 30 g (2 tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 75 g (3/4 cup) almonds, thinly sliced and toasted
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 80 g (~1/3 cup) sugar
  • 1 tsp almond flavour
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla
  • 50 g Gluten Free flour (I used this mix)
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Toast the almonds until golden. Set aside to cool.
  2. Melt the butter and set aside to cool.
  3. Beat the egg with the sugar until it reaches the ribbon stage, about 5 minutes. Beat in the flavourings and cooled butter.
  4. Sift the flour with the salt and fold into the egg mixture, cover and allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 265° F (130° C).
  6. Pour the entire batter onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and spread out until it is quite thin (about 3-4 mm (about 1/8-3/16 inch) works out to about 25 cm x 30 cm (10″ x 12″). Evenly sprinkle the toasted almonds onto the batter and gently push into the batter.
  7. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until evenly golden, turn the pan once about halfway.
  8. While still warm, move parchment onto a cutting board and cut into uneven shapes with a pizza cutter. Transfer parchment to a cooling rack and allow to cool. Cookies will firm up as they cool.
  9. Once cooled, store in an airtight container for about a week, but they won’t last that long!

Notes:

  • I increased the flavourings to one teaspoon each because I am not a fan of the taste of gluten-free flour mix.
  • You may use a commercially prepared gluten free flour but I tested the recipe with my mix.
  • The gluten-free baked up about 10 minutes quicker because the batter spread a little further than the glutenated one!

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tejas-dulces_first

Happy Halloween Everyone! Hope you all have a ghoulish night!!!

While in Europe this past September, we spent four extremely hot days in Sevilla. It’s no wonder they call Spain the “Frying pan of Europe”! It wasn’t as hot as it had been (near 50° C or 122° F) but it was hot enough for us! The sun was relentless and most locals only walk in the shade (you can tell who lives there because they hug the shadows directly beside the old buildings!). The city has covered some of its sunnier streets with canopy sails to shade the citizens and tourists, it’s that bad!

Many of the historic town streets have these sails in both Sevilla and Madrid.

Many of the historic town streets have installed these canopy sails to protect citizens and tourist from the unyielding sun, in both Sevilla and Madrid, though I did not see them in Granada.

During one of our last walks though the beautiful historic part of town, we stumbled into the area where the locals actually live. There were no tourist shops, a few restaurants, just butchers, bakers, children’s clothing stores, kitchen stores (yes, I did buy something), grocery stores and specialty shops. One such shop was a beautifully designed little cookie shop where they sold only one type of cookie in three flavours: La Tejas Dulces de Sevilla, in almond, pistachio and coconut. A young lady was handing out samples in front of the beautiful store and we couldn’t resist. In one taste, we were immediately hooked on the simple almond flavour and lovely crunchy texture and we had to buy some. Upon returning to Toronto, I hid the small package so that I could work on a recipe and perfect it for the blog. I told JT it was for the greater good, he wasn’t impressed.

The cookies are light, airy, crunchy and full of flavour; imagine a genoise batter spread paper-thin, topped with almonds and baked until golden. They are so GOOD! The recipe is relatively simple but follow the instructions to get the signature airy, crunchy texture. I think this could easily convert to a gluten free variety, stay tuned!

I must warn you, though, because these are not like the French Tuiles, these have a bit more body than a traditional French tuiles. They are really more cracker-like than a tuile or a cookie.

Scroll down to the end of this post to see pictures from this part of our trip.

tejas-dulces_2

Delicately sweet, these crispy, flavourful cookies hit the spot for an afternoon craving!


original

These are the originals we brought back from Sevilla, sadly only three left and a mess of crumbs but I’ve finessed the recipe so I can make more!

Almond Tuiles of Sevilla (Tejas Dulces de Sevilla)

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 25 cm x 30 cm (10″ x 12″) sheet, cut to make cookies or various sizes

Ingredients:

  • 30 g (2 tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 75 g (3/4 cup) almonds, thinly sliced and toasted
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 80 g (~1/3 cup) sugar
  • 1/2 tsp almond flavour
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla
  • 50 g cake and pastry flour
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Toast the almonds until golden. Set aside to cool.
  2. Melt* the butter and set aside to cool.
  3. Beat the egg with the sugar until it reaches the ribbon stage, about 5 minutes. Beat in the flavourings and cooled butter.
  4. Sift the flour with the salt and fold into the egg mixture, cover and allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 265° F (130° C).
  6. Pour the entire batter onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and spread out until it is quite thin (about 3-4 mm (about 1/8-3/16 inch) works out to about 30 cm x 30 cm (12″ x 12″). Evenly sprinkle the toasted almonds onto the batter and gently push into the batter**.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until evenly golden, turn the pan once about halfway.
  8. While still warm, move parchment onto a cutting board and cut into uneven shapes with a pizza cutter. Transfer parchment to a cooling rack and allow to cool. Cookies will firm up as they cool.
  9. Once cooled, store in an airtight container for about a week, but they won’t last that long!

Spread batter out thinly (about 30 x 30 cm or 12 x 12 inches)

Spread batter out thinly (about 30 x 30 cm or 12 x 12 inches)


tejas-dulces_3

I made another batch but spread the batter out much thinner. They probably could have baked a little longer to get a little richer colour, but the flavour and texture is spot on.

Notes:

  • *for additional flavour, brown the butter in a frying pan until hazelnut in colour.
    ** to insure that all of the almonds are ‘stuck’ to the batter, I did a little toss of the pan quickly and that way I was able to move ‘unstuck’ almonds to a better place.
  • Add a teaspoon of lemon zest because lemon and almond go so wonderfully together!
  • Drizzle melted chocolate over the cookies once they are cool, refrigerate until set then store in an airtight container for about a week, but be warned, these won’t even last as long as the originals!

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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.

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Panoramic View of Granada.

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GarlicCheeseRopeBread_First

I was about 33 when JT and I first vacationed in Florida. JT and I rented a friend’s house in Daytona Beach and used it as a base to travel around, taking a couple of days to visit friends in Sarasota and to explore that side of the state. While travelling, there were several roadside eateries that would come up that were rather new to us Canadians: Cracker Barrel, Denny’s and Waffle House to name a few. As you know by now, I am not so fond of fast food, so we avoided them but one morning we got up early to explore and decided that waffles were in order and we thought, what better place than Waffle House? Boy were we wrong, what a joke (I apologise to those who love the place), the waffles were thin and dry and they didn’t even have real maple syrup or even real butter! Maybe I’m a waffle snob, but real maple syrup and butter are necessities for a good waffle experience. Our waitress was surly and unapproachable, great qualities for a waitress. We begrudgingly ate the sad excuse for waffles and left. In the car, I couldn’t stop thinking about how bad an experience it was and immediately renamed the place Awful House! Needless to say, we did not stop at Awful House ever again!

When you’re looking for a delicious bread recipe, you need not look further than this recipe for Cheddar Garlic Rope Bread, plus there is nothing like it on the menu at Awful House! It’s not that difficult to make and it bakes up beautifully. I made this loaf for my Cousin Lucy’s Easter Dinner.

GarlicCheeseRopeBread

The bread is laced with delicious cheddar and garlic butter. Make sure you serve this warm.

Cheddar Garlic Rope Bread

This recipe makes one 40 cm x 15 cm (15″ x 6″) rope.

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp powdered milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 1 tbsp yeast
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 3/4 cup warm water (it should feel slightly warm to the touch not hot)
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/4 tsp white vinegar

Ingredients for the cheddar, garlic butter spread:

  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (or to taste)
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Combine the yeast, sugar and warm water, stir gently and allow to proof.
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer add the flour, salt, powdered milk, eggs and vinegar. Using the KitchenAid® Flex Edge Beater attachment, mix until the eggs have totally become incorporated into the flour. Change to the dough hook.
  3. Add the yeast water mixture and knead the dough for 10 minutes until you get a smooth slightly sticky dough.
  4. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover it and allow it to rise in a warm place till it doubles in size (this only takes about 45 minutes).
  5. Pre-heat your oven to 400°F (I used the fan setting).
  6. In the bowl of a small food processor, combine the cheese, butter, garlic and salt and pulse until completely combined, set aside.
  7. Once the dough has doubled in size, roll out the dough into a 0.5 cm (1/4 inch) thick rectangle (mine worked out to 40 cm x 30 cm (16″ x 12″). Spread all of the cheese butter mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 1 cm (1/2 inch) border on three sides (spread right to the long side that you will begin to roll). Starting at the long end, roll up the dough tightly to form a roll. Seal all of the edges well by pinching them closed (wet fingers with water if necessary). Slice the roll in half lengthwise, leaving the last 5 cm (2 inches) connected.
  8. Turn each half cut-side up and carefully wrap the halves together like a rope, maintaining the cut-sides up to expose the filling. Carefully place on a baking tray with sides, lined with parchment paper and allow to rest, covered in a warm location for 1 hour. Check out Angie’s blog for detailed photos on how-to roll, cut and form into a rope.
  9. Coat with the vinegar, egg wash.
  10. Bake for 5-7 minutes on the high heat, then reduce to 350°F and bake for another 7-10 minutes or until the bottom is golden and it sounds hollow when tapped.
  11. Serve warm.

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Hello everyone! Hope you are enjoying the definite fall weather of late. I won’t even mention the spring weather our friends from below the equator are experiencing. Yes, that’s the green in me!
I’m just going to hop right back and tell you more about our stop in Grand Rapids while traveling to Wisconsin and Illinois in late July and I wanted to share another really cool thing to do in Grand Rapids: the Frederik Meijer Gardens. The weather wasn’t great, a little unseasonably cold and rainy, but it didn’t stop us from exploring and I’m sure glad we did. I definitely recommend this little outing; the gardens are beautiful to walk through and the sculptures throughout are captivating. There are even a couple of August Rodin and Henry Moore pieces; both artists are dear to me because I have seen quite a few of their pieces (Rodin Museum in Paris and in the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto). And there were several moments that I thought of my dear blogging friends: Norma from Garden to Wok (because of the frogs she collects in her garden), Celi, the Kitchen’s Garden (because of the cows and the pigs she has on her farmie), Genie, Bunny, eats, design, because she has the beautiful and mischievous Tofu the bunny rabbit. So if your ears were burning in late July, you now know that it was because of me!

The Frederik Meijer Gardens are a bit of a drive from down town and admission is a reasonable $12 for adults and $4 for 3-4 years old and $6 for 5-13 — parking is free; it’s a long walk through the gardens, so wear comfy shoes (famous last words, eh ladies?)! The weather was a bit iffy, so we did a brusque walk completing the tour in about two hours, so a gentle stroll will last at least three to four hours. They even have some lovely green houses holding some very exotic plants, in case you need a break from the chill outside. There is also an interactive kids section which we passed on.

I hope you have a chance to watch the slide show below, and to perhaps some day visit the Frederik Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

We were not compensated for this review, it is strictly our opinion.

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
1000 East Beltline NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49525
(616) 957-1580 | Toll-Free: 888-957-1580

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Continuing on our trip to Michigan this past July, we spent one lovely afternoon and evening in Grand Rapids to help break up the driving time to Wisconsin. After a delicious but unfortunately quick dinner at Grove we decided that the night was still too young to be packed in so we checked out Reserve, a lovely wine bar in the heart of down town. We were very pleasantly surprised to end the evening off so well.

I don’t know about you, but JT and I check reviews and sometimes we get lucky and choose a good place on a good night and sometimes it’s an epic fail. This little spot, we got lucky! We sat at the bar and chatted to Cory the Mixologist who turned out to be a fantastic spokes-person and historian for his humble city. When he wasn’t attending to other customers, Cory spoke very highly of Reserve’s dining experience (that we’ll have to return to try!). With just over 100 wines by the glass, there isn’t a shortage of libations to choose from, priced from a sampler size to a full 9oz glass these folks have everything your heart desires. They have a very sophisticated system of storing and serving the wines (the system extracts the oxygen and seals each bottle after use) and they are said to keep for 30 days, although I wouldn’t think they’d need to as the place was hopping! There were a variety of prices and non of them seem exorbitant.

Reserve is located in the down town area of Grand Rapids, by the Grand River. It’s cool, contemporary décor is a perfect stage for the trendy business crowd. It’s not a huge place and where we were sitting the noise level wasn’t too bad. Lighting was a bit harsh particularly beneath the centre area but at the bar it was very flattering. If the quality of service could be gauged by Cory’s level of attention and friendliness, I would say it’s excellent! Definitely deserves a return visit.

Reserve

201 Monroe Ave. NW

Grand Rapids, MI 49503

616-855-9463

Hours

Monday – Thursday 11:30 AM – 11:00 PM

Friday 11:30 AM – 12:00 AM

Saturday 4:00 PM – 12:00 AM

Sunday Closed

 

Overall rating of Reserve, Grand Rapids (in my opinion): Decor 3.5/5, service 4/5, food n/a, Value 3/5, Noise: 3/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

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