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I totally agree.

I totally agree. And by ‘right’ I’m sure Ms. Midler is referring to pointy stiletto’s wouldn’t you say? (Charlie, Kristy, Liz and Lorraine?)

Speaking of shoes, my dear friend Monica was recently at Fallsview Casino and spotted this store that specializes in life-sized chocolate shoes. It’s like I’ve died and gone to heaven!

Chocolate Shoes...could life get any better?

Chocolate Shoes…could life get any better?

And coincidentally, we had Rae and Monica over for dinner and I always like to make something special when we have company so when I saw the recipe on Bam’s kitchen, I knew I HAD to try it. Bam made the entire recipe gluten free, sugar free, dairy free and egg free, but I didn’t have those restrictions so I improvised.

The flavours are subtle cajun and although you can add as much heat as you wish, I used fresh jalopeño chilies with the veins and seeds cut out to reduce the heat. The grilled pineapple adds a wonderful sweetness and the grilled jalopeño cornbread is a lovely base for the dish adding subtle smokiness from the grilling. I used an old favourite recipe for the cornbread, Fred’s Not Here Jalopeño Cornbread it packs a lot of flavour and the recipe can be halved easily — I didn’t do that because I wanted the extra. Also, for the night of the dinner party, I served 10cm (4 in) round cakes, but the muffin size is a much better proportion (hence my presentation in this post). Thank you Bam for the inspiration.

Cajun Grilled Shrimp with Grilled Pineapple and Mango Salsa on Grilled Jalopeño Cornbread

Serves 4

The flavours were complex but also worked very well together.

The fresh flavours worked very well together.

Fred’s Not Here Jalopeño Cornbread

Makes 12 regular muffin-sized cornbreads or four 10cm cakes plus 6 regular muffin-sized cornbreads

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 medium ground corn meal
  • 1 1/4 all purpose flour (I’m going to try using quinoa flour next time)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 red and 1/2 green finely diced jalopeños (if you like things spicy, add cayenne to your taste).
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°F. Spray non-stick cooking spray generously into each muffin cavity.
  2. Sift cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
  3. Blend eggs, milk and oil in another bowl.
  4. Stir wet ingredients into dry.
  5. Fold in the shredded cheese, jalopeño and onion.
  6. Spoon to fill muffin cavity and bake for 25 minutes or until firm and golden.

Grilled Pineapple and Mango Salsa

Makes about 1 1/2 cups of salsa

Ingredients:

  • 3 thick slices of pineapple
  • 1 good size Mango
  • 1 scallion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 red and 1/2 green finely diced jalopeños
  • zest of one lime
  • juice of one lime
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro

Directions:

  1. Dry off the pineapple and grill the pineapple until you get some good grill marks (takes about 10-15 minutes per side). Set aside to cool
  2. Dice the mango into 1 cm or 1/4 inch dice. Add the finely chopped red and green jalopeños, scallion, lime zest and lime juice. When the pineapple has cooled, dice it in a similar size to the pineapple, mix into the mango.
  3. Add the chopped cilantro just prior to serving. Serve cold.

Cajun Grilled Shrimp

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 3 tbsp EVOO
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • pinch of salt
  • dash of cumin
  • dash of corriandre
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • pinch of cayenne
  • 16 large shrimps

Directions:

  1. Clean shrimp and remove the shell, leaving the tail intact.
  2. Mix all the ingredients together and pour over the shrimp, marinate for about 1-4 hours (marinating too long will cause the acid of the lime juice to ‘cook’ the shrimp).
  3. Heat the grill to smoking hot! Grill the shrimp until no longer opaque. Keep warm.

Assembly:

  1. Cut the crown off the cornbread muffins so that both top and bottom are flat. Brush both sides lightly with softened butter.
  2. Grill corn bread muffins on both sides so good grill marks are achieved and it heats the cornbread through. Place one cornbread round on the centre of each plate. Add the chopped cilantro to the salsa and pile it on top of the cornbread, don’t worry if some fall to the side, it actually looks better that way.
  3. Mound the shrimp on top of the salsa and garnish with a little coriander leaf.

Notes:

  • Cornbread may be made in advance and stored in an airtight container.
  • Freeze left over cornbread for another occasion.
  • The salsa is fantastic on burgers, so save some for another time.
  • The cornbread tops can be saved in the freezer for another recipe, like stuffing!
This one had too much coriander garnish

This one had too much coriander garnish and not enough salsa on the plate

Actual Photo from the dinner party; bad lightling and perhaps a glass or two of wine made it blurry. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

Actual Photo from the dinner party; bad lighting and perhaps a glass or two of wine made it blurry. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

We’ve been off on a little vaycay to the U.S. capital city, Washington, DC and I’ll post the photos and stories soon — but I also have a little surprise!
My friend Lorraine from Not Quite Nigella posted a wonderful alternative to fried rice and for obvious reasons I was ALL OVER IT. Of course, this blog wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t change it up a bit — not that Lorraine’s version her Cauliflower Fried Rice wasn’t perfect, I just didn’t have all of her ingredients handy and I wanted it now! So I made it Curried Cauliflower “Fried” rice and boy did it hit the spot; it was even delicious the next day when I took it to work with some grilled shrimp on top. Very tasty indeed.

Thai"Fried"CauliflowerRice_4728

Resist over cooking because you really do want a tiny little crunch.

Curried Cauliflower “Fried” Rice

Serves 4 generous portions

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium head cauliflower
  • 1/4 cup sultana raisins
  • 2 green onions finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp low fat coconut milk
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened grated coconut
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp honey
  • a few sprays of non-stick EVOO

Directions:

  1. In three rounds, place the washed and dried cauliflower into a food processor and pulse roughly until you get a coarse grind, like rice.
  2. Heat a cast iron skillet add the EVOO and the ground cauliflower and “fry” until lightly browned. You are trying to achieve a nice golden crust on it, scraping is essential. Try not to add liquid as that will boil the cauliflower and you don’t want it too soft — you still want a touch of a bite to it. If your pan isn’t large enough, you may need to “fry” in batches so the excess doesn’t ‘steam’ the caulflower.
  3. Add the curry powder and heat until fragrant mixing it into the “fried” cauliflower rice.
  4. Remove from heat and add the coconut milk, lime juice and honey (it’s easier if you mix the three in a small container and add at once). Give it a good stir into the cauliflower.
  5. Add the raisins and green onions and mix well.
  6. Garnish with unsweetened grated coconut, serve warm.
Thai"Fried"CauliflowerRice_4730

The curry flavours really went well with the sweet cauliflower.

Recently we opened our cottage for the summer. It was a busy weekend made even busier by someone’s hair-brained idea to redecorate (paint the wood paneling, new flooring, update kitchen upper cupboards, etc)! And that doesn’t stop me from complicating things by making an entire menu for the weekend home-made.
I’ve mentioned that our cottage is remote, so everything has to be brought in because even a 45 minute trip to the closest largest city doesn’t guarantee that one can find what one is looking for. So preparing a Menu Plan is essential as is the List of what needs to be brought up to execute said Menu Plan.
The list is key, here’s how I organize the list:
Menu Plan, Shopping List; things to be brought from home: the Pantry, the Freezer and the Refrigerator. As we pack for the weekend, things get checked off The List. The Menu Plan is followed to a T. If I bring four eggs, it means I’ll use four eggs. The trick is to end up with less than what we came up with, which usually works well. The Menu Plan also allows for left overs to be utilized in some sort of wrap for our return drive home, guaranteeing a healthier lunch than the truck stops on the road. Over the last twenty years I’ve only forgotten one thing and that was before The List was implemented, we were young and lived dangerously. If you’d like to download my template, feel free to use this one May 24 2013 Cottage Menu. The other essential thing is the running list once we get to the cottage — things that need to be brought the next time (toilet paper, paper towel, hand soap etc, you get the picture!)
JTs sister uses my FIL’s cottage about 15 metres (50 feet) from our place, so we generally get together at least once for cocktails during the weekend. I usually make something for cocktails because I like to cook! I came up with the idea of spinach and feta tartlets using my friend Zsuzsa’s cottage cheese pastry after seeing Sawsan’s post of Fatayer. They can be baked and then reheated to serve. I like them because they are full of flavour and small (portion control or eat them ALL!). This recipe makes 36 mini tarts using mini muffin tins with lots of pastry left over which can be frozen for future use. My lovely niece Laura (soon to be a full-fledged Lawyer) made Spanakopita, a delicious Weight Watchers recipe…great minds! This recipe isn’t for the dieter even though the serving is small, there is a lot of butter in the pastry. An alternative to the buttery pastry would be using wonton shells like my lovely friend Sissi has done here!

Spanakopita Tartlets

A single bite portion packing great flavours

A single bite portion packing great flavours

Makes 36 mini 2.5 cm or 1″ tarts

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 Zsuzsa’s cottage cheese pastry dough
  • 200 g (7 oz) baby spinach
  • 50 g (2 oz) finely chopped sweet onion
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp dill weed100 g (3.5 oz) crumbled Greek Feta

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F
  2. Sweat the onions until translucent.
  3. Add garlic and sauté until you can smell its aroma, add the spinach and cook down until spinach has wilted.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.
  5. Add to a food processor and pulse a few times, you don’t want paste, just smaller bits.
  6. Add the oregano, dill and the crumbled Greek Feta and stir well.
  7. Roll the dough to about 2mm (a hair more than 1/8th inch) thick and cut with a 5 cm (2 inch) scalloped cookie cutter.
  8. Press each round into the bottom of an ungreased mini muffin tin.
  9. Fill with about 1 tbsp of the spinach filling.
  10. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until pastry is golden. Serve warm. Can be frozen and reheated for 10-12 minutes at 350F.
The pastry is crisp on the outside and soft and tender on the inside.

The pastry is crisp on the outside and soft and tender on the inside.

Happy Memorial Day, I wonder how my American friends are celebrating this lovely holiday. Sadly, it’s not a holiday for us.

I’m participating in a series called Views from the Backdoor with my friend Cecilia from Illinois. C runs a blog about her ‘farmy’ called The Kitchen’s Garden and she takes wonderful photos of her animals whom she has aptly named. She also shares a view from her back door every day — the differences are palpable, from frost to thaw; a few days ago C suggested that the fellowship of the Farmy post pictures of their own back doors and a series began — see page one, page two and page three. C has followers from all over the world, from her native New Zealand to the U.S. even South America and Africa! The back door views are wonderful. Do pop over and give her a visit, she has a wonderfully friendly writing style and her posts aren’t too long ;-)! But the most fun is following along with the farmy characters day to day!

Sunset Cottage_2516

This is my view from the back door, well, this one is from the cottage
I couldn’t decide which one to post.

Cottage_4750

Daytime view at the cottage (we don’t actually have a back door, but this is the view from the one and only door!)

This is an oil painting I painted in 2004 of the same view. It looks like our little birch finally bit the bullet.

This is an oil painting I painted in 2004 of the same view. It looks like our little birch finally bit the bullet.

This is a panoramic view of our back yard in Toronto, Canada. Such a shame that the crab apple tree is past its prime.

This is a panoramic view of our back yard in Toronto, Canada.
Such a shame that the crab apple tree is past its prime, but the Lilac is doing great!

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

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

This soup is well worth the effort. This soup is well worth the effort.

Sopa Azteca (Tortilla Soup)

Serves 4, dinner portions

Ingredients:

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

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

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

Avocado Garnish (or use guacamole):

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

Other Garnishes:

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

Directions for the Soup:

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

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

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

Directions for the Avocado Garnish:

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

Tortilla Cones:

  1. Preheat the oven to 175° C or 350°F.
  2. Lightly brush the tortilla shell with olive oil to prevent it from drying out.
  3. Using a pizza cutter and a kitchen ruler, cut the tortilla shell into 5-7mm strips (1/4″).
  4. Join 3 strips together end to end using a bit of water and pressing the strips firmly together.
  5. Carefully wrap each strip, oiled side in, on the cannoli cones. I found that pressing some tin foil on the tips prevented them from unraveling.
  6. Bake for about 10 minutes turning once. You are aiming to dry out the tortilla into a crisp, cracker cone.
  7. When finished, allow to cool for a minute and gently pry the cone from the cannoli mold. Reserve for presentation.
Tortilla1_4657 The strips are being attached to each other.
Tortilla Cone_4658 I won’t lie and say it’s easy, but with a little practice, it worked out very well.
OvenReadyCone_4659 The cones are ready for the oven
They released perfectly without casualties. They released perfectly without casualties.

Soup Assembly:

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

Serving suggestions:

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

 

It’s a holiday weekend today, Queen Victoria’s birthday to be exact! What is interesting is that Canada celebrates this day, but the UK does not!
And it’s our wedding anniversary weekend (actually was yesterday)!
I met JT when I was 15 and knew instantly that we would be together! The day we met I went home and wrote my new name; I still have the book (it was the Book of Nothing) I wrote my new name “Eva Taylor” in script. We met through Facebook -10.2 — the Citizens Band Radio (breaker, breaker; remember Smokie and the Bandit?) it was my brother’s radio but he quickly discovered he could talk to cooler people if he had a girl on board. My Dad forbade us to use our real names so I was Leslie and my “handle” was “The Roxy Roller” and he was John “The Baracuda” both from some cool songs of the day. JT was “Blue Magic”. Blue Magic was a wee bit older than I and I knew my parents wouldn’t approve; we were together a year before they found out. I went to the library a lot; my parents thought I was very studious. At night, JT used to come over to our apartment after my parents went to bed and we’d toss love letters to each other from my second floor bedroom window (not sexts but actual love letters, the Romeo and Juliette kind). When my parents met him, they also fell in love. My biggest regret is lying to them for a year but they forgave me. After my Dad’s first heart attack, he gave JT permission for my hand, if he should ever want it. He passed away three months later.
We dated 8 years before we married (not exactly smooth sailing, but in my heart I always knew it would work out and we’d be together).
My Mom and I hand sewed a million pearls onto my veil; the night before the wedding I tried on the dress and decided to cut (yes, CUT with manicure scissors) the neckline because it was too high! I still have the dress, anyone want it?
It rained the entire day of our wedding, except for the very few times I stepped outside (thanks Dad); and by rain, I’m talking teaming, pouring, drenching rain, not the spitting kind! Even the limo driver asked if I wanted to be carried to the car! My brother walked me down the aisle. I wish I had asked my Mom too, but it wasn’t done back then, and I hadn’t thought of it. In the limo, on the drive to the church my brother offered me his savings if I wanted to escape, exact words “I’ve got enough money for you to go to the airport and buy a plane ticket outa here”. I thought it was sweet. And then I found out he offered the same thing to JT in the church! We had both declined. 🙂
20130518-062611.jpg

Speaking of all dressed up, back in April, my friend Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella posted a gorgeous Salmon en Papillote recipe which inspired me to come up with one for Tilapia, a staple in our house, it really isn’t a recipe, just a guideline — completely customizable to your taste and what you have on hand.

Tilapia with white wine en Papillote (French for ‘in parchment’)

We used basil pesto, but you can use any flavouring you want.

We used basil pesto, but you can use any flavouring you want.

Serves 3

Ingredients:

  • 120 g fennel cubed*
  • 200 g zucchini cubed*
  • 170 g red pepper cubed*
  • 100 g yellow pepper cubed*
  • 50 g celery cubed*
  • 50 g carrots cubed*
  • 3 tbsp pesto (home made or otherwise)
  • 3 tbsp white wine
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 x 100 g Tilapia filets

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C).
  2. Begin by cutting three ‘heart’ shapes from parchment paper. I found it easier to cut a square of parchment, fold in half and cut a half heart shape.
  3. Mix the cubed* vegetables all together and divide into three portions on the parchment, placing the vegetables in towards the centre of the heart.
  4. Top with the tilapia filet, add 1 tbsp pesto and spread on top of the filet, drizzle with one tablespoon white wine and season.
  5. Fold over the other half of the heart and begin folding the edges in at the top of the heart so that the parchment seals completely (I googled how to do this and used this method). Continue with each heart. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet (just in case they leak, but mine did not) and bake for 20 minutes.
  6. Remove and plate carefully, open the parchment very carefully because inside is very hot steam. Serve immediately.
Papilotte_4623

It’s easier to cut a heart shape if you fold the parchment in half.

Filling the parchment toward the centre on one side of the heart.

Filling the parchment toward the centre on one side of the heart.

Add the fish, white wine and season.

Add the fish, white wine and season.

Folded up all nice and cozy.

Folded up all nice and cozy.

*it’s imperative that your vegetables be cut the same size so that they all cook at the same rate. This 7-10mm (1/4″) cube was perfect for 20 minutes in the oven, they weren’t over cooked and had a bit of a crunch left in them.

Luggage for 3 days_4351

This is luggage for three days and two nights.
I take my favourite pillow when ever we drive.

Easter weekend JT and I treated ourselves to a little R&R getaway up in cottage country. We received raving reviews for the JW Mariott in Rosseau from my friend/neighbour/boss, my best friend and my SIL so when we decided we wanted to go away, we thought “why not?”! So we booked a Thursday to a Saturday on the Easter weekend. This is the only time I will say this, but if you want a romantic get away, then don’t go on a long weekend, the place is packed with families and lots and lots of kids. Thursday and Friday were more couples but as soon as Saturday hit, mayhem!

OntheRoad_4366

The drive up through the Canadian Shield.

The Rosseau Marriott is an easy 2 hour drive from our home, but we stopped for lunch in Barrie and a little shopping at an outlet mall so it took a bit longer than expected. We decided to take an extra day and go up on Thursday to beat the rush hour traffic. Winter has been dragging its ugly feet in these parts and as we drove north we could still see remnants of snow in places.

Rosseau Marriott Sign_4387

It was about a 2 1/2 hour drive, but we stopped for lunch in Barrie.

Hotel Photos_4358

It’s a four star, all season resort.

Kitchenette_4357

Our room had a little kitchenette, which was great for breakfast and cocktails.

Our Room2_4353

We were told not to bother upgrading the room because the basic room was just as lovely.

Our Room_4353

The gas fireplace was a lovely touch, particularly since it was still winter at Easter!

Bathroom1_4356

The bathroom was spacious with a separate shower.

Bathroom2_4356

The bathtub could have been nicer.

ViewFromOurRoom_4374

The view from our room. We didn’t pay extra for the lake view, which was still covered in snow.

A real annoying thing is when a hotel (particularly one out in the middle of no where) charges $18 per day for in room WIFI — it drives me crazy. Fortunately, they offered free WIFI in the common areas, so we were able to keep in touch when we were in the gorgeous lobby. But then upon returning to our room we noticed that we hadn’t dropped the free WIFI, so if you don’t want to pay for WIFI in your room, ask for a room directly above the lobby, we were on the third floor and we had full WIFI power, FOR FREE!

RusticDecor2_4360

The hotel was tastefully decorated in the “Muskoka” style.

RusticDecor_4362

Evan the chandelier looked like a giant pine cone.

LobbyLounge_4361

There were a lot of common areas where you could just chill without having to order anything.

JT snowshoeing_4380

The hotel offers some winter sports for free, such as snow shoeing.

EvaSnowshoeing2_4382

I almost regretting bringing my winter jacket, it was so warm in the sun.

JT Snowshoeing_4408

JT enjoying the view.

EvaSnowshoeing_4384

Me.

WinteryScene_4407

Even though they had a lot of snow, it was very pretty.

WinteryWalk_4409

The sun was so warm as it penetrated the trees.

WinteryScene_4391

Some of the snow melted.

Firepit_4399

Directly in front of the main doors, there is a fire pit that has a fire going all the time, all seasons. There is also a wishing pond that they collect the money once a week and donate it to a local childrens charity.

Eva Firepit_4395

We kept the fire going for a while.

JT Firepit_4398

Sitting and not moving made it a little chilly, so it was lovely to have a warm fire at our feet.

NiceWalk_4393

A very nice walk after our snow shoeing.

The Mariott has a few restaurants and we ate at two of them; Teca was the high end dining, open for dinner only and Cottages the more casual eatery open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We had a breakfast and a lunch at Cottages and the food was not overly impressive, although we met the loveliest server, Chris. The Mariott has a trading program that the allows employees to migrate to a location of choice for a short time, so Chris traveled from Barbados to Muskoka for the winter months (why, you might ask) and then in the summer he’ll head back to his regular job in Barbados! Chris truly made our experience so lovely.

Charcuterie Plate_4377

For one dinner we shared the small portion charcuterie ($24). It was enough for dinner, breakfast the following day and an hors d’œuvres. Really good value and very tasty.

As for amenities, this Mariott has several pools but only one was open for the winter; they also have a great gym which we made good use of.

Other than a slight hick-up (someone forgot their swimsuit — me) we had an amazing time. I would surely recommend this Mariott no matter what time of year, but particularly in winter for it’s gorgeous scenery and cosy fireplace rooms. I will caution you that the small store has a few swimsuits but they are not great nor are they cheap. We ended up heading into Bracebridge the closest large town and I picked up a bathing suit bottom (for $5) and used my workout top as my swimsuit top. Not perfect, but not bad either. I just didn’t want to spend money on something I already had several off.

Overall rating of The JW Marriott, Lake Rosseau (in my opinion): Decor 4.5/5, service 4/5, food 4/5, Value 3/5, Noise: 2/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet) the noise was rated on Saturday night.

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

Happy Mother’s Day to all! Hope it was lovely.

JT and I babysat my 13 year old nephew, Jack and my 10 year old niece, Annie on a recent weekend while their parents went to the Caiman Islands for a benchmark birthday party! We had a great action packed weekend filled with a visit to the High Park Zoo, bowling at Lucky Strike, cake decorating and cookie baking. Jack had his head burried in his laptop or smart phone at any given time; surprisingly he was not playing games, but monitoring a help desk he set up.

At the zoo, we were very lucky to see the 1 month old baby Wallaby, hoping along side of Mama (he/she even crept back into Mama’s pouch)! And we reacquainted with the Lama that was born last year. Lots of great things to do at this quaint little zoo — chickens to hold, bunnies to pet and Capybaras to feed, and best of all, it’s FREE! If you’re in Toronto, take the kids to High Park, in addition to the zoo, there is an amazing Jamie Bell Adventure Playground that was recently rebuilt due to vandals burning it to the ground (hundreds of volunteers and a celebrity contractor rebuilt the castle, click here to read the article).

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The baby Wallaby and Mama drinking water. Shortly after this photo, the baby crawled back into Mama’s pouch.

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Annie feeding the baby lama. He had such an adorable face.

He really was having fun, even though he hid it well.

He really was having fun, even though he hid it well.

But even after bowling, the weekend wasn’t complete without some quality kitchen time. We wanted to take a cake over to Grandma and Papa’s as a get well gift for Grandma who recently had an operation, so I baked two vanilla slab cakes (well, that’s not the fun part) and Annie cleverly decorated both, one as a gift and one for dessert over the weekend — which was thoroughly enjoyed!

Getting ready to decorate the cakes.

Getting ready to decorate the cakes.

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With everything going on, I didn’t have time to make the icing, but the cake was home made.

This cake was for Grandma and Papa.

This cake was for Grandma and Papa.

This one was for us!

This one was for us!

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We ate al fresco all weekend, which was a HUGE contrast to this past weekend when it SNOWED! Yes, you read that correctly!

We also baked the easiest Peanut Butter Cookies we’ve ever made and I thought I would share them with you because they are gluten free!

The Easiest Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies EVER (recipe from Kraft)

Makes about 24 medium-sized cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Kraft Smooth Peanut Butter (UPDATE) I made these cookies again using all natural peanut butter and they turned out perfectly. I won’t be buying Kraft again for this easy and tasty cookie. Take into consideration how oily the natural pb is, the last batch I made (2015) was excessively oily so I upped the sugar to 3/4 cup).
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • Optional 24 milk chocolate wafers

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  2. Mix all of the ingredients together until well blended (no need to drag out the hand mixer, just mix well with a spoon).
  3. Roll into 24 balls and place on parchment paper about 4 inches apart. Flatten with fork (or with a flatten with a milk chocolate wafer pressing it into the cookie).
  4. Bake 20 minutes or until lightly brown. Do not over bake. Cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet and transfer to wire racks. Cool completely if you can resist eating.
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Cookie making is serious business.

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Batch one, traditional peanut butter cookie.

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Annie claimed that we had mice because the cookies kept disappearing.

Cookie batch one.

They were so successful, we made another batch the next day.

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Delicious PB and Chocolate, what’s not to love? I didn’t have quite enough Kraft PB so I used a couple of tablespoons of natural crunchy PB I had on hand. Next time, I’ll try it all with the natural stuff.

Lemony Chicken

My friend Barb made an incredible feast for Chinese New Year, she had so many delicious things it was really difficult to choose just one. But when I saw the Lemon Chicken plated out, I knew I had to try it because, believe it or not, I happen to adore the not so good for you version at Chinese fast food stalls! It turns out that lemon in savoury dishes is not one of JT’s favourite things, although he did say he didn’t hate it. Well, what he actually said was he prefers the taste of lemons in desserts! Go figure. I really enjoyed this recipe because I adore sour and sweet combos. And I have to admit, I reduced the sugar for our dinner and if I were to make it again, I would reduce it even more as I found it a little too sweet for my taste (I have adjusted the recipe below to reduce the sugar). I also baked the skinless, boneless Chicken breasts instead of pan frying to be a little healthier.

Lemony Chicken

Original Recipe from House and Home

Serves 2, 100 g portions

IMG_4153_BLOG Cutting the chicken into strips allows them to cook faster so that the crumbs become crispy but don’t burn.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp sugar (I have reduced this from my pictured recipe already)
  • 1 heaping tbsp grated ginger root
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 200 g boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 tbsp cold water
  • 1/2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 cup panko-style bread crumbs
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • Mix of greens such as shredded romaine lettuce.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine water, sugar and ginger in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes to infuse the water with the ginger.
  3. Stir in the freshly squeezed lemon juice and zest and quickly return to a boil.
  4. Dissolve the cornstarch in about 1 tbsp cold water and stir well into the lemon mixture. Cook on medium neat until thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and set aside.
  5. Remove all residual fat from the chicken. Place in a zip lock bag and pound so that the breasts are even thickness. Cut each breast into similar thickness stips.
  6. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl, stir well. Set aside.
  7. Whisk egg white, water, soy sauce and garlic in another bowl, set aside.
  8. Pour Panko into a third bowl and mix in the sesame seeds.
  9. Set up your breading stations so that the flour mixture is first, the egg whites second and the panko last.
  10. Dredge the chicken strips in the flour mixture and shake off excess, then dip into the egg whites and lastly coat with panko/sesame mix. Repeat with all the chicken strips until all have been breaded.
  11. Bake on a parchment lined baking sheet for about 12-15 minutes (turning about mid way) or until chicken has an internal temperature of 165°F or 74° C.
  12. Reheat the sauce. Fill a bowl with mixed greens, place chicken strips over the greens and dress with the hot lemony sauce.
  13. Enjoy!

Hello Spring

Spring has finally sprung in The Big Smoke so I thought I would run some lovely signs of spring first. I’m always surprised at how elated I am when I see the first buds on the trees and then somehow, it seems that from one minute to the next BOOM, we have blooms. It’s like spring explodes into nature; trees go from no leaves to full leaves, bulbs spring up, lilacs bloom and everything is glad to be alive. Finally.

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The Azaleas are one of the first to bloom

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A visiting Cardinal. He is just too big for our feeder, so he eats the dregs.

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Our new Japanese Cherry Tree just loves its new home.

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Completely covered in blooms

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Even sitting on the back deck is quite pleasant with a little fire and heat.

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Our lovely trillium returned in the back 20.

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And last but not least, this 7 year old lilac FINALLY bloomed this year. Ironically, this was the year I had planned to replace it with a Rose of Sharon.

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A drive through High Park to showcase the beautiful Japanese Cherry trees just prior to their peak.

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It’s a lovely fresh aroma

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There were tour buses on the weekend

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The trees are dispersed throughout the park, but there are also gorgeous clumps of them.

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I took these pictures on Saturday; the trees were definitely at their peak.

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Such gorgeous delicate blossoms.

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I wish they bloomed all year round; that would make me very happy.

We had my family Easter dinner in mid-April because my brother and family always have other plans on Easter Weekend. I don’t mind having these holiday dinners at a different time, things are generally cheaper, it’s fun to have the festivities again (we had an Easter Egg Hunt) and it gives a good excuse to get together regardless of missing the holiday. Win-win.

We made a couple of BBQ’d Herbes of Provence chickens which always turn out exceptionally well, even though we remove every bit of skin it’s super moist and flavourful (I can’t believe I haven’t done a post about this flavourfull chicken, but here is a photo of the bird on the BBQ). And of course, this wonderful dish pairs so well with Susur Lee’s Singapore Slaw (aka 19 Ingredient Slaw) that I made it again. We also had some lovely roasted sweet potatoes.

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My first Angel Food Cake from scratch. Who knew it would be so easy?

And of course, the dessert: Strawberry Shortcake made with a lovely Angel Food Cake. My very first scratch Angel Food Cake. I always hesitated to make this cake because my MIL warned me about how difficult and finicky it was. So as she did, I used a mix. Strange but true. I hadn’t thought about an Angel Food Cake in a lot of years (she’s been gone for more than 15 years) but I wanted a light cake with little to no fat and this fit the bill. Now to find a recipe which doesn’t use 14 or 16 egg whites! I found this recipe created by Anna Olson for a light chiffon cake using 8 egg whites. Perfect.

Now you know me by now that I generally don’t have a lot of dessert eaters, so when I chose a dessert (whether it be slightly better for you than ordinary) I always make it smaller. Who needs left overs? So I figured out the volume of the 10″ tube pan Anna used and cut it in half to fit my 8″ spring form pan! Clever? I must warn you, that the tube pan is used to help bake this light, airy meringue-like cake through the centre; my small spring form was just the right size and it baked relatively evenly. I would not recommend going larger as your edges will dry out and your insides will be runny. Anyway, food for thought!

I got a nice crumb on the cake, the bottom of the spring form had a harder time releasing due to the little dimples in it, so next time, I will line it with a piece of ungreased parchment, that should do the trick. Oh, and it’s really important not to jump around the oven like a mad dance, or even open the oven door during the first 20 minutes of baking. Also note that although this pan is smaller, it did take a bit longer to bake through, probably because there wasn’t the chimney effect heating the centre through. And having said that, I’d do it again in an instant, it’s a lovely light-feeling dessert.

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A cake slathered in stabilized whipped cream and way too many strawberries.

You’re probably wondering “what the heck is stabilized whipped cream?” Well, maybe only some of you. I was looking for a way to make this cake up a few hours in advance and not have the whipped cream fall flat and runny on me. It’s really rather easy, 1 tsp of gelatin in about 3 tbsp cold water, nuked until gelatin melts complete, cooled down but not set and drizzled into the whipped cream with (1 tbsp icing sugar and 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract) as you’re whipping. So easy and it sets the whipped cream ever so slightly so it won’t go all sloppy and meltie. You can’t taste the difference.

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It just looked so yummy, I had to take another photo.

Ingredients:

Serves 4-6 from an 20 cm or 8″ spring form pan

  • 1/2 cup cake and pastry flour (less protein than bread flour)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup icing sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 236 mL (1/2 pint) whipping cream, stabilized as above
  • Strawberries, to serve

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 163° C or 325° F.
  2. Sift the flour and granulated sugar twice and set aside.
  3. Whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar and salt until foamy, then gradually add the icing sugar, whipping until the whites hold a medium peak when the beaters are lifted. Stir in the vanilla.
  4. Sift in the flour and sugar mixture to the whipped whites in 2 additions and using a whisk to fold in the flour evenly and easily. Scrape the batter into a 8-inch ungreased spring form pan, spread it to level and bake the cake for 40-45 minutes, until it springs back when gently pressed (try not to open the oven before 25 minutes).
  5. Cool upside down (this is apparently important so the cake doesn’t deflate and fall). Wait until it is thoroughly cook (I’m not kidding) to remove from pan (you must cut it out with a clean knife). To slice the cake in half, use an unserated blade and cut with short delft strokes until full severed.
  6. Serve the cake with whipped cream and berries, if you wish. The cake will keep, well wrapped (not refrigerated – it will dry it out) for up to 3 days.
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It’s only about 20 cm or 8″ wide. My 13 year old nephew had half of it.

You know the saying, when you’ve got lemons, make lemonade? Well I had purchased a few lemons for a recipe and didn’t end up making that recipe, so I had lemons. And in these parts, during the winter, lemons are expensive so I didn’t want them to go to waste. Not knowing exactly what I wanted to make. I just zested both lemons and then squeezed all the juice out. The zest went into a ziplock bag in the freezer (perfect for baked goods, fresh lemon zest anytime) and the juice went into a jar into the fridge. It was the juice I was most concerned about, after all the expense and now the trouble and mess of juicing them, I knew I needed to use up the lemon juice soon.

This is the part I love about blogs: I sat down at the island in the kitchen and simply Googled “lemon recipes” and soon there were literally hundreds if not thousand lemony options. The one that caught my eye was “lemon cookies”! So now to find The One! By Googling “lemon cookies” recipe I found the recipe I wanted: Chewy Lemon Cookies by Patent and the Pantry. What drew me to these cookies was that they had four tablespoons of lemon juice and the zest of one lemon; coincidentally, I had EXACTLY four tablespoons of lemon juice from my lemons (and the zest from the freezer) so I knew this recipe was The One! And another coincidence is that the author of this blog also loves shoes, high heeled shoes, in patent leather! Sigh. And I loved the look of the cookies too. I made a few alterations in the recipe because of ingredients on hand (i.e. two small eggs instead of one large one). These cookies have a lovely lemony flavour and they are not too sour; it’s balanced by the sweetness of the sugar but they are not sickly sweet as some lemony recipes can be. This batch was taken in to JTs work with a few set aside for our enjoyment (and the photoshoot).

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Fresh out of the oven, get ’em while they’re hot! (night shot)

Chewy Lemon Cookies

Makes about 66 smallish cookies (using a 2.5 cm or 1 inch ice cream scoop)

For the original recipe kindly click here

Ingredients:

  • 3 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 c butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 c white sugar
  • 2 small eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • zest of one large lemon
  • 4 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 c sugar for rolling cookies

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  3. Beat the softened butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, vanilla, lemon zest and juice until thoroughly combined.
  4. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
  5. Using a 2.5cm or 1 inch ice cream scoop, make balls of dough and roll in the sugar. Place about 2″ apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet (they will flatten out and expand).
  6. Bake for 14 minutes for a golden bottom but still chewy.
  7. Remove from oven and let cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes before removing to cool thoroughly on wire racks.
  8. Store in an air tight container, or eat right away!
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Delicately crackled.

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They really are quite chewy.

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This one insisted this was her best side.

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This one was being a Prima Donna and made me shoot it from several angles.

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

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

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

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

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An incredible smooth, creamy fish velouté

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

“Irish” Fish Chowder

Makes ~1.5 litres of stock

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

Remember my friends Angela and Gordon? They are the super organized couple who put on incredible theme parties for 8 of their lucky friends (remember Titanic 100th Anniversary and The Truman Capote Black and White Ball?). Well, they did it again and a few weeks ago we were invited to their James Bond 60th Anniversary Party. We had a lot of fun with this theme. First I had to figure out who to be (yes, we were all encouraged to come in full costume!) So I googled it and found this really cool quiz. Now I already had an idea who I wanted to be, but the quiz absolutely nailed it and YES I would be Paris Carver that night! Paris was the wife of the evil Media Mogul in Tomorrow Never Dies. But she had also been Mr. Bond’s lover (but then who hadn’t?). JT decided to be Francisco Scaramanga from the Man with the Golden Gun and he did a great job in fashioning a rather authentic looking golden gun. It was a dinner party hosted by M and Mr. James Bond and thank you Donald “Red” Grant for the fabulous photography and Q for keeping the hors d’œuvres constantly coming. It was a very tasty evening.

The Menu:

Drunken Devils on Horseback (Nigella Lawson)
Minted Zucchini Soup (Jamie Oliver)
Arugula and Watercress Salad (inspired by a Williams Sonoma recipe)
Beefsteak and Mushroom Pie with Smashed Potatoes and Yorkshire Puddings
(stew modified version of a John Cordeaux/Royal York recip /puddings – Good Housekeeping circa 1980s)
Sticky Toffee Pudding (old recipe from a friend)
Libations:
  Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore 2012
  Thwaites Lancaster Bomber Ale (winner of the Best English Ale at the European Beer Star Awards)
  Chateau Timberlay Bordeau Superieur 2010
  Pere et Fils Chardonnay Laurent Miquel 2012
  Assorted Liqueurs/Port/Single Malt Scotch

The Cast:

James Bond M

Our generous hosts M and Mr. James Bond (complete with English accent)

Table
The table was beautifully set and we each had a “Classified Dossier” in front of our seats.
Donald Red Grant Q

Donald “Red” Grant and Q (who had a few tricks up his sleeve!)

TheDetails

It’s all in the details. Yes, those are bullets in the vase.

Dr.No HoneyRyder

Dr. Julius No & Honey Ryder
(they bought their costumes in Hong Kong on a recent trip to celebrate a benchmark birthday).

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Ernst Stavro Blofeld & Jinx.
Ernst was sufficiently creepy with his bunny (remember it was originally a creepy cat)

Auric Goldfinger and Pussy Galore

Auric Goldfinger and Pussy Galore

ScaramangaParisCarver

Francisco Scaramanga and Paris Carver
(Apparently Paris always had a champagne glass in hand, which I was perfectly happy to do!)

To give you an example of how much detail my friend M went into this is my Classified Bio, for your eyes only!

PARIS CARVER

Terri Hatcher Eva Taylor

Location: Hamburg, Germany.

Characteristics: Sophisticated, cosmopolitan, unhappy, pining for Bond.

Hobbies/Interests: James Bond. Sipping her husband’s (British media baron Elliot Carver) champagne. Prior to that drank straight shots of tequila. Lying to her husband about her relationship with Bond.

Associations: No known associations.

Scars/Notable Features: Possible scarring on hand from slapping Bond for abandoning her years earlier. Often carrying champagne flute.

Relationship with MI6: Described as “too close for comfort” by Bond. After spending a passionate evening together, Carver led Bond to her husband’s secret lab.

Status: Presumed assassinated by hitman Dr. Kaufman after her husband learned of her betrayal. Most recently spotted sipping champagne in Toronto, New York, Chicago, and Paris.

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We were all quite taken back with the amount of detail in each of our dossiers.
Dinner2

There were detailed character descriptions in each folder.

Francisco Scaramanga

We took a couple of photos at home before we left.

ParisCarver

Can you believe it, I picked up my dress from Value Village and made a few alterations. Damn thing left sparkles all over the house!

Thanks again to M and Mr. James Bond for making such a memorable evening.

I know I’ve posted a chick pea and cauliflower curry recipe before, but this one has a bit of a twist, it’s Thai and I just couldn’t resist! The fresh flavours that Thai spice combinations brings to this dish is simply mouth watering, and it’s even better the next day (fortunately, I made enough for my lunch at work). You can blanket this beautiful curry over Jasmine rice, perhaps with a little coconut in it, but we just put it over a combo of Arugula and Spinach to manage the waist-line! I found the original recipe here but I made my own changes just because I felt it needed it when I tasted it mid-way.

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I don’t know about you, but I am really getting tired of these night-time photos!

Chick Pea and Cauliflower Thai Curry

Serves 4,

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion (I used Vidalia)
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2+1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 3-4 tbsp coconut milk powder in about 1/4 cup boiling water, dissolved
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 4 kafir lime leaves
  • 12-14 oz can chickpeas
  • 1 generous head of cauliflower
  • 1/4 cup lime cordial
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, lightly chopped for garnish
  • 1 finely sliced scallion for garnish

Directions:

  1. Heat up a wok or frying pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 tbsp. oil plus the onion and garlic. Stir-fry 1 minute.
  2. Add all of the dry spices, plus fish sauce fry together briefly.
  3. Add the cauliflower, stock and dissolved coconut milk powder. Add the kafir lime leaves and cook the cauliflower until it is fork tender but not too soft. Add the chick peas and heat through.
  4. Remove from heat. Stir in the lime cordial and give it a good stir.
  5. Do a taste-test. Adjust the salt level by adding a little more soy or fish sauce if not salty enough. If too salty, add a squeeze of lime juice.
  6. Garnish with chopped coriander and finely sliced scallion and serve hot with either rice or greens.
  7. ENJOY!

A very popular Mexican restaurant opened a second location just north of our hood in The Junction, Playa Cabana Cantina. We were elated because the original location is always so busy they regularly have one hour line ups outside, rain or shine. About a month ago a friend made reservations and they still had to wait an hour for their table! I don’t do lines (queues), period. If I can’t get a reservation and timely seating, I just can’t be bothered to go, no matter how delicious the food claims to be. There are too many really good restaurants in Toronto to waste time standing in line!

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The eclectic retro décor really suits the place.

When Playa Cabana Cantina opened in The Junction we were very happy to have a good Mexican restaurant so close to home. We’ve eaten there twice for lunch/brunch both times and I am very happy to report an excellent review BOTH times! We’ve tried going back for dinner but that’s another story.

Our first lunch we each ordered our own meal, and we knew that future visits would entail sharing, the portions are HUGE. JT had a Burrito with Guajillo-chipotle marinated free range chicken grilled over coals with fresh mango salsa which was wrapped with melted Oaxacan cheese, rice, and beans, they topped it with fresh guacamole, pico de gallo, crema, and it sat in two very colourful sauces: green tomatillo sauce and red tomato sauce $13. JT couldn’t say enough good things about it; I had a taste and it was a flavour explosion in my mouth. The red tomato sauce was delicious, the tomatillo was a bit tasteless, but I’ve not had tomatillo sauce before so maybe it is supposed to be mild. Again, there is enough food on the platter to share between two people and I guarantee you will not leave hungry. I ordered a smaller order of three Tacos de Chori-Queso; the tacos were homemade corn and water tacos filled with homemade Mexican Chorizo wrapped with Oaxacan cheese $14. Although my selection was delicious, it was a bad choice for me because the tacos were actually deep fried and the Chorizo was a bit greasy; not withstanding, it was still quite delicious, but I prefer healthier options, particularly when I’m not sharing.

On our second visit we smartened up and shared one of our favourite brunchy plates: Heuvos Rancheros and we were not disappointed. Made with three eggs, Spanish and Mexican Chorizo, rice with corn, black beans, flour tortilla, guacamole, sour cream and queso. The eggs could have been a bit more cooked (the whites were pretty runny) but the yolks were perfect. We divided the plate one third-two thirds (the larger one for JT) and it was perfect. The Chorizo was plentiful and very flavourful and it wasn’t greasy like my first taco experience; it also spiced up the plate with a bit of heat perfectly.

Service was good and both times the food came quickly, but the second time we had to ask for water fill ups. The noise level during Brunch is relatively quiet but another table (bit older than we are) asked them to reduce the volume for the music (we chose a table as far from the hanging speakers as possible). I suspect that it’s likely much more animated during the dinner hours.

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Three eggs, chunks of chorizo, a flour tortilla, black beans, guacamole, sour cream, rice and corn.

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We shared the Huevos Rancheros the second visit and boy were we glad we did, it was enough food for both of us.

One Thursday night, we decided to try Playa Cabana Cantina in our neighbourhood, but we knew we were playing with fire, so we called first. The gentleman said they were fully booked with reservations but there is ALWAYS seating at the bar; don’t worry, I’ll find you a seat, he said. We do bars! In fact, I love sitting at the bar because you can often get to know the bar tender and it’s always a pleasant conversation. Sadly this was not to happen that Thursday night. About 15 minutes after we called we arrived at the restaurant and guess what? No room, not one seat, not even at the bar. Needless to say we were rather annoyed and likely won’t be going back for a while (they shouldn’t have made promises they knew they couldn’t keep), not that they will miss our business because they seem to be booked every night even without us! Too bad, I liked their food.

Playa Cabana Cantina
2883 Dundas St. W, Toronto, ON
647-352-7767

Monday Closed
Tuesday 5pm – 12am
Wednesday 5pm – 12am
Thursday 5pm – 2am
Friday 5pm – 2am
Saturday 5pm – 2am
Sunday 5pm – 12am

Overall rating of The Junction Playa Cabana Cantina (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 3.5/5, food 4/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 4/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

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

Chocolate Hazelnut Lapis_4266

I still have to work on getting my layers more even.

I knew when I made this cake before that I wanted to try it again with different flavours. I made this version for a dinner we had for our nephew Brian some weeks back. Hazelnut and chocolate are a great combo, think Nutella and I figured it would make a wonderful layer cake!

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I actually got 16 layers out of the batter because I used less per layer.

Hazelnut and Chocolate Spekkoek Lapis Legit with Chocolate Ganache Topping (Thousand-Layer Spice Cake)

Serves 4-6 depending on how thick you slice it

Ingredients:

  • 170 g (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup hazelnut butter
  • 1 tsp hazelnut essence
  • 1/4 cup sifted unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp hazelnut butter
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream

Directions:

  1. Preheat the broiler (I have this range with two ovens, this time I used the smaller oven and it still took 2 minutes per layer and did not burn).
  2. Butter the bottom and sides of a 4″ x 6.7″ loaf pan and line with buttered parchment paper. I left enough of the parchment to go past the top of the pan, so I could use it to lift the cake out when it was done.
  3. Weigh your empty bowl, write down the measurement. In this bowl, cream the softened butter, 1/4 cup of sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add the egg yolks one at a time and beat until smooth. Fold the flour into the batter with a rubber spatula.
  4. In a clean bowl with clean beaters, beat the egg whites with the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar until stiff and shiny but not dry. With about 1/3 of the beaten whites, loosen the batter by mixing it in with a wooden spoon. Fold the remaining whites into the loosened batter, being careful not to over-mix.
  5. Weigh your bowl with the cake batter. Subtract this new weight from the old weight so you know how much your batter weighs and divide this weight in half. Put a second bowl on a scale that can tare and zero it out. Pour half the batter into this bowl (you can see exactly when you reach half on the scale).
  6. Into one half of the batter, gently fold in the 1/4 cup hazelnut butter and the essence. Into the other batter, gently fold in the 1/4 cup sifted cocoa powder.
  7. Pre-heat the pan (this makes the batter easier to spread out). Pour 2 tablespoons of the hazelnut batter into the bottom of the pan and spread out evenly.
  8. Bake in a hot broiler for 2 minutes. Watch carefully. Mine is exactly two minutes.
  9. Pour 3 tablespoons of the chocolate batter, spreading it over the first layer to form a thin second layer. Place the pan under the preheated broiler for 2 minutes, or until the layer is firm. Continue until you have exhausted both batters. Emeril noted that the cake typically has between 12 and 15 layers — I ended up with 16, not bad for a second timer!
  10. Allow the cake cool on a wire rack, turn out onto a cutting board and even up the sides by cutting clean new edges.
  11. To make the ganache, heat 1/4 cup of whipping cream until it almost boils. Pour over the chocolate chips and stir until melted. Allow to almost cool and pour over the cooled cake (you can allow it to drip down the sides, I didn’t want to).
  12. To make the hazelnut whipped cream, beat 1/4 cup of whipping cream until stiff, add 1 tbsp hazelnut butter and whip until entirely incorporated and smooth.
  13. Slice thinly and serve at room temperature with a dollop of the hazelnut whipped cream.
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A nice delicate hazelnut flavour in the whipped cream balances the chocolate ganache on the cake.

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

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

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

Creamed Leek and Parsnip Soup

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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

You probably recall that I blogged about my lovely friend Zsuzsa’s cottage cheese dough here, and I knew I wanted to try it in the shape of a Danish. It makes a wonderfully flaky pastry and paired with the sweetened creamed leftover cottage cheese I thought I had another winner, but I will admit defeat when I have to; the dough, although very flaky is not a ‘light’ as I had hoped and even though these little pinwheel Danishes are not huge (about 10 cm or 4 inches in diametre) they were very filling, too filling. I loved the creamed cottage cheese filling but I think I’ll try the traditional flaky butter pastry next time. I made only two of these beauties making the remaining dough into the small rugelach the dough was intended for.

Not as light and flaky as I thought.

Not as light and flaky as I thought.

Cheese Danish with Cottage Cheese Dough

Please see Zsusza’s recipe here.

Makes 18 small Rugelach, and 2 cottage cheese Danishes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup small-curd cottage cheese (I used fat free)
  • 1 cup unsifted flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

Directions:

  1. Spoon the cottage cheese into a sieve over a bowl lined with a unbleached coffee filter; drain for at least 2 hours, or overnight
  2. Remove 1/2 cup of the cheese for the dough; reserve the rest for the creamed cottage cheese filling.
  3. Pulse the flour and salt just to combine in a food processor (this is why you need not sift it). Add the butter to the flour pulsing on and off until the butter seems to disappear into the mixture.
  4. Add the cottage cheese in bits to the mixture pulsing to combine until it becomes a relatively loose dough ball.
  5. Divide the dough into four equal portions and shape each into a flat disc and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Rugelach Ingredients:

  • 1 batch of cottage cheese dough
  • 1/4 cup strained apricot jam
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 cup finely chopped almonds
  • 1 egg yolk for glazing

Rugelach Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F
  2. Once the dough is refrigerated and cooled, lightly flour your rolling area. Roll each portion into a circle about 25 cm or 8 inches in diameter. Cut into 6ths like a pie.
  3. Combine the chopped almonds with 2 tbsp sugar.
  4. Brush the dough with 1/4 of the apricot jam, sprinkle 1/4 of the almond sugar mixture on top. Starting with the wide end, roll each 6th into a little crescent, pinch the ends a bit and turn into each other. Brush with the whisked egg yolk.
  5. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper (you will thank me because the jam will melt out and make a darn mess on your baking sheet). Bake 20-25 minutes until golden. store in an air tight container. These freeze particularly well. Serve either warm or at room temperature.

Creamed Cottage Cheese Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup of the reserved cottage cheese
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla
  • 1 egg yolk

Danish Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F
  2. In the container for the immersion blender, add the cottage cheese, vanilla and sugar and blend until smooth. Add the egg yolk and blend well. Fold in the lemon zest. Refrigerate.
  3. Once the dough is refrigerated and cooled, lightly flour your rolling area. Roll two small portions into a circle about 10 cm or 4 inches in diameter. Cut as per the illustration. Add half the creamed cottage cheese to the centre and fold up one corner from each cut to the centre and pinch to seal.

    You could do squares instead, I find it easier to roll a circle and there is no waste.

  4. Brush the dough with 1/4 of the apricot jam, sprinkle 1/4 of the almond sugar mixture on top. Starting with the wide end, roll each 6th into a little crescent, pinch the ends a bit and turn into each other. Brush with the whisked egg yolk.
  5. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Bake 20-25 minutes until golden. Store in an air tight container. These freeze particularly well. Serve either warm or at room temperature.
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They were very pretty though

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The creamed cottage cheese was delicately sweet.

Last week I needed a dessert for my pie loving in-law family and I was lucky enough to find Charles‘ beautiful Appelkaka, a Swedish apple cake. I knew JTs family would like it because they are pie people and apple is one of their fav’s. We’re all trying to cut down our carbs, so when I saw this cake is made without the traditional pastry, I decided to make it. Of course, things don’t always go as planned, so when I started out to make the cake, I gathered all my ingredients. Apples: check. Sugar substitute: check (I had one diabetic and one hypo-glycemic in the house). Bread crumbs: wait…does that package say Parmesan Bread Crumbs? Oh my. Change of plans. Nix the bread crumbs and get out the food processor and pulse 120 g of Oats a few times, I wanted some texture, so it wasn’t pulsed to a smooth powder, but almost. And there we had it. When I changed up the bread crumbs to oats, I thought I’d change up the method as bit as well. I hope you don’t mind Charles, it turned out quite successful and the plates were licked clean. Thanks again for a lovely Swedish dessert.

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A quick taste of spring, and then it snowed.

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I think they may have retreated back into the ground.

Appelkaka, A Swedish Apple Cake

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A delicious combination of apples, almonds, oats and cinnamon

Serves 8-10, depending on the slice size

Ingredients:

  • 6 or 7 large Apples
  • 4-6 tsp Stevia (I had organic stevia powder at home, so I just used that. I think it was this brand – no weird aftertaste)
  • 120 g Oats, pulsed a few times in a food processor (not quite 100% powdery but close)
  • 50 g almond meal or roughly chopped almonds
  • 60 g unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • Splash of lemon juice
  • Sliced almonds for garnish
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp stevia
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Directions:

  1. Pre heat the oven to 395°F. Line a 10″ spring form pan with a little parchment (my pan didn’t have tall enough sides, so I had to make my sides out of parchment).
  2. Peel and coarsely grate the apples and splash a bit of lemon juice into it so it stops them from discolouring.
  3. Mix the pulsed oats, cinnamon, almonds and butter until it resembles a coarse meal.
  4. Take about 1/3 of the oat mix and press firmly into the bottom of the spring form pan. Add about 1/2 of the grated apples on top and sprinkle with another third of the oats. Finish with the remainder of the apples and press firmly down. Sprinkle the final third of the oat mix on top, just like a crumble.
  5. Bake for about 40 minutes or until the apples are soft.
  6. Garnish with sliced almonds and serve with Greek yogurt, flavoured with a tsp of stevia, lemon zest and a small splash of pure vanilla.
A very tasty appelkaka

A very tasty appelkaka

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Laura, Brady and Brian

Our Easter Lunch, complete with the wonderful Beef Tenderloin.

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Dan, Joan, Dad and JT

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Beef Tenderloin with a port sauce.

Happy birthday to my brother!
and Happy April Fool’s Day to the rest of you!
This is a joke I played on my friend Kim a couple of years ago. A hundred parking tickets.

We had our nephew Brian and his GF over for dinner some time ago, and I cooked a roast pork tenderloin dish that I hadn’t made in a very long time (sadly, I didn’t take any photos and now I know better than to post a recipe without photos ;-), so I’ll have to make it again in the near future). The pork was dressed in a flavourful Apple Cider and Dijon Mustard gravy for which I had to buy fresh Apple Cider. In my area, fresh Apple Cider is sold in 500 mL or larger and because I only needed a couple of cups of the stuff, I bought the 500 mL. So now I had about 4 cups left over. Now we could have drank it, because it was fresh and delicious, but I prefer to eat my fruit rather than drink it so I was left with the dilemma of what to do with all the cider.

I searched high and low and came across some lovely options but not practical; we don’t eat that much cake so a coffee cake was out of the question, we don’t usually eat that many quick breads, so that was out of the question, and the muffin recipes I found had too much oil in them and therefore quite unhealthy. What to do?

It was in my trusty Jean Paré’s, Company’s Coming, Muffins & More cookbook I found the solution: Tea Biscuits! Now I modified the recipe to include the Apple Cider which I reduced by less than 1/4 of its original volume and these scones did not disappoint; they were soft, buttery and had a very distinct apple cider flavour. This would be a lovely scone to serve during Autumn while you watch the leaves gently fall from the trees with a warm fire burning in the hearth a cup of tea and a couple of scones. Soon enough!

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A little tangy from the concentrated flavour of the cider.

Apple Cider Tea Biscuits

Makes about 10 good size tea biscuits

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup unsalted cold butter, cut into small bits
  • 1/4 cup sultana raisins
  • 4 cups apple cider
  • 2-3 tbsp milk or yogurt for brushing the tops.

Directions:

  1. Reduce the apple cider to about 1 cup of concentrated liquid by slowly boiling it off (takes about 40-50 minutes).
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 450°F (232°C).
  3. In a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, cream of tartar and spices until well mixed.
  4. Slowly drop in the cold butter while pulsing and blend until is it a coarse mix.
  5. Transfer this mix into another bowl, add the raisins and mix well to coat the raisins with the floury mixture.
  6. Add the cider all at once to the flour, and mix well with a wooden spoon mix until it is a soft ball of dough. (Note this is a slightly softer ball of dough than a tea biscuit usually is).
  7. Transfer to a floured board and knead a couple of times (not enough to melt the butter with the heat of your hands).
  8. Roll out the dough to about 2 cm (~3/4″) thick and cut with a triangular cookie cutter. Repeat until the dough is completely used.
  9. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet and brush tops with the yogurt or milk (for a beautiful shine) and bake 10-12 minutes until golden. You’ll need to watch the bottoms because the natural colour of these biscuits are more golden and you will only be able to tell how far along they are by looking at the bottoms.
  10. Cool slightly on a wire rack and serve with unsalted butter and preserves.
  11. Enjoy.
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Please take one, or even two.
Would you care for tea or coffee with that?

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Melt in you mouth scones, served warm with unsalted butter.

My Easter Menu

I just noticed that WordPress is adding advertising into my content in links which are not mine. How to tell the difference is that my links have a dotted underline and the ad links are solid and dotted together. Not cool at all.

Last week I was blown-away flattered by my Hungarian friend Zsuzsa (Zsuzsa is in the kitchen) when she invited me to participate in a blogging event to post your Easter Menu! You can read about Zsuzsa’s Easter here; she grew up very close to where my Mom grew up in Budapest. It’s really just a round up of past post recipes and a little bit about your Easter memories. How could I say no?  Thank you Zsuzsa, I would be honoured. Zsuzsa is taking part with the following Hungarian ladies: The author of this event, Éva from Takarekos Konyha (this blog is in Hungarian) and Elizabeth from Food and Thrift.

Growing up, Easter was always about bunnies for me. Yes, we went to church and all that but let’s be honest, it was about the bunnies! At eight years old, my very first pet bunny was an albino Dutch whom we called Boom Boom (he was called Boom Boom because he stomped his hind feet loudly). Sadly good old Boom Boom only lasted 3 years, but he made such an impression on me that I’ve only ever had bunnies as pets! I cried so much when he died that my Dad swore he would never let me have another pet because losing them made me too sad and he just couldn’t bear it. I was sixteen before I was permitted to have Boon, another albino Dutch but smaller than Boom Boom (no, we weren’t very imaginative with the names!). But I digress, back to Easter.

Mom and Dad in Edmonton with the Chrysler Tour in 1960

Mom and Dad in Edmonton with the Chrysler Tour in 1960

You already know that my Dad was a Puppeteer (and if you don’t, you can read about it here) and we had a family business with the puppet shows. Easter was a big time for us, these holidays meant that the malls, schools (note that this link is NOT mine) and some companies needed entertainment for their events and what’s not to like about a puppet show? So many of our Easters were on the road with the show. In fact, Boom Boom was first adopted because my Dad needed a live bunny for the show (he was the star, don’t worry, it was all very humane).

Believe it or not, the Show was about Bunnies.

Believe it or not, the Show was about Bunnies.

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And there were singing Eggs too

But Easter also had a serious side: FOOD! Chocolates, coloured eggs and of course, ham. I don’t have many of the recipes that we had at Easter but I’ve gathered a bunch I am going to have this weekend when we have JTs family for Easter Sunday lunch. I hope you enjoy them.

My Mom only used Canada Grade A Large size eggs

My Mom only used Canada Grade A Large size eggs

Hors D’œuvres were usually Deviled Eggs (here and here) and French Salad (Francia Saláta). I don’t have a post about Francia Saláta, but you can see Zsuzsa’s recipe here (my Mom never put potatoes in her version). I may do a new hors d’œuvres recipe I saw on my friend Lorraine’s blog of her recent trip to Amman, Jordan. It involves cheese and phyllo pastry, that’s all I can give you!

A wonderful addition to any Easter table

A wonderful addition to any Easter table

We usually had an Easter kalács (Zsuzsa made a gorgeous one here) but I’m making John’s Easter Cheese Bread instead.

The most succulent tenderloin ever

The most succulent tenderloin ever

We’ve decided to go nontraditional and have a beef tenderloin for lunch. This recipe is my favourite way to serve this special cut of meat.

The only place you'll miss the potatoes is on your waist-line!

The only place you’ll miss the potatoes is on your waist-line!

I’m going to serve it with my traditional Celeriac Cauliflower Mash. And a wonderful lemony Asparagus from my friend Greg’s Rufus’ Guide.

It's a symphony of colours

It’s a symphony of colours

And a little tangy German Purple Cabbage Slaw.

Now if you had any room for dessert, I’m going to make Charle’s Sweedish Apple Cake (from Five Euro Food), which totally looks like the perfect ending to a rich and heavy meal. It’s really just all apples and then there’s more apples. The only flour in this is the use of the breadcrumbs as the base, thickener and likely adds a little texture. I love that I can make it sugar free too, since I have a diabetic and a hypo-glycemic in the house — I like to make only one dessert that everyone can enjoy and not make the person feel odd that they have something else.

I may not be able to comment on your blogs for the next few days but I’ll definitely read up when I get back into civilization with internet. Thank you for reading my blog and leaving comments, you really, really make my day. Thank you to every one of the blogs I read, you provide me with the inspiration for my blog and it really wouldn’t be the same without you!

Happy Easter to All!

Earth Hour, did you do your part? We were the appetizer course for our third progressive dinner on our street and our course fell right on Earth Hour! We were ready, candle light, a wood fire in the fireplace, and gas cooking! It was lovely. We made Sopa Azteca (tortilla soup) but I didn’t write the recipe down (great excuse to make it again). But I did snap a cool photo of it, by candle light of course. Photo with Camera Amazing by Smug Mug and a little digital correction by Art Studio, all on my iPhone!
I used a hybrid of Rick Bayless’s Sopa Azteca and the one I previously posted.
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Now you must be thinking that I’m obsessed with Ebelskivers. No, please don’t think THAT — it’s pretty harsh, don’t you think? Well, I have been making a lot of these wonderful Danish treats (see this recipe and this recipe), but I just can’t help myself. Allow me to explain: Way, way back in time, it was Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday. Of course, that cold February day, I sleepily stood in front of the freezer wondering what we should have for dinner. Completely forgetting about Pancake Tuesday and I took out two 100 g servings of Salmon.

Fast forward to dinner time, and AHHHHHK! It finally hits home that it’s pancake Tuesday and we NEED to eat pancakes. But what about the salmon? We had plans on Wednesday so I couldn’t put it off; I had to create the savoury Ebelskiver Salmon with Spinach and Dill! Quite clever, don’t you think? Without tooting my own horn too much, I really MUST tell you this is one of the BEST versions of this Danish pancake I have made so far. It’s the BEST JERRY, THE BEST!

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And now for something completely different: A precariously perched squirrel.

Savoury Ebelskiver: Salmon with Spinach and Dill with a Dijon Dill Béchamel Sauce

Makes 8-10 round Ebekskivers

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The Salmon was perfectly paired with the subtle spinach and earthy dill.

Filling Ingredients:

  • 40 g onions (few tablespoons)
  • 20 g spinach (a good handful)
  • 2 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 200 g Fresh or canned Salmon without skin, roughly chopped into 1-2 cm bits)
  • 1 tsp EVOO
  • Ebelskiver batter (below)
  • Dijon dill béchamel sauce (below)

Filling Directions:

  1. Heat the EVOO and cook the onions until soft and translucent, add the spinach and wilt. Set aside to cool completely. In the meantime make the batter.

Basic Ebelskiver Batter Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 large egg, separated
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, lightly whisk the egg yolk, then whisk in the milk and melted butter. Add the yolk mixture to the flour mixture and, using a wooden spoon, stir until well blended. The batter will be lumpy.
  3. In a clean bowl, using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the egg whites until stiff, but not dry, peaks form. Using a spatula, fold about one-third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it, then fold in the rest just until no white streaks remain.
  4. Fold the cooled wilted spinach, onions, dill and chunks of salmon, and mix thoroughly.

Ebelskiver cooking directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Spray the ebelskiver pan with a good squirt of non-stick spray and place over medium heat. Add about 1/4 cup batter to each round as soon as the pan is quite hot. Maintain the heat at medium, you don’t want to burn the ebelskiver edges before the insides get a chance to cook.
  3. Cook until the bottoms of the pancakes are lightly browned and crisp, 3-5 minutes. Using a fork, gently push the ebelskiver until it entirely turns around in the pan and the uncooked portion is now facing the bottom.
  4. Transfer the finished spheres to a platter and finish baking in the oven while you repeat to finish the batter (about 10-12 minutes).
    Serve hot with a Dijon Béchamel.
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The Dijon Dill Béchamel was a sophisticated change to Maple Syrup.

Dijon Dill Béchamel

makes 1/2 cup

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup milk

Directions:

  1. Melt butter in a small sauce pan. Add the flour and stir until well combined. Cook this flour paste but don’t allow it to brown. Add the Salt and pepper.
  2. Slowly add the milk whisking to combine and cook this mixture until smooth and thick, stirring constantly. If it’s too thick, just add a bit more milk and stir until hot.
  3. Remove from heat. Add the mustard and the dill and whisk until smooth.
  4. Serve warm over Salmon Spinach and Dill Ebelskivers.
  5. Enjoy.
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They are rather filling, so you only need two, but believe me you’ll want FOUR!

We purchased this salmon well before the hoopla about Canadian Salmon having a fish influenza virus.

Traditional Pesto

We’ve all made pesto, right? Well, maybe not everyone, so here I will share my favourite recipe. You can use this mix as a dip, on toasts, as a base for pizza, a sandwich or even a dollop in the middle of a lovely creamed soup. It’s quite flavourful so you don’t need a lot of it. I usually just eyeball this recipe, but this time I got out the scale and measuring cups so I could have tangible measurements.

A delicious combo of flavours

A delicious combo of flavours

Traditional Pesto

Makes about 1/2 cup

Ingredients:

  • 30 g fresh basil, leaves removed, washed and dried
  • 40 g (1/3 cup) toasted pine nuts
  • 35 g (1/3 cup) freshly grated Parmesan
  • 3 cloves of garlic (about 10 g) or to taste
  • EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
  • salt to taste

Directions:

  1. In a food processor with metal blades combine the basil, pine nuts (make sure they are cool), Parmesan and garlic. Pulse adding a slow stream of EVOO to the consistency desired (I like my Pesto a little chunky and not too wet).
  2. Add salt to taste, but remember that the Parmesan is rather salty.
  3. Serve mixed into warm pasta with quartered grape tomatoes and shaved parmesan.
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Quartered Grape Tomatoes add a lovely acidity to the dish.

 

Who says you can’t have breakfast for hors d’œuvres? Breakfast anytime is great, particularly when I had a few quails eggs left over and we needed a quick little hors d’œuvres for cocktail hour! Serve these on toast points or rice crackers like I did. I garnished with a small dot of yogurt and dill for colour.

Scrambled Quails Eggs with Cheese

Makes about 8 crackers

A little scrambled egg bite

A little scrambled egg bite

Ingredients:

  • 4 quail eggs
  • 2 tbsp grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
  • dill to garnish
  • 8 rice crackers (I used these)

Directions:

  1. In a heat proof bowl, whisk together the quail eggs and cheese. Cook over a Bain Marie until the eggs are no longer runny, folding over constantly.
  2. Serve about 1 tbsp of the scrambled egg on toasts or crackers, garnish with yogurt and dill.

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

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

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

Celeriac Velouté

Serves 4 (one cup portions)

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

This past weekend we enjoyed +11°C and it seems that the vegetation also enjoyed the warming temperatures! This lovely little hyacinth decided it had enough with winter and popped right up! There is still about ten inches of snow beside it but we’re hoping it will melt in the next few days.

Some time ago, my dear friend Charles (remember when we met in Paris last year?) made this wonderful Caramelized Onion Fakaccia and it got me thinking about the last time I made Focaccia in June 2012! Suffice it to say, we’ve gone long enough without this wonderfully flavourful Italian bread. Thank you Charles, again for the inspiration.

This is a recipe I diligently copied down in nineties in my late twenties from one of the first food shows I really got into: Biba’s Italian Kitchen. She had such a lovely accent and demeanor and I was instantly smitten with the show. I have been making this focaccia bread since then and it’s always been delicious. Today I share the same recipe but adding Charle’s beautiful inspiration for the caramelized onion. Once again, a hideous night-time photo but don’t let that fool you, it’s delicious!

The onion caramelizes further in baking the focaccia

The onion caramelizes further in baking the focaccia

Sweet Onion Confit Focaccia

Adapted from Biba’s Trattoria Cooking and Charles’ Five Euro Food Fakaccia

Makes one 12″ x 18″ sheet of focaccia

Sponge Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp quick rising dry yeast dissolved in 1/2 cup lukewarm water

Directions:

  1. Prepare the sponge by mixing the flour and yeast water together and knead for 3-4 minutes by machine. You want the sponge a lot softer and stickier than a normal bread dough.
  2. Allow to rise in a bowl wrapped tightly with plastic wrap for 2-3 hours (I proofed my sponge in the fridge overnight, cover lightly in olive oil).

Focaccia Ingredients second rising:

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 4 1/2 tsp quick rising dry yeast dissolved in 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/2 cup sweet onion confit, please click here for the recipe
  • 3 tbsp EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil(, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1 tsp salt

Directions:

  1. If you have proofed your sponge in the fridge like I did, you will need to allow it to come to room temperature.
  2. Combine all of the ingredients for the second rising in your mixing bowl with a dough hook attachment. Add the sponge and kneed energetically for about 5-7 minutes. After kneading, the dough should be smooth and pliable.
  3. Cover with a light drizzle of olive oil and tightly wrapped plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a warm, draft-free place for 2 hours.
  4. Preheat oven to 450°F for 30 minutes before baking. Lightly oil a 10″ x 14″ cookie sheet and roll out the foccacia until it is about 1/2″ thick or to the edges. Dimple with your fingers. Spread the sweet onion confit over the entire surface. Bake until focaccia is golden in colour.
  5. Serve warm with your best EVOO and balsamic vinegar.

Suggested uses:

  • Base for quick pizza.
  • Sandwich bread.
  • Croutons for soup.
  • Croutons for stuffing.
  • Vehicle for dips.

Hi Everyone, hope all my lovely readers in the North East fared well through that huge storm the other day. I watched it on the Weather Network radar and it looked absolutely brutal.

I have one more thing to ask of you lovely readers (in fact, my friend Smidge from Just a Smidgen also requested it). Kindly link your Gravatar to your blog, otherwise we have no way of knowing where you came from and we cannot comment on your blog. It’s in Gravatar.com, you’ll have to sign in and Edit your Public Profile, update your link to your blog in My Links. Thank goodness Smidge asked me to do this because believe it or not mine WASN’T linked! Thanks Smidge!

Picture 2

A friend dated a guy with whom we became close. They broke up, so we asked her if she would mind if we kept him; she said not at all. So we did. He came for dinner a few weeks ago and I made a Hungarian themed dinner party; Hungarian Cheese Sticks (Sajtos Rud), Celeriac Velouté with Caramelized Onion Focaccia Croutons (recipe to come), Chicken Paprikas with Nokedli (I updated the nokedli part as Barb mentioned to me that her’s didn’t turn out), a nice Hungarian Cucumber salad (recipe to come) and Krémes. I was looking for a new dessert that would finish off the evening in style so I ‘traveled’ all the way to British Columbia to my good Hungarian friend Zsuzsa’s blog and found these wonderfully delicious Custard Squares. She spoke very highly of the recipe so I knew they would not disappoint. They are labour intensive but well worth the effort. They totally remind me of Mille Feuille that was my favourite when I was a child. The pastry is fantastically flaky.

I divided the recipe into a third of the original as I didn’t need quite as many. JT said I should have made the entire batch (that’s a testament to how good they are!). Thank you Zsuzsa for a tremendous dessert. I turned the most of the measurements into weight because it was easier to divide into 3 that way! You should get yourself a digital kitchen scale (I have this one), it is essential for baking.

Although these squares sound rich, they really are not. Really.

Although these squares sound rich, they really are not. Really.

Hungarian Custard Squares (Krémes)

Makes 8 squares in a 5″ x 9″ loaf pan (if you want more, please see Zsuzsa’s original recipe, she has excellent photos on the process of making the pastry too).

Custard Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup skim milk
  • 1/3 vanilla pod
  • 3 eggs separated
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 6 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 pk gelatin
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • dash of lemon juice

Pastry Ingredients:

  • 72 g all purpose flour
  • 76 g butter
  • 1 tbsp and 1 tsp cold water
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • pinch of salt

Pastry Directions:

  1. Heat the milk in a saucepan or microwave, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk with a paring knife, and add the bean pod to the milk. Cover, remove from heat and allow the vanilla to infuse for one hour. Set aside.
  2. Next make the flaky pastry. In a food processor with metal blades, combine the flour and chilled butter until it resembles a fine crumble. Add the salt and pulse to distribute. Combine the vinegar and the water and stream into the processor until a dough ball forms.
  3. Generously flour a board and roll out the pastry into a rectangle and divide into 4 equal parts. Stack the four rectangles on top of one another and chill for twenty minutes.
  4. Once chilled, separate each part and roll the dough into 4 very thin rectangles, roughly bigger than your loaf pan. Place in the bottom of your loaf pan, allowing the dough to form creases to fit into the pan. Repeat for the second rectangle, this will be the top. Bake in a preheated 400° F oven for 14-18 minutes keeping watch as the pastry burns easily.
  5. When the pastry is golden brown, remove pan from the oven and immediately cut pastry into 8 squares (4 by 2). Wait a few minutes and carefully remove the squares and set them aside in the same order as they were in the pan, set aside.
  6. Repeat with the other two rectangles and bake, this is the bottom layer (do not cut this layer). Allow to cool, and remove from the pan, and put a good layer of plastic wrap into the pan with a generous amount coming up the side (this will help you lift it out). Return the bottom layer into the bottom of the pan, smoothing out the side of the plastic wrap.
  7. Next make the custard layer.
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It’s misleading because it has cream in the name, but there is no cream in the recipe.

Custard Directions:

  1. In a medium sized bowl beat the egg yolks and 2 tbsp sugar for 8 minutes (they will become thick and pale). Add the vanilla
  2. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour and gelatine. Gradually add the flour mixture to the beaten egg yolks and continue to beat until smooth.
  3. Remove the vanilla pods from the vanilla infused milk and gradually add the vanilla infused milk to the bowl with the eggs and the flour.
  4. Over a simmering bain-marie cook the custard stirring it constantly until it reaches 80°C or 176° F with a candy thermometer (be careful as it can burn easily). As soon as it reaches 80° C remove immediately from the heat stir in the butter and set aside to cool.
  5. While the custard is cooling whip the egg whites until soft peaks form, add the lemon juice and continue beating until almost stiff. Add 2 tbsp sugar and beat until shiny and stiff. You are trying to beat the sugar into the egg whites so they are no longer grainy (this takes several minutes).
  6. Once the custard has cooled, press it through a fine sieve (my custard got a bit lumpy because I didn’t stir well enough as it was cooking)
  7. Take about 1/3 of the egg whites and fold it into the custard to loosen it up. Then fold the remaining egg whites into the custard very slowly
  8. Pour this custard onto the bottom layer of the pastry and even out using a spatula, pushing it into the corners and sides. Add the top layer of pastry in the same order that you removed it from the pan, leaving a little space between each one to allow your knife to slide through to make the squares. Refrigerate until the custard has set.
  9. Once set, using the plastic wrap, lift the pastry dessert out of the pan onto a cutting board. Generously sprinkle with icing sugar. Using a wet knife, slice the custard into 8 equal squares, using your top pastry as your guide.
  10. Serve cold, perhaps with a dollop of whipping cream.
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Those little dots are from the vanilla bean that was infused in the milk

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A little fresh raspberries would have looked awesome in this photo. The forks are from Hungary, my Mom bought them for me.

Hi everyone, hope you all had a great weekend. I thought I would post a public service message in this post. As most of you know by now, I do most of my commenting using my iPhone 4s just because it’s more convenient and I am able to read and comment on the go! What some of you don’t know is that WordPress so generously provides Mobile Device optimization (I’m sure the other webwares do as well, I just don’t know how to set it up) which means that when I go to your WordPress blog on my phone, WordPress recognizes that I’m checking it out on my mobile device and reformats it to the best viewing configuration. Cool huh?

I have to zoom in so I could read it.

This is the example that is Not Optimized for Mobile.
I have to zoom in so I could read it.

This is optimized for my mobile device. See how WordPress compacts everything so it's easy to navigate and read?

This is optimized for my mobile device.
See how WordPress compacts everything so it’s easy to navigate and read?

But some of you don’t have this turned on, so this is the public service bit. On your computer, go to your Dashboard and click “Appearance”, then “Mobile” in the menu across the far left. Click “yes” to enable mobile theme and that way your images and text will be formatted to look the best on the mobile device. By clicking yes to “show excerpts on front pages instead of full posts” gives you a reader digest version of the post, which makes it much easier if you are looking for something specific.

Mobile Optimization 1

See Mobile at the bottom? Highlight it.

Mobile Optimization 2

I’ve set my options they way I want my blog to look on your mobile device.

And while I’m at it, I also noticed that some of you don’t have a “search” button on your site (mobile or not), which I personally find frustrating when I’m trying to source a recipe I remember reading about on your blog. In WordPress, it is in “Appearance” under “Widgets”; you will need to add the search widget so it’s on your blog.

And not that I am any expert in blogging or Google, I recently found out that Google reads content and the more robust your content is the more likely it will come up on the first page when someone Google’s something you’ve blogged about (ever wonder why Wiki is usually first on a search? It’s subject specific content!). Why did I bring this up? Well, it’s because I used name my photos IMG 12345_BLOG.jpg, which to Google means absolutely nothing. So to increase the ‘value’ of content on your blog, name your photos what it is so that Google can read it, for example Pesto.jpg. You can also add alternative text which also increases its search capability, for example, for my pesto photo, I might add basil pesto as the alternative text.  Now if you will excuse me, I have a lot of work to rename my 1,712 images! Back to regular programming.

Remember the crab legs we bought for Christmas Eve when my brother cancelled Christmas because the kids were sick? We froze them in good thick plastic bags for another time and I’m so glad I did. Two of the four legs made this salad and it was absolutely delightful. I used Thai flavours to bring out the fresh, sweet flavour of the crab. I will make it again it’s a very tasty salad.

Crab and Avocado Salad

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The King Crab is very flavourful, so you really don’t need much.

Serves 4 as an appetizer portion

Ingredients:

  • 2 large King crab legs, cooked, shelled and cut into bite sized pieces.
  • 1/4 cup sweet yellow corn
  • 1/2 an avocado, cut into small cubes
  • 1 tbsp cilantro, chopped and a few sprigs for garnish
  • 1 green onion, chopped finely.
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 4 handfuls of baby arugula
  • 2 tbsp of the 19-ingredient slaw apricot dressing

Directions:

  1. Combine the king grab legs, sweet yellow corn, avocado, cilantro and green onion. Set aside.
  2. Combine the lime juice and sugar so that the sugar melts.
  3. Toss the crab salad with the lime dressing to coat well.
  4. Toss the arugula with the 19-ingredient slaw dressing to coat well.
  5. Plate a handful of the arugula on each plate and top with the crab salad. Garnish with a sprig of cilantro.
  6. Serve cold.

My lovely friend Zsuzsa blogged about this cottage cheese dough and I knew I had to try it. It truly makes a wonderfully flaky pastry and I encourage you to try it. I made these with almonds as a friend’s daughter is allergic to walnuts and it was incredible. I have another tub of cottage cheese in the fridge waiting to be made into another batch. By the way, I used fat free cottage cheese and it worked out remarkably. I also made half of the dough.

Rugelach

Please see Zsusza’s recipe here.

Better than Croissant dough, because it's not that bad for you

Better than Croissant dough, because it’s not that bad for you

Makes 24 small Rugelach

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup small-curd cottage cheese (I used fat free)
  • 1 cup unsifted flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

Directions:

  1. Spoon the cottage cheese into a sieve over a bowl lined with a unbleached coffee filter; drain for at least 2 hours, or overnight
  2. Remove 1/2 cup of the cheese for the dough; reserve the rest for another use.
  3. Pulse the flour and salt just to combine in a food processor (this is why you need not sift it). Add the butter to the flour pulsing on and off until the butter seems to disappear into the mixture.
  4. Add the cottage cheese in bits to the mixture pulsing to combine until it becomes a relatively loose dough ball.
  5. Divide the dough into four equal portions and shape each into a flat disc and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Rugelach Ingredients:

  • 1 batch of cottage cheese dough
  • 1/4 cup strained apricot jam
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 cup finely chopped almonds
  • 1 egg yolk for glazing

Rugelach Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F
  2. Once the dough is refrigerated and cooled, lightly flour your rolling area. Roll each portion into a circle about 25 cm or 8 inches in diameter. Cut into 6ths like a pie.
  3. Combine the chopped almonds with 2 tbsp sugar.
  4. Brush the dough with 1/4 of the apricot jam, sprinkle 1/4 of the almond sugar mixture on top. Starting with the wide end, roll each 6th into a little crescent, pinch the ends a bit and turn into each other. Brush with the whisked egg yolk.
  5. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper (you will thank me because the jam will melt out and make a darn mess on your baking sheet). Bake 20-25 minutes until golded. store in an air tight container. These freeze particularly well. Serve either warm or at room temperature.

If you’ve been following along, you will know by now that we have very good friends, Paul and T, who live in Illinois with whom we visit, travel, laugh (and laugh and laugh), eat and drink and recently, they kindly paid us a long overdue visit. It’s always a challenge to come up with things to do since we’ve been hanging out with each other for around 20 years — we’ve done most things in the GTA that had to be done. Now, I know it’s not always necessary to plan a weekend with such good friends, but it’s nice to do a little something special, particularly since it’s the only time JT and I get to be tourists in our own city.

We decided to visit Casa Loma, a real castle in the heart of Toronto. Built by Sir Henry Pellatt and Lady Mary Pellatt for $3.5 million dollars around 1911. Now that is a lot of money even now, can you imagine how much that was in 1911? Sadly, the Pellatt’s only lived in the Castle for 10 years, when their financial empire crumbled and they were forced to auction off the castle and belongings. In 1924 they moved to their farm in King township, and shortly after Lady Mary passed away of heart problems (likely caused by anxiety and stress of their financial downfall). The castle was fitted with the most modern conveniences, like indoor toilets, electricity and telephones; when the entire city of Toronto had 3,000 telephones, the Pallett’s castle had 50! Even the servants quarters were grandly equipped (by the standards of the day) with heated rooms, electricity and indoor washrooms (it reminded me of Downton Abbey). It took 300 men three years to build it. Quite the property.

In 1925 they tried to convert it to a luxury hotel, but even that didn’t pan out; the rooms were never completed, only the common areas had been re-purposed where they held many high-end social events and dances. In 1937 the Kiwanis Club of West Toronto took over the building and began the tedious task of renovating and refurnishing the rooms as Sir and Lady Pallett would have had it furnished. Today, only some of the furnishings are from the Pallett’s estate, many of them are just ‘of the time’. You can book your wedding or special event at the castle, but 27 years ago, the waiting list was three years long, so plan ahead!

Casa Loma is situated in Forest Hill, an exclusive neighbourhood in Toronto, even today. The area is also quite lovely to experience and I strongly suggest that you check it out if you are visiting Toronto.

A few practical notes and we’ll get to the good stuff:

  • With the self-guided audio tour, it will take you about 2-3 hours to go through the castle, we had a moderate pace and completed the tour, even the garages, stables and potting shed in a little over 2 hours.
  • There is an elevator but it must be operated by staff, the stairs are so much more practical, and they will allow your tour to flow better (not having to back-track on yourself to get to the lift).
  • It’s not heated well, so you’ll need your jacket in the winter (I wore boots and my toes were chilled). I walked around with my jacket buttoned up (and I usually start sweating as soon as I think about going inside — Eastern European and all!).
  • Little one’s are not discouraged, but there is little for them to be amused with. Unless you are going for a specific kids program, they will be bored.
  • There is a cafeteria on site, but Yorkville is very close by with so many better options.
  • Ladies, take a purse that can be hung on your shoulder, your hands will be occupied with the listening device, the map and perhaps a camera (and for me, a tissue for my sniffling nose, yes, I still have it! Grrr!).
  • Not a cheap experience, adult entry is around $20; check on line, you may be able to find discount coupons. If you plan on doing more than one attraction a Toronto Attractions City Pass may be the way to go.

The Good Stuff (you’ll see that I didn’t take many photos (I kept my gloves on) so you’ll have to visit to see it all):

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The main entrance. As you can see we have another dreary grey day in Toronto

The Great Hall just after the entrance.

The Great Hall just after the entrance. The giant organ is that shadow in the photo.

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The Great Hall another view; you can see the scale of this room by the chairs. The gorgeous window in the previous photo is just on the right of this photo. This room also had an enormous organ (which sat in the large window in the second photo), the enormous pipes are behind me taking the shot.

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Sir Henry’s drawing room

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The Drawing Room; the sofa in the foreground is facing the fireplace from the previous photo.

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Incredible views from one of the towers. This shot reminds me of Paris from the Arc de Triomphe looking toward La Défence

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OK, maybe it’s just La Défence that reminds me of our new condo.

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Great view of our city.

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The towers are accessed only by metal and wood spiral stairs, which can be a bit confining at times. It’s best to do this in low season as there are only one set of stairs so it would get quite congested in high season.

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This is the smoking room, no ladies please

The stables

The stables. What’s cool about the stables, garages and potting shed is that they are accessed by a 500 metre tunnel, 5 metres under ground. Sir Henry fought with the city to have a busy road detoured so that his servants didn’t have to cross to access the outer buildings, and was constantly declined, so he built a tunnel. Obviously a different snack bracket than I.

We had very special deviled eggs for our hor d'œuvres that evening.

We had very special deviled eggs for our hor d’œuvres that evening.

And that concludes our visit to Casa Loma, I hope you have a chance to see it when you come to Toronto.

Mini Corn Dogs

I had meant to post this around Super Bowl 2013 but as luck would have it, I didn’t get it all together and hence the later post. But fear not, these babies are good enough to serve any old time, and not just for Super Bowl! And the best part is that they freeze perfectly, so make up the entire batch, and toss into a zippy locky baggie and freeze, now you’re ready to entertain any old time. The second best part is that they are not deep fried. I used my silicon cake pop pan to make these slightly smaller than a mini-muffin, but you can use a mini muffin pan with success but it will make fewer corn dogs.

Mini Corn Dogs

I saw the photos on Google here, but I based the recipe on Fred’s not here Corn Bread. Use your favourite cornbread recipe instead.

Just one or two bites each

Just one or two bites each

Makes 51 small corn dogs (in the half shape of a cake pop)

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup medium ground corn meal
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/8 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped leeks
  • 3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 5 regular hot dogs (I used Yves vegetarian dogs because I was serving them to a vegetarian)

Directions:

  1. Pre heat oven to 400°F. I used my silicon cake pop pan to make these slightly smaller than a mini-muffin. But you can use a mini muffin pan with success but it will make fewer corn dogs.
  2. Sift cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
  3. Blend eggs, milk and oil in another bowl.
  4. Stir wet ingredients into dry.
  5. Fold in the shredded cheese and onion.
  6. Cut up the hot dogs into 1-1.5cm slices (I got about 8 or so out of each dog)
  7. Spoon molds about 3/4 full and insert one dog so that it sinks in but doesn’t get covered on top.
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until firm and golden.
  9. Serve warm with a honey mustard dipping sauce or ketchup (I’ve been meaning to make this one, from Sissi or this one from John but haven’t gotten around to it).
A mildly spiced layered cake

A mildly spiced layered cake

My friend Genie (Bunny. Eats. Design) in New Zealand very kindly invited me to participate in a new forum called Our Growing Edge which will be held monthly. It’s content will be defined by our cooking bucket list, so to speak — things that we want to conquer or need to conquer and upon our success (or failure!) we will create a post and link it to her page for the month. This is rather exciting because we all have our arch nemesis in cooking. Please click on over to Genie’s lovely blog (particularly on Tofu Tuesday’s when she showcases her most adorable flop eared bunny).

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In early January, my friend Sam (Sweet Samsations) posted a recipe for an Indonesian cake I had never heard of, which is not rare in this very large world of ours, but what caught my eye was the huge quantity of eggs used in this cake, Sweet Samsations uses 30 – THIRTY; I even found one that used 45 eggs! I just can’t imagine buying that many eggs for one recipe. But it is a beloved cake that’s for sure so I knew I had to look around and find a recipe with a more reasonable egg content because I HAD to make it. Fast forward to late January when Genie asked me to participate in Our Growing Edge, I knew what I wanted to make: Indonesian Spekkoek Lapis Legit. Now to find the time to bake it because it’s quite labourious as you bake each layer individually over the other in the same pan.

I landed on Food Network’s Emeril Lagasse’s recipe (didn’t make sense to me either) because his cake only used 12 eggs, and 12 is easily divided into two; I found my recipe, only 6 eggs! I did a quick assessment of the baking container that Emeril’s recipe used and determined that if I halved his recipe it would fit snugly into my 4″ x 6.7″ loaf pan. I didn’t get as many layers as I had hoped, but it still looked nice and it still had good flavour. Emeril suggests to decorate with powered sugar, and I added candied orange peel as garnish. I will serve it with the orange syrup that was the left over from candying the peel.

Indonesian Spekkoek Lapis Legit (Thousand-Layer Spice Cake)

Serves 4-6 depending on how thick you slice it

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp ground mace
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp anise extract
  • 170 g (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp confectioners’ sugar
  • Candied orange peel as garnish

Directions:

  1. Preheat the broiler (I have this range with two ovens, I used the larger oven with the rack in the lower middle so it’s not too close to the broiler).
  2. Butter the bottom and sides of a 4″ x 6.7″ loaf pan and line with buttered parchment paper. I left enough of the parchment to go past the top of the pan, so I could use it to lift the cake out when it was done.
  3. Combine the nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, mace and ginger and set aside.
  4. Weigh your empty bowl, write down the measurement. In this bowl, cream the softened butter, 1/4 cup of sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add the egg yolks one at a time and beat until smooth. Fold the flour into the batter with a rubber spatula.
  5. In a clean bowl with clean beaters, beat the egg whites with the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar until stiff and shiny but not dry. Fold the whites into the egg yolk mixture, being careful not to over-mix. Divide the batter between 2 bowls. Add combined spices to 1 bowl and stir well.
  6. Weigh your bowl with the cake batter. Subtract this new weight from the old weight so you know how much your batter weighs and divide in half. Put your second bowl on a scale that can tare and zero it out. Pour half the batter into this bowl (you can see exactly when you reach half on the scale).
  7. Mix the spices into the second batter along with the anise extract.
  8. Pour 4-6 tablespoons of the batter into the bottom of the pan and spread out evenly. Sammy suggests to pre-heat the pan, which I didn’t do, but I suspect it makes spreading the batter much easier since my subsequent layers spread easier on the hot layer.
  9. Bake in a hot broiler for 2 minutes. Watch carefully.
  10. Pour 4-6 tablespoons of the spiced batter, spreading it over the first layer to form a thin second layer. Place the pan under the preheated broiler for 2 minutes, or until the layer is firm and very lightly browned. Continue until you have exhausted both batters. Emeril noted that the cake typically has between 12 and 15 layers — I ended up with 10, not bad for a first timer!
  11. Allow  the cake cool on a wire rack, turn out onto a cutting board and even up the sides by cutting clean new edges.
  12. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and garnish with candied orange rind.
  13. Slice thinly and serve warm or at room temperature with additional orange syrup, if you so desire.
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I should have made the layers much thinner

It's quite a show stopper!

It’s quite a show stopper!

My notes:

  • It’s a mildly spiced cake with a predominant butter flavour, I think I might increase the spices a bit more if I make it again because I thought it tasted a bit greasy.
  • The butter really does need to be soft so it makes a lovely smooth batter.
  • Many Indonesian bakers suggest to press down each layer after you bake it, although I did that, mine bounced right back.
  • It’s a very rich cake so you needn’t cut large pieces.
  • Next time I may try chocolate and vanilla layers or even vanilla and espresso flavour!

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Happy Valentines Day! I can’t believe it’s the middle of February! And on top of it, it’s Valentine’s Day — do you have something wonderful planned for your partner? Or do you wait for the weekend?

We had our good friends Rae and Mon over for dinner a couple of weeks ago and I made this new rendition of the clafoutis we made in Lyon; I dare say I like this one a touch more, or at least it hit my taste buds perfectly. The warming spices of the cinnamon go well with the apple and the pudding. I will surely make this again.

Apple Cinnamon Clafoutis

Makes 6 Claffoutis about 10cm or 4 inches in diametre

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 80 g granulated sugar
  • 40 g all purposes unbleached white flour
  • 100 mL Carnation Evaporated Milk (or cream)
  • 150 mL milk (I used skim)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp lemon jest
  • 2 ripe sugar crisp apples

Cinnamon Slurry:

  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 175° C (350° F).
  2. Butter the pans and dust with sugar until sides and bottom are totally coated.
  3. Combine the melted butter, cinnamon and brown sugar into a slurry. Pour into a squeeze container like this. Set aside.
  4. In a bowl, mix the sugar and flour well. Make a well in the centre and slowly pour the cream with the vanilla and lemon zest combined into the flour and then add the milk. Add the lightly beaten whole eggs and yolk and mix delicately until all of the flour and sugar are combined.
  5. Peel and cut up the apples into smallish cubes (1 cm or 0.5 inch), divide evenly in the 6 pans. Pour the pudding mix in about 1/2 way into each cavity and squeeze a pattern of the brown sugar cinnamon slurry on top; add the remaining pudding mix and squeeze a bit more of the slurry onto each one.
  6. Bake for about 45-60 minutes or until firmly set. Cool in pans and remove carefully.
    Set aside.
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Pipe the Slurry over each pudding (I actually snuck a layer in between)

This time I made the microwave caramel sauce, if you want more, follow Tracey’s recipe.

Salted Caramel Sauce:

Makes just enough sauce to scantly decorate the clafoutis (there is enough sugar in the clafoutis without the sauce, it’s just lovely to decorate)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp corn syrup
  • 1 tbsp water
  • splash of lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup hot heavy cream
  • 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Directions:

  1. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, water and lemon juice together in a 2-cup microwave-safe measuring cup.
  2. Microwave until the caramel is just barely starting to take on some color, 4-6 minutes (depending on your microwave).
  3. Remove from the microwave and allow to sit. Don’t be tempted to keep reheating the caramel in the microwave until it is darker, it will become darker on its own.
  4. Combine the warm cream/milk with the salt.
  5. Slowly add the warm cream/milk and stir until well combined (be careful, it’s very hot still). Add the butter and stir until melted. Cool completely.

Assembly:

  1. Warm the clafoutis in the oven for about 10 minutes.
  2. On a large rimmed plate, pour the caramel sauce into the centre and spread out evenly.
  3. Carefully place one clafoutis into the centre of the sauce and serve warm.
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There is a similar ratio of apples to pudding in this romantic dessert. The caramel was meant for the dessert, not your partner’s…

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The slurry caramelizes within the clafoutis in the pan and the incredible flavour of cinnamon and brown sugar are woven throughout the pudding. Oh my.

Egg-elskiver Foo Yung

The Eastern Seaboard got dumped on again by Nimo and Toronto wasn’t spared this time. A total of 30cm (12inches) covered the city over 28 hours! Could have been worse. Here are a few shots for your enjoyment. Hope you were spared the carnage!

The view from the office

The view from the office

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View of the backyard, the morning after


My dear friend Norma (at Garden to Wok) reminded me of a recipe I wanted to try. Norma posted Egg Foo Yung in April last year and I was so struck by it that I made it shortly after, with much success! Norma kindly suggested that next time I try it in the ebelskiver pan that Barb posted about. As you know, this Christmas Santa Barb generously bought me very own Ebelskiver pan and even though I’ve been giving it (and my arms, since it is cast iron) a good workout, I decided it was time to expand the horizons of the humble Ebelskiver pan. Last week, I needed dinner and thought, what an opportunity! So, I pulled out the pan and made Eggelskiver.

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Very nicely shaped Eggs in this delightfully light broth

I followed the original recipe exactly, with the exception of the cooking time, since these were a bit thicker, they needed a little oven time (350°F) for about 12 minutes until the egg and seafood are cooked through. Because the round part is at the bottom, they get a gorgeous golden colour without having to flip so don’t bother! I put a few chili flakes onto the soup as garnish.

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This casualty was just as tasty as it’s perfect cousins. I thought it was a good opportunity to show the texture. Sweet shrimp and scallops really rounded out the dish (no pun intended; OK, the pun was intended).

I will definitely make this again, thanks Norma for the suggestion, I almost like these better than the original!

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I like the size of these balls, you could have one or all four.

Quinoa Energy Bars

With JTs job, he sometimes misses lunch or dinner, so I went to our local health food stores to pick up some healthy energy bars. I was shocked! The high protein versions could run as high as $5 EACH! That’s absolutely crazy, and they are not even that “good” for you. So instead I bought some quinoa (sorry indigenous people of Peru), sunflower seeds, flax seeds, dark chocolate, dried cherries and agave and came home to search for a tasty recipe. My inspiration came from this recipe in Epicurious but it was purely Barb (from Profiteroles and Ponytails) that inspired the Quinoa addition to this treat, thank you Barb!

I toasted the quinoa so that it popped like pop corn; toasting brings out the nuttiness (hmmm, that’s a coincidence, when I’m toasted I become nuttier too ;-)!) and makes them nicely crunchy and not too jaw breaking.

Note that I updated the nutritional facts because someone asked about calories. Check out the tool I used here.

A delicious healthy snack or meal replacement

A delicious healthy snack or meal replacement

Quinoa Energy Bars

Makes one pan 10″ x 13″ (25cm x 33cm), cut into 20 bars

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups toasted quinoa (or you could buy the commercially puffed quinoa, which is like puffed rice)
  • 1 cup unsalted sunflower seeds, slightly roasted in a frying pan
  • 2 cups uncooked oatmeal, old-fashioned or instant
  • 1/4 cup partly ground flax seeds
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries or other dried fruit
  • 3/4 cup crunchy peanut butter, organic, just peanuts
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup agave syrup or honey
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup water

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 121° C or 250° F.
  2. Prepare a 10″ x 13″ pan by lining it with parchment paper, enough to have the sides come up as ‘handles’.
  3. Add the quinoa to a hot dutch oven (you will need the high sides) and stir as the quinoa pops. Keep stirring so it doesn’t scorch. This volume will take about 10-12 minutes. The quinoa pops like corn, but not nearly as aggressively, but you do need the high sides of the pan, otherwise you’ll be chasing the quinoa all over the place!
  4. In the same pan, slightly roast the sunflower seeds. Combine with the puffed quinoa, oatmeal, flax and cherries. Set aside.
  5. In a micro-wave proof bowl, add the peanut butter, brown sugar, agave syrup and chocolate chips and microwave on a low setting until chocolate and sugar have melted . Add the water and stir well.
  6. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix well (I used a very large bowl with a wooden spoon). You want to make sure that everything is coated with the wet ingredients.
  7. Pour the combines ingredients into the prepared pan and press evenly into all corners (I used a glass as a rolling pin). Bake for about 20 minutes.
  8. Allow to cool about 10 minutes, carefully remove from the pan with the parchment handles onto a cutting board and cut into 20 slices. Allow to cool completely before storing in an air tight container in the freezer.

Notes: depending on how dry your house is, you may need to adjust the wet ingredients as the final product can be a bit crumbly (so say the comments on Epicurious). That’s why I added the water and baked it out. Mine came out nice and tight and even after freezing wasn’t crumbly.

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I had to post this again, because, OMG, aren’t they just the cutest? I’m talking about the teeny, tiny quail eggs. We were in Yorkville with Paul and T and I stopped into Pustateri’s (very high end expensive grocery store) to pick up some quail eggs to make tiny deviled eggs. I wanted a small egg because we were going out for dinner and I didn’t want a big, heavy hors d’œuvres to fill us up.

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Aren’t they cute?

To see my original recipe, click here. I made 18 servings, and I only eyeballed the ingredients and had too much filling left over, I would suggest 1 tablespoon of mayo per four whole eggs, and you can eyeball the volume to make sure you’ll have enough and not too little. The quail eggs have a tougher membrane on the outside, so it actually makes it easier to peel than a normal egg.

Deviled Quail Eggs, a little hors d’œuvres

Makes 18 deviled eggs

Ingredients:

  • 9 quail eggs
  • 2.5 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 heaping tbsp Dijon mustard
  • salt to taste
  • Paprika to garnish

Directions:

  1. Put your desired quantity of quail eggs into a saucepan and fill with cold water to 2.5 cm or 1 inch over the height of the eggs. Bring to a boil and keep on a moderate boil for 5 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, prepare a bowl of cold water with lots of ice. Once the five minutes are done, strain the eggs and put them immediately into the ice bath. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, these will cool down very quickly because they are so small.
  3. Peel each egg, rinse off remaining shells. With a wet knife, cut each in half length-wise. Remove the yolk into a bowl, set whites aside.
  4. Add the mayo and Dijon to the egg yolks and whisk until it is smooth and totally combined.
  5. With your largest rosette maker in your icing piper, pipe into each egg cavity to fill. Garnish with a sprinkling of paprika.
  6. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
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You can see the size difference to a Canada Grade A large egg on the left.

We had very special deviled eggs for our hor d'œuvres that evening.

I was going to system out the paprika mess on the back left egg, but then I decided to leave it real!

You’re probably thinking “she’s gone mad” bacon and eggs for a Super Bowl appetizer? What could she possibly be thinking? Well, once you taste these babies, you’d wish you had made more of them. Just the perfect size to pop in your mouth (or for more delicate mouths, ehem, one may need two bites). I bought quail eggs for an appetizer for our friend’s Paul and T (post to come soon and I don’t want to spoil it) but I had a few of these gorgeous little eggs left over, so I came up with this breakfast for appetizer treat, and since Super Bowl is on Sunday, why not serve it to your discerning guests?

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You can see how small the quails eggs are in comparison to the large Grade A egg.

We spotted this sign walking up to a restaurant on Bloor for lunch last Sunday. Since this post had bacon in it, I thought it appropriate.

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A sandwich board sign in our hood which seemed appropriate with this post.

It’s really not a recipe, you can easily see all the ingredients, so I’ll just describe it. You’ll need 1 large slice of German seedy bread (we usually use this brand’s 7-Grain bread), 4 slices of Pancetta, sliced about 3.5 mm or 1/4 inch thick and four quail eggs.

First you want to fry the bacon until crispy, set aside in a warm oven, reserve bacon grease. Then cut four rounds of bread about 4-5 cm or 2.5 inches in diametre, and fry each side of the bread in the bacon fat until slightly toasted, but saturated in the bacon fat (you can hear your arteries bursting, no, wait, those are mine bursting), set aside and keep warm. In the remaining bacon fat, fry up each egg, trying to keep as circular shape as possible. Serve immediately, you want the yolks a little runny. To serve: take one slice of the bread round, put the bacon on top and then the egg, garnish with parsley or cilantro leaves. Serve with a napkin because you will have creamy yolk running down your chin.

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A one, perhaps two bite morsel

They turned out so pretty, I had to take two photos.

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Oh, you have a little dribble on your chin, let me get that for you.

Go Jays Go!

Oops.

We can’t have Christmas dinner without pumpkin pie, but it’s two weeks into January and most of us were trying to catch up from all the over eating we did during the holidays, so instead of making a giant pie, I decided to make mini tarts and that way one can have one or many, it’s up to the individual! Of course, I had this idea to brûlée the tops, just for a little difference and it worked out very well; the only thing is that you can’t do it too far in advance otherwise it gets mushy.

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This is an optical illusion, they are actually really mini!

Pumpkin Brûlée Mini Tarts

Makes 18 mini tarts and 4 4oz or 100 mL ramekins

Original recipe from Five Roses Flour Cookbook page 132

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You can see the hard brûléed tops as they shine in the sunlight!

Ingredients:

  • 18 mini tart shells, unbaked
  • 375 mL or 1 1/2 cups pure pumpkin purée (I used Ed Smith)
  • 250 mL or 1 cup warm milk
  • 75 mL or 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 50 mL or 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 25 mL or 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 mL or 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 mL or 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 mL or 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 2 mL or 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 brown sugar, air dried (spread brown sugar on a cookie sheet for a few hours to air dry)

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 230°C or 450°F .
  2. Combine all of the ingredients and pour mixture into tart shells until they just reach the rim.
  3. For the ramekins, prepare by smearing a good amount of butter on the sides and bottom and then dust with granulated sugar. Fill ramekins to top rim.
  4. Tarts should bake at 230°C or 450°F for 10 minutes and then at 160°C or 325°F for 10-15 minutes (they bake much faster than the ramekins). Ramekins will need to bake for 15 minutes at 230°C or 450°F and then at 160°C or 325°F for 15-20 minutes (a cake tester should come out clean when tested).
  5. Sprinkle a good solid but not thick coating of the brown sugar one each tart and ramekin, brûlée with your kitchen torch until sugar is melted and solidifies when cool. Serve with whipped cream.
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Shhhhh, they’re baking….

You caught my lie, I didn't have whipped cream!

You caught my lie, I didn’t have whipped cream!

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Creamy centre with a crunchy topping. But still no whipped cream!

Quinoa Stuffing

As most of you already know, my family Christmas was cancelled due to illness, both my niece and nephew came down with the stomach bug (in the olden days, we called it the 24 hour bug). Fortunately they both recovered, but we had to postpone the festivities so they wouldn’t spread the nasty virus.

Our Do-over Christmas was Sunday, January 13 and I made a full Turkey dinner along with stuffing, celeriac and cauliflower mash, Cherry Soup, Cherry Squares and Pumpkin Brûlée mini-tarts! Needless to say, it was a grand success and everyone went home with their bellies filled and their hearts happy. We may have to make this another tradition!

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Even though we had already taken down our real Christmas tree, I put up a small, artificial tree so that the kids would have their presents underneath it!

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Christmas dinner wouldn’t be complete without the traditional crackers. No one but me wore the stupid hats.

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Quinoa Stuffing

Serves 8-10 (yes, I made way too much!)

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Quinoa stuffing, trying to keep the carbs down.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa (we had a mix of red and white)
  • 100 g celery, cubed
  • 50 g roasted chestnuts, roughly chopped
  • 100 g onion, finely chopped
  • 100 g chorizo, finely choppedd
  • 100 g shitaki mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • 50 g dried cherries, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp butter, melted
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 2 eggs well beaten
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Directions:

  1. Cook the quinoa according to the directions, plus add 1/2 cup more water.
  2. Melt the butter in a small frying pan, and cook the onions until translucent. Add the mushrooms and sauté until soft.
  3. Mix quinoa, onion, mushrooms, chestnuts, chorizo and dried cherries together. Add herbs and eggs and combine well.
  4. Pre-heat oven to 350°F
  5. Press the stuffing mixture into a well greased baking pan and bake for 30 minutes.
  6. Top off with the toasted, sliced almonds and bake an additional 15 minutes.
  7. Serve warm.

Far East Inspired Soup

Hello everyone! I must apologize that I have missed a couple of posts, not because of anything other than laziness. I thought I had ‘banked’ enough to last me through the weekend but I hadn’t so my blog remained inactive over the weekend. Our wonderful friends Paul and T paid us a visit, arriving on Friday and going back home on Monday. We had a great time, did lots of fun stuff (yes, I’ll blog about that soon) and ate and drank excessively! Now we are recovering until next time!

I’m inspired by many of the blogs I follow, if not for the recipe, but perhaps an ingredient or even a plating, but I know when an inspiration hits me over the stuffed-up head and it resonates throughout the day with a burning desire (no, not THAT!). Kelly over at Inspired Edibles presented this soup at the beginning of the year and it stuck in my head like that song (sorry about that, peeps) and I knew I had to make it, or something like it. I adore the Asian flavours in a soup, add some rice noodles and I’m in Seventh Heaven. It turned out that I didn’t have some of the ingredients for Kelly’s soup, so I had to improvise, but let me tell you it was YUM. That’s Y. U. M. It was like a lemongrass, sweet and sour, vegetable soup, all of the things that make you happy. That’s right, the epitome of Happy Food.

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Sweet, sour, tangy, delicious

Asian Inspired Soup

Serves 1  in a large bowl (ingredients are just rough, you can use your own taste to determine your version)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp Sesame oil and a splash of canola oil
  • 140 g mushrooms (about 3/4 cup), quartered
  • 100 g shrimps and scallops (3 large shrimp and 1 scallop), cleaned and sliced down the middle
  • 60 g onions, sliced finely (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 10 g garlic, roughly chopped (2-3 cloves)
  • 10 g fresh ginger, roughly chopped (about 2-3 tablespoons)
  • 10 g lemongrass, roughly chopped (about 2-3 tables spoons)
  • 5 g Galangal
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp Hoisin sauce
  • 3 Kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 roma tomato, quartered
  • handful of rice noodles

Garnish:

  • 1/4 cup finely sliced green onion
  • pepper flakes

Directions:

  1. Heat the water in your kettle until boiling. Pour over the rice noodles and allow to sit until they are totally reconstituted, 10-15 minutes. Do not over soak, you want a bit of a bite to it.
  2. In a large soup pan, heat the two oils until hot but not smoky (the sesame oil has a very low smoke point). Add the onions and stir until slightly translucent. Add the shrimp and scallop and cook lightly. Turn the heat down to a simmer and add the mushrooms. Sprinkle the coriander on the shrimp and onions and stir quickly until aromatic.
  3. Combine the garlic, ginger, lemongrass and galangal in an infuser (mine is like this) and put it into the soup pan. Add all of the stock and water and add the lime juice, fish sauce, and hoisin saucekafir leaves, galangal, fish sauce, lime juice, and hoisin sauce. Stir well.
  4. Bring to a very light boil and allow to simmer for about 5-6 minutes (be careful so your shrimp and scallop don’t over cook). Add the tomatoes but don’t overcook, just heat them up.
  5. Put one third of the cold noodles into a large decorative white bowl. Add ladle-fulls of the soup and garnish with the green onion and pepper flakes. Enjoy.

Cooks tips:

  • Store your fresh ginger knobs in the freezer in a resealable container; grate on a fine micro-plane grater when required, you need not peel it! Keeps indefinitely.
  • I usually buy a large quantity of lemongrass and chop them finely in my food processor, and then I freeze them in a reusable container. I can usually break off what I need.
  • If you are taking the left overs to work, I recommend storing the cooked noodles in a separate container to the soup so that they don’t absorb any more liquid. When you reheat the soup, do so to just before boiling (so the chicken doesn’t cook further) and that way when you put the chilled noodles in, they will cool it down to a palatable level.
  • Fish sauce is used in thai cooking instead of salt.
  • To save time, I have sometimes used Rosa’s Lime Cordial instead of lime juice, but you have to remember NOT to add the hoisin sauce as that is also sweet.
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Still tastes the same, just in sheeps clothing

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