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It’s not a swear word. I swear. It just sounds like one. “What the Ebelskiver were you thinking?” or “Where in the ebelskiver were you for two and half hours?” You see? But I can assure you, it’s much more delicious than a swear word. It’s actually a little spherical pancake! I know you’ve seen this over at my friend Barb’s when she posted about it last May but I just had to write about my experience because this pan was her wonderful, thoughtful Christmas present to me!

My first attempt was half of Barb’s recipe for the ebelskivers was Christmas day, a few hours after I brought it home and I kept them simple. But as you can see by my deformed little ‘balls’, it takes some skill to be able to prepare them as perfect little balls of joy. I had some practicing to do.

First attempt Christmas Morning

First attempt Christmas Morning

Still no where near perfect, my second attempt I added blue berries to the batter. Still some practicing to do before I could serve them to guests.

Second attempt when we returned from NOTL.

Second attempt when we returned from NOTL. Poor JT had to be the guinea pig for the second batch too. A very sunny day indeed!

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After practice, I was able to make more perfect little balls of joy.

Batch numbers 3, 4 and 5 were much better. In fact, most of them turned out very well. And I had the opportunity to experiment with some additional flavours. I did cruise the net to see other recipes and they varied quite a bit, but since I had some experience with Barb’s lovely recipe, I decided to stick to it, with minor modifications. I found this recipe on squidoo and the batter was much thicker (if you scroll down, there is a video of a young lady successfully making ebelskivers one Christmas Eve), so I decided to add a bit more flour to Barb’s version to thicken it up. They were much easier to flip or turn without the batter running out from the centre of the ebelskiver.

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Brown sugar, cinnamon and butter are swirled into the batter

If you pile them while they are hot, you will cause indentations. Mind you, I doubt your tummy will care either way.

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A little twist Ham, Cheese and Dijon but still breakfast food

Ebelskivers

Original recipe from Barb at Profiteroles and Ponytails

Each batch makes about 24 ebelskivers, I divided the batter into two portions for the ham, cheese and cinnamon bun versions. If you wish to make the entire batch for one flavour, double the flavour ingredients but not the basic batter.

Basic Batter Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-½ teaspoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract (omit for savory ebelskivers)

Directions:

  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, set aside.
  • In a small bowl, lightly whisk the egg yolks, then whisk in the milk, melted butter and vanilla extract (if using). Add the yolk mixture to the flour mixture and, using a wooden spoon, stir until well blended. The batter will be lumpy.
  • 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.
  • Use the batter right away.

Ham, Cheese and Dijon Ebelskiver Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 finely diced ham
  • 1/2 cup old cheddar, shredded

Directions:

  • For the savoury Ebelskiver, whisk in the Dijon and then gently fold in the diced Ham and cheddar cheese, cook using your lovely ebelskiver pan.

Cinnamon Bun Ebelskiver Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 40 g chopped walnuts

Directions:

  • Mix the brown sugar, butter and cinnamon well. Fold in the walnuts into the basic ebelskiver batter, then drizzle in the brown sugar mix into the batter and fold gently. Since the batter is quite cold, it will seize the butter/sugar mixture allowing you to fold in the swirls. You don’t want to entirely incorporate the butter/sugar mixture, you want swirls throughout the batter. Continue until you have used up all of the mixture.

Ebelskiver cooking directions:

  1. 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.
  2. Cook until the bottoms of the pancakes are lightly browned and crisp, 3-5 minutes. Using a fork, lightly push the ebelskiver until it entirely turns around in the pan and the uncooked portion is now facing the bottom.
  3. Transfer the finished pancakes to a platter and keep warm in the oven while you repeat to finish the batter.
  4. Serving suggestions: dust the warm pancakes with the confectioners’ sugar and serve right away. Or serve with warmed maple syrup and fruit.

For the same dinner as the previous post, I made this wonderful German Purple Cabbage Slaw. I’m not exactly sure how authentic German it is, but it did indeed have flavours from German slaws that I’ve had and it was so pretty against the Candied Salmon and Rösti potatoes. It made for a very festive dinner. I was inspired by this recipe, but since I already had purple cabbage at home, that’s what I used and not the white cabbage in the recipe. What I really liked about this recipe is that the dressing is added hot which will slightly wilt the cabbage, but cabbage is strong enough that there will still be a slight crunch to it. They normally add caraway seeds but since I hate them, I omitted them!

Pretty like jewels. Sparkling, pretty jewels.

Pretty like jewels. Sparkling, pretty jewels.

German Purple Cabbage Slaw

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 small purple cabbage, finely shredded
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • 140 ml cider vinegar
  • 100 ml vegetable stock
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons mustard
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Parsley for garnish

Directions:

  1. In a glass micro-wave safe container, combine oil, vinegar, stock, salt, mustard and sugar and heat until sugar has dissolved, stirring often.
  2. Add the shredded cabbage to a non-metallic bowl and pour vinegar-oil mixture over cabbage and combine thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  3. To serve, check seasonings, adjust, drain dressing and serve in a decorative bowl. You may want to let the slaw sit in a colander to drain completely, otherwise you will have purple cabbage stains on your table cloth. I guarantee it.
  4. Garnish with parsley.

Rösti Potatoes

Way back in December we had our good friends Lee and Stefan for dinner. JT and I decided to make Barb’s Salmon that’s like Candy (with a few minor alterations, will blog soon about it) with Swiss Rösti potatoes, German Red Cabbage Slaw (coming soon) and John’s Yogurt Dill Sauce. It was a huge success and the best part is that these potatoes may be made in advance and reheated. The Swiss usually have this for breakfast, and I know I’m breaking all the rules by serving it for dinner…so arrest me (did you say you had hand-cuffs ;-)?)

These famous potatoes can be purchased ready-made that you just slip them into the frying pan and reheat, but I wanted to make them from scratch; how hard could that be? I searched and search the web and came across several variations on the preparation of this classic side dish, and after much deliberation I chose my method. Some of the recipes par-boiled the potatoes and some did not; I chose to par-boil to cut down the finishing time (plus I had read that not par-boiling makes the interior of the rösti a little starchy tasting).

Swiss Röstli Potatoes

Crispy yet soft on the inside

Crispy yet soft on the inside

Serves 4-6 (depending on how hungry you are)

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 Medium Sized Yukon Gold Potatoes (actually, you can use any potato you would use as mashed potatoes)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Peel and chop potatoes in half (you want a chunk large enough to grate without grating your knuckles).
  2. Put the potatoes into a pot with cold water and salt (this step was prevalent in many recipes, something to do with cooking evenly) with salt and bring to a boil. Keep on the boil until there is still some resistance when you poke the pieces with a fork or cake tester — you definitely DO NOT want to cook them 100%.
  3. Remove from the pot and allow to cool completely.
  4. On a large grater, grate the potatoes entirely.
  5. Heat a large cast iron skillet with a few tablespoons of oil (err on more than less). Add the potatoes so that they evenly fill the pan, and lightly compress. Cook until it is crispy on one side.
  6. If preparing ahead, allow to cool and set aside now.
  7. To reheat: Flip. If you are brave, use this method, if you’re like me, then two dinner plates will do the trick very nicely. Cook the underside of the Rösti until crispy and the potatoes have heated all the way through.
  8. Serve by cutting into wedges. I served this dish in the cast iron pan I cooked it in because I wanted it to maintain the heat on the table.
  9. Service with Yogurt Dill Sauce.

We had barely enough leftovers for breakfast the following day — that’s how good they were. In fact, this is a meal I will make again; it’s rustic yet has a certain sophistication with all the flavours going on.

I have a confession to make: I’m in love and it’s not JT. It’s really not as bad as it sounds, my love affair is with a certain Indian. OK. I’ll ‘fess up, it’s Naan. There. I’m in love with Naan. The bread, silly! I’m embarrassed to admit how many times I’ve made this recipe but suffice it to say it’s double digits! About the same time that Maria over at a-boleyn live journal made our delicious naan recipe into a gorgeous pizza, I had the same idea (yes, I blog well in advance!). So on the day the world should have ended (again) I made a naan pizza for dinner. What a way to go!

It’s basically whatever you have in the fridge, our ingredients were goats cheese infused with garlic and EVOO, torn prosciutto, sun-dried tomatoes in EVOO and chopped spinach topped with shaved parmesan cheese. What more can you want?

Why Naan? I usually like my pizza crust super thin and crispy, what the naan brought to the table (pardon the pun) is a bit more bite and a lot of chewiness. Delicious chewy goodness. Need. I. Say. More. ?.

A slightly chewy crust made delicious by garlic infused goats cheese

A slightly chewy crust made delicious by garlic infused goats cheese

Coconut Curried Chicken

It’s still blistery cold in these parts and we’re craving hearty foods. This was a recipe created because I wanted to make Naan again and I needed something Indian to go with it (I know, it’s usually the other way around, but I really wanted to eat test my new recipe again). It’s a lovely subtle curry with just enough spice to enhance the flavour and a wonderful creamy texture. I used coconut milk powder and water for the coconut milk in the recipe, but feel free to use the high fat canned stuff, I’m sure it will taste a lot richer. By the way, serve it with this Naan.

A delicicous combination of curry and coconut milk

Coconut Chicken Curry

Serves 4, 100 g servings of chicken each

Ingredients:

  • 400 g boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2.5 cm or 1 inch chunks
  • 1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp curry powder
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 4 tbsp coconut milk powder
  • 400 mL or 14 oz warm water
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 red pepper sliced thinly
  • 1/2 green pepper sliced thinly

Directions:

  1. Heat oil and curry powder in a large skillet over medium-high heat for two minutes. Stir in onions and garlic, and cook 1 minute more. Add chicken, tossing lightly to coat with curry oil. Reduce heat to medium, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink in center and juices run clear. Reserve chicken.
  2. Combine coconut powder and warm water and mix well.
  3. Pour coconut milk, tomato paste, lemon juice and sugar into the pan and stir to combine. Cover and simmer stirring occasionally for approximately 30 to 40 minutes or until the coconut milk reduces to a nice thick sauce. During the final 15 minutes, add the red and green peppers so they don’t overcook and the chicken to reheat.
  4. Serve with Naan.
The most delicious naan yet

Yes, these are as good as they look. I kid you not.

We’re all about cocktails and with cocktails you need hors d’œuvres, of course! These little bites are very tasty and rather refreshing and go great with a vodka martini. And the best part, you’ll have no spoons to wash because with this clever recipe your guests can eat the spoons!

You can even eat the spoon!

You can even eat the spoon!

Smoked Salmon Tartar in Endive Spoons

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 60 g Smoked Salmon, chopped roughly
  • 10 Endive leaves washed
  • 1 tbsp chopped dill
  • 1 tbsp chopped capers
  • 1/2 chopped green onion, green part only
  • 2-3 tbsp lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients together well. Taste, season as required
  2. Spoon a small amount of the mixture into each endive spoon.
  3. Arrange on a decoratively shaped plate, refrigerate until ready to serve.
  4. Cheers

With the winter chills and winds and snow brings a craving for soup. Thick. Rib sticking. Soup. I wanted to try a lentil soup so I searched for a good hearty recipe and this is what I came up with. To make it vegetarian, omit the pancetta and sausage, it’s still a thick, hearty soup. You can put a dollop of non-fat Greek Yogurt on top in stead of the sausages.

French Lentil Soup with Sausage

Modified from Epicurious French Lentil Soup

Serves 6 (or 2 and put the rest in your freezer)

A filling soup without being too rich. A dollop of sour cream would have been lovely on this.

A filling soup without being too rich.
A dollop of fat-free Greek yogurt would have been lovely on this.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons extra–virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp chopped pancetta
  • 2 cups chopped vidalia or sweet onions
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced finely
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 1/4 cups lentils, rinsed, drained
  • 1 14 1/2–ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 2 fully cooked chicken and turkey sausages, cubed

Directions:

  1. Pan-fry the pancetta until crispy in the olive oil, remove but save the flavoured oil.
  2. Add the onions to the hot oil and sauté until translucent.
  3. Add celery and garlic; sauté until vegetables begin to slightly brown, about 15 minutes.
  4. Add 4 cups broth, lentils, and tomatoes with juice and bring to a slow boil.
  5. Reduce heat to medium–low, cover, and simmer until lentils are tender, about 35 minutes.
  6. Return the pancetta to the soup and purée with an immersion blender until smooth.
  7. Return to heat and add the cooked sausages and heat until thoroughly warm.
  8. Season with salt and pepper.
  9. Garnish with a dollop of fat free Greek yogurt.

 

Thank you Barb, your anniversary post inspired JT and I to make our way to Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL) this past Christmas for a quick holiday. We stayed at Harbour House a relatively new boutique hotel just off the beaten path in NOTL.  We stayed at this place shortly after it first opened 8-10 years ago and it was lovely, this time was no different. JT booked us into a gorgeous room with a fireplace and we were upgraded to a suite — now that’s sweet!

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The living room with fireplace

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Very spacious

A festive touch in our room

A festive touch in our room

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The bedroom

A large jacuzzi tub, separate shower, double sink, what more could you want? Heated floors.

A large jacuzzi tub, separate shower, double sink, what more could you want? Heated floors.

We arrived on Boxing day (December 26) with no weather issues at all, which was a little surprising since they had predicted a bad storm to come through and dump 30cm (12 inches) of snow in the area. We waited and waited and eventually it did snow, but not nearly as much as predicted. NOTL is a picturesque village with nice restaurants, quaint shops and lovely homes, some of which have been converted to B&Bs. It is also very close to Ontario’s Wine Country.

We ate lunch at the Oban Inn, which is always a treat with lovely views of their manicured gardens. We shared the Dungeness Crab Cakes with Micro Greens, Horseradish Espresso Remoulade, Grilled Pineapple Salsa ($16). For my main I enjoyed Icewine Salmon Gravlax, Carrot Slaw, Citrus Creme Fraiche ($12) it was delicious. JT had the quiche with field greens. I would recommend this restaurant highly. Service was also excellent.

Dinner our first night was at Zee’s a restaurant in The Shaw Club a sister hotel. We shared the Cheese and Charcuterie platter with 5 items for $25. On it was TIGER BLUE rich, aromatic with an intense blue flavour, in the style of stilton, ROARING 40’S BLUE cow’s milk, full flavoured blue with a honeyed, slightly nutty quality, rindless, smooth and creamy and a cheddar which they had to substitute. The Charuterie portion was made up of HOT SOPRESATTA from the Calabria Region, red wine, chili spices and salt, texture of prosciutto, robust and spicy and CHORIZO blend of pork, pork fat, smoked dried paprika, distinct smoke flavour, cured and smoked and neither of these impressed us either, not spicy or smokey tasting. JT had the Nova Scotia Lobster Poutine which included house cut fries, a generous serving of butter poached lobster, white cheddar cheese curds, red wine veal jus and a home made hollandaise sauce. JT’s meal was excellent, although it would not have been something I would order. I had the Warm Mushroom & Smoked Bacon Salad with Whipped Goat Cheese, Sautéed Mushrooms & Smoked Bacon, Parsnip Chips & Apple Cider Vinaigrette ($10) and sadly it was neither warm nor did it have many mushrooms, so even at the low price of $10 it was disappointing.

Our hotel included a wonderful breakfast both days, made of a hot egg dish, pastries, cheeses, meats, scones, preserves, yogurt and fruit. There was also cereal, but who eats cereal on their vacation? Let’s just say we didn’t leave hungry! Our first full day we decided to brave the weather and head down to Niagara Falls, NY to do a little shopping at Walden Galleria which turned out to be nothing special. Lunch was at Bravo Italian Cucina which I suspect is a chain. We both had the soup and salad combo; I had the Italian Wedding soup but was lacking in flavour and JT had the Lobster Bisque which had good lobster flavour but was too creamy for my taste. Our waiter was very talkative and we enjoyed the interaction. Would I go back? Doubt it, nothing special. We returned to NOTL by way of the Rainbow bridge and although we both now have Nexus, I prefer to go the human route when we buy things outside of the allowances. With both cases you must declare what you bring in, but at least the human factor gives us the possibility of not having to pay the taxes and duty on the items (free trade my foot). And this time the lady clearing us in chastised me for not buying enough! Go figure.

That night we ate at the Cannery another sister hotel/restaurant. This is a slightly larger hotel catering to more family style stays. Most of the restaurants in NOTL are casual, so for the most part people don’t really dress up but JT and I always do! I started with Sea Scallops which were Seared Sea Scallops, Petite Village Salad, Seedlings, Smoked Paprika Oil  ($18) it was delicious (I didn’t take photos because it was too dark), JT had the caesar salad. My main course was an appetizer portion of Spicy Udon Noodles which were Tapioca Noodles, Spicy Yuzu Sesame Sauce, Pork Dumplings, Shiitake Mushrooms Prawns, Matchstick Vegetables ($15) again, delicious and a perfect portion for me! JT had the appetizer portion of the Tagliatelle Pasta which was Semolina Broad Noodles, Pulled Braised Lamb, Wild Mushrooms, Truffle Paste, Asiago Shards ($15); we both enjoyed our meals. Having said that, the overall impression is kind of Cracker Barrel style decor, bright lighting and not much cozy ambiance.

Our final lunch was at an old favourite at On the Twenty in Jordan, Ontario a short drive from NOTL and an exceptional restaurant which is connected to Cave Spring Cellars an award winning winery. We ate a lovely table overlooking their perennial gardens which were romantically blanketed with snow. I started with Heirloom Beet Salad of smoked goat cheese, Dave Irish’s breakfast radish, pickled red onion, pistachio brittle, honey mandarin vinaigrette ($12) and JT had the butternut squash soup ($10) and both were exceptional. I then had the Vintner’s Platter in-house smoked salmon, pâté en croute, house-made mustard, pickles, charcuterie, artisanal cheese ($19) which could have easily been shared and JT had the Grilled Venison Burger with Juniper berry-infused tomato relish, feta cheese aioli, baby arugula, fresh-cut fries, house-made ketchup ($17) which was OUTSTANDING. We each had an espresso for dessert. Service is always exceptional and the ambiance is lovely. If you ever come up to this area, you must dine at On the Twenty.

View from our room.

View from our room.

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It’s these friendly touches that make this hotel

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A delicious cookie for each of us.

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It’s all in the details

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Each evening between 4-5:30 wine and cheese were served in the lobby. We gathered to meet the other lovely guests, most of whom were Americans, as far away as Philly.

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Our first lunch was at Oban Inn, these are most delicious crab cakes.

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This was my second course at the Oban, a wonderful Gravlox Salmon, home cured. Most delicious combination of flavours and textures.

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Our last lunch at Inn on the 20, a beet and goats cheese salad with pistachio brittle. Very tasty.

We made our way back home to find our driveway and walkways had been cleared of the massive dump of snow we got while we were away. We really do have the loveliest neighbours.

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The snow in our backyard

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The front yard, still snowing

Gingerbread Pancakes

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What did you do? We celebrated at our favourite French restaurant and then stopped in at a party at Kim’s (neighbour, boss, friend) place. I had had the 24 hour stomach bug the day before, so I was a little tentative to party, but it all worked out in the end.

Did you make any resolutions? I evaluated my resolution from last year and by George I did OK. I resolved to use fewer zip lock baggies and I DID! I am using reusable containers instead, mostly glass but for the freezer I still use plastic. So what’s my resolution this year? I’m going to work out more regularly even though I tend to be good about it, I will resolve to go to the gym even when I don’t feel like it. Did you know it takes 21 days of repetition to become a habit? So all I have to do is work out for 21 days and I won’t have a choice. Hmmm.

As most of you have seen by my comments, Christmas was a bit of a wash for my side of the family; my brother’s kids came down with the stomach flu and Christmas Eve dinner was cancelled. That was a real bummer and the kids felt so terrible, so I told them we would recreate Christmas dinner when they all felt better in January. JT stepped out in the morning and bought us a Seafood feast we were going to enjoy instead of a traditional Christmas turkey dinner. Late afternoon we popped over to Barb‘s for some Christmas cheer and they had a gorgeous Charcuterie spread that was so moreish, we couldn’t stop eating. And then of course, we weren’t hungry for our seafood feast. It went back into the freezer and we’ll enjoy it another time!

Santa was very good to me this year and it was extra special because I participated in Charles’ Secret Santa. My not-so-secret Santa was Charlie over at Hotly Spiced. She sent along the greatest kitchen gadgets made by a 100 year old English company Tala which is very cool because it’s Taylor and Law! There was a great retro looking sifter and a really cool measuring cup and Charlie also added a beautiful Christmas ornament and the cutest festive napkins! Little did she know I’m a bit of a cocktail napkin collector! All much appreciated and already put to excellent use. Thank you Charlie.

We’re still in holiday mode over at Kitcheninspirations and we made gingerbread pancakes that were just so yummy I had to sneak in one more holiday recipe. Remember the fluffiest buttermilk pancakes I made on Thanksgiving weekend at my brother’s cottage? Well, I reinvented them into gingerbread pancakes.

Festive Gingerbread Pancakes

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Makes 6 pancakes 10cm (4.5in) in diametre

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 nonstick cooking spray
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon all spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl or Tupperware container for travel, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, spices and salt. Set aside.
  2. Separate egg yolk from egg white and beat egg white and cream of tartar on high speed until stiff peaks form but not dry.
  3. Beat the egg yolk until light yellow in colour and thick, add milk, vanilla and melted butter and beat until smooth on a slow speed. (For this small quantity, I find my immersion blender with whisk attachment a perfect size for both egg white and egg yolk).
  4. Fold in flour mixture, but don’t over mix as we don’t want the glutens activated.
  5. Add 1/3 of the egg white to the batter and mix together gently then fold in the remaining egg white carefully, do not over mix!
  6. Spray your skillet with non-stick spray set to medium temperature (or 350°F).
  7. Drop about 1/3 cup of batter on pan for each pancake and spread out to about 4-5″ and cook until you see a few bubbles on the surface of the batter. Flip your pancakes and cook for about another 1-2 minutes.
  8. Keep warm until you have made all the pancakes and serve warm with butter, maple syrup!

Note: recipe was updated December 2019.

IMG_3754_BLOG The coolest retro cooking tools

I must apologize, we were away for a couple of days after Christmas so I haven’t been as attentive with responding to comments and commenting; thanks for understanding.

This salad has become a staple in our home and would have been a great alternative to the Paella for our progressive dinner. I had trouble finding the authentic Lentilles du Puy until I spotted them in our Superstore for a fraction of the cost, but they are from Alberta! I read that the soil conditions are similar to that of Du Puys in France, 500g for about $2.75. I have yet to taste them to compare to the French lentils, but as soon as I do, I will update this post.

You have Charles at Five Euro Food to thank for this post. On my last entry for Lentilles du Puy, he mentioned he goes for lunch to a small bistro and they serve this salad with a poached egg on top. Here is his comment verbatim, it was so inspiring: “Hi Eva, this is one of my absolute favourite lentil dishes – the place I eat it serves it with small cubes of raw carrot which provide a lovely texture and… the pièce de résistance on top… a soft poached egg. Seriously, you HAVE to try that. Cracking open the egg so the yolk runs out over the lentils… it’s so lovely!” Of course, you just knew I HAD to have it. And at a risk of making JT SICK TO DEATH of this salad, I made it again (Luv you JT). Unfortunately, the photos are at night so they are crap, but you can certainly see the most deliciousness of the cracked yolk flowing over the lentils…it was very delicious and highly recommended.

PS. This time, I even added the small cubes of carrot to be sure I had the same experience. Thanks again Charles.

Poached Egg on Lentilles du Puy Salad with a Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette

What an AMAZING idea Charles, thanks so much!

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup lentilles du Puy (French green lentils) picked over and rinsed
  • 3 cups water (the original recipe has 6 cups but you have to drain the remaining water)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 pancetta slices, chopped (about 3-4 table spoons)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 fresh flat-leafed parsley sprigs plus 1/2 cup leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, finely diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 carrot, finely diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 4-6 poached eggs

For vinaigrette

  • 2 tbsp white-wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard, or to taste
  • 1-2 tbsp cup EVOO
  • 1 bunch arugula, coarse stems discarded, washed well and spun dry

Directions:

  1. In a heavy saucepan render the pancetta to a crispy consistency. Remove pancetta and add the onions and sweat until transparent. Add the garlic, type and parsley sprigs (reserve the leaves). Cook for about 1 minute.
  2. Add the lentils and sauté for another minute, add the water all at once and simmer, covered, 20 minutes. Stir in bells peppers and simmer mixture, covered, until lentils are tender, about 10 minutes. Lentils may be made 2 days ahead and kept covered and chilled. Reheat lentils before proceeding with recipe.

Directions for vinaigrette:

  1. Transfer 2 tablespoons lentil-cooking liquid to a medium bowl and whisk in vinegars, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste. Add oil in a stream, whisking, and whisk dressing until emulsified.
  2. Drain lentils (if required, I didn’t have to) well in a sieve and discard parsley sprigs. Toss lentils with chopped parsley and vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Just before serving, arrange arugula decoratively around salad, or serve without as is pictured below.

The wonderful yolk breaks into the most luxurious sauce over the tangy lentilles, it is quite a lovely flavour and texture experience

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I retook this picture because I really didn’t like the light in the earlier ones. I also folded in baby Arugula into this version and laid it on a Kale salad.

The same restaurant that I mentioned in a previous post, Bombay Palace serves a pickled carrot that I just can’t get enough of. It’s sweet, tangy and crunchy and delicious. Their version is very red because they put food colouring into it, I omitted the colouring.

Lightly crunchy and packed full of flavour

Carrot Pickle

Original recipe from here, but I changed it up.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium carrot, about 200 g cut into cubes
  • 1/2 tbsp mustard powder
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • a pinch each ground cloves and cardamom
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Directions:

  1. Blanche the carrots and stop the cooking in an ice bath. Drain well.
  2. Mix remaining ingredients in a seal-able container, add the carrot and refrigerate for 1-2 days.
  3. To serve, drain and rinse.

Sweet Mango Chutney

Ingredients:

  • Mango, not too ripe
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp chili paste
  • water

Directions:

  1. Peel and seed the mangos and chop into 5-10 mm cubes.
  2. Place all ingredients into a non-aluminum saucepan and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour or until fruit and onion is very soft. Lightly mash with a fork. Allow to cool and place in a clean glass jar. Store in the refrigerator

We’re off on a little break, so if I don’t comment on your blog right away, please know I still love reading your blog and will be back as soon as I can.
Inspiration comes from anywhere but the places I seem to be getting my inspiration are the wonderful blogs I read. Liz over at That Skinny Chick can Bake made this incredibly beautiful Lemon Cream Dessert with the Secret Recipe Club; I was immediately smitten. Plus I needed a nice light dessert for the finalé of our Indian Feast. Now we’d all like to eat like Liz and look like her, but sadly, that is not my world, so I had to take her beautiful dessert as inspiration and find a ‘lighter’ version and I found it at Serious Eats — It’s a Greek Yogurt Lemon Mousse!

It’s an easy dessert to make and the egg whites are cooked over a bain marie, as if you were making Italian Meringue! I didn’t change a thing!

Now you’ll see in the last picture that the texture was described as spray foam insulation, but tasting way better. It’s definitely a firm mousse with very good lemon flavour! I will book mark this recipe for the future!

We got these adorable little pots in Paris; yogurt came in them, the company was celebrating their anniversary and packaged their product in these gorgeous pots

You see, I wasn’t fibbing! This is one of our breakfasts in our Paris apartment

The texture was described as resembling spray foam insulation, but tasting WAY better! Thx Gordon P XO

ChristmasDay

My Christmas baking list was altered somewhat because I just couldn’t get it all done with the small diversions I subjected myself to. This is what I had intended on baking:

Here is this 2012′s round up:

Plates ready to be delivered

Plates ready to be delivered. May I send you one too?

Here’s what actually went down:

Very festive little parcels

Very festive little parcels

Card with legend

Christmas Wishes

Clipart from Microsoft Clip Art Gallery

I’ve never made fudge. There. I said it. I love fudge, but have never made it and when I saw Katherine’s (Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide) recipe for his mother’s back of the bag fudge, I had to try it and with pure luck, I had everything in my pantry! The recipe came together very easily and the taste was wonderful, and great creamy texture (very much like ganache). Our tin of Sweetened Condensed milk was a slightly different weight than what the recipe called for so I had to adjust all the ingredients accordingly, plus I didn’t have butterscotch morsels so I used chocolate chips as the flavour. Kudos Katherine another great recipe to add to my Christmas baking collection!

Chocolate Peanut Fudge

Original recipe by Katherine at Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide

Melt in your mouth, fudge-o-licious

Melt in your mouth, fudge-o-licious

Makes one 23 cm (9 inch) square pan, about  2 cm (0.8″) thick

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 20 g unsalted butter
  • 300 mL Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • dash salt
  • 300 g chocolate chips
  • 155 g marshmallows
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 100 g peanuts (unsalted, skin off)

Directions:

  1. Line your square pan with parchment paper (it’ll make it easier to lift it out of the pan to cut it).
  2. In a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat, bring sugar, butter, sweetened condensed milk and salt to a boil, stirring constantly. Lower heat if it starts to brown too quickly.
  3. Remove from heat and add chocolate, marshmallows and vanilla; stir until smooth and marshmallows have entirely melted. Add peanuts and stir to combine.
  4. Pour into prepared pan and let set. Refrigerate once cool. The fudge should take a few hours to set.
  5. Cut into smallish square.
Delicious Chocolate Peanut Fudge

Delicious Chocolate Peanut Fudge

I promised a new take on the ma’amoul cookie, this one dates back to my Fannie Farmer Cookbook, first published in 1896, my version in it’s 12th edition. I first made this cookie in 2009 and have been keeping my eyes open for a new and updated version. I love the shape the ma’amoul brings to this old favourite and I love how the oatmeal adds a bit of texture to this delicious filled cookie. I would be leading you astray if I said this was an easily formed cookie, and I had to keep wetting my hands to make the dough pliable and not brittle around the sweet date paste, but once I got the hang of it, it went like clockwork.

Oatmeal Date Filled Ma’amouls

Still the same cookie, just in ma'amoul's clothing!

Still the same cookie, just in ma’amoul’s clothing!

Makes about 24 cookies

Ingredients for the Date Paste:

  • 1 cup pitted dates
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water

Ingredients for the Dough:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cups oatmeal, pulsed for 2-4 minutes in a food processor

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a small saucepan, put the dates, sugar and water and gently cook until thick and smooth. Set aside and allow to cool completely.
  3. Cream the butter and add the brown sugar, mix well.
  4. Sift flour, baking soda and salt and add to the butter sugar mixture.
  5. Add the pulsed oatmeal, mixing thoroughly and adding 2-4 tbsp water to make a dough that can be rolled.
  6. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  7. Make 23 g balls of the dough. Gently press each ball into the palm of your hand so that it covers the entire palm (you’ll need the extra to fold up and cover the paste). Add about 1 teaspoon of the date paste into the centre and bring all the sides up to close in the paste. Place the ball of fill dough into the ma’amoul mold and gently press in. Tap firmly to release. Repeat until all the dough is used.
  8. Bake at 350°F for 15-20 minutes or until lightly golden. Allow to cool and enjoy!
The difference is that this is not a shortbread crust, it's an oatmeal cookie.

The difference is that this is not a shortbread crust, it’s an oatmeal cookie.

And that concludes the Christmas Baking 2012 Series. I hope you enjoyed it.

This time of year the blogosphere is chuck full of tempting recipes and creative ideas, the trick is to try to manage what you want to bake with what you can bake, given your time constraints. Last week, Kelly over at Inspired Edibles (a fellow Canadian) made up a very interesting vegan ‘brownie’ and although her’s looked delightful, I was inspired to make something a wee bit different, dare I say festive, plus it wasn’t necessary for me to keep it 100% vegan.

These are surprisingly good. I have a high tolerance for healthy (or healthier foods) but JT does not; if it doesn’t taste as good as it’s full fat/sugar cousin, he will want no part of it. But I kid you not, these passed even the strictest taste test: the JT taste test. So Kelly, I hope you don’t mind, here is a slight variation on your wonderful recipe, my dried fruit hazelnut truffles, thank you kindly for the inspiration. I used hazelnut butter and hazelnut essence because hazelnuts and chocolate are a winning combo in this household.

IMG_3694_BLOG

The smooth, sweet centre is nicely contrasted by the rich chocolate and crunchy peanuts.

Dried Fruit Truffles

Adapted from Inspired Edibles’ Vegan Brownies

Makes 50-60 pieces

Fruit Paste Ingredients:

  • ½ c dried prunes
  • ½ c dates
  • 1 cup dried blueberries (I couldn’t find cherries)
  • 1 c almond flour
  • 3 tbsp hazelnut butter
  • ¼ c unsweetened coco powder
  • 1 tsp hazelnut essence (or more depending on how strong it is)

Chocolate Coating Ingredients:

  • 1 cup semi-sweet and milk chocolate chips
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp hazelnut essence (or more depending on how strong it is)
  • 1 ½ cup coarsely chopped peanuts

Fruit Paste Directions:

  1. Combine all the ingredients for the fruit paste in a food processor and process until smooth. Make 1-1.5cm balls of the paste, set aside.
  2. Melt the two chocolates and butter in a saucepan over low heat, dip the balls one by one into the hot chocolate and roll in the chopped peanuts to coat. Refrigerate to set. Serve at room temperature.
Don't let these little delights fool you, they are darned tasty!

Don’t let these little delights fool you, they are darned tasty!

I’m sure I’m not the only one. In fact, I’ve seen it many times on-line, mainly when I’ve been sulking around the net after hours. I even know of a few professional photographers guilty of it, but not during work hours. It really snuck up on me quite innocently. I uploaded it on my iPhone after I saw someone using it on Facebook. I thought, WHAT? How could that be? I was sure you could only achieve that look professionally. That is, what I mean to say, is that only a professional could achieve that look. But there it is on Facebook, and it’s more than just professionals doing it.

Of course, I am referring to Instagram, that incredible quirky photo app that can take photo, apply an effect and store it on various platforms. But if you’re sneaky like me, you might even use that shot for your blog. There I said it, yes, I have been guilty of using this app on my iPhone for some of my blog photos. And have received some very lovely compliments on some of those shots. Not that I’m saying I don’t like to use my lovely Canon Rebel, but it is a pain to get it all set up with the tripod and setting the aperture, blah, blah, blah…when all I have to do is reach over and shoot. Yep, that’s all I do. Sometimes I don’t even bother with lighting (the Naan shots, the Chicken Soup Shots to name a couple). Until now. Instagram was acquired by Facebook last April, and you know that can only mean trouble, with a capital T. So December 18 they posted an updated to their privacy policy which basically said that any photo posted on Instagram (and there is no other way to use it) belongs to them and they can sell it. REALLY? Sell. my. own. photos? I think not. But then later that same day, after a lot, and I mean A LOT of backlash they backtracked and took it all back. But it’s only a matter of time and frankly, I’m not sticking around for it. So I found a great app called Camera Awesome, it’s free and they won’t steal your photos — yet anyway, and it has A LOT more features than Instagram. Given, some of these features are for purchase, but they are only 99¢ so they are not bank breaking. The best features are the selected focus and exposure that operate independently to each other (unlike the iPhone camera). Also, it has some really cool features to change the sharpness, vibrance, temperature and contrast, so you don’t need to export and open in Photoshop. I also found an app that can super impose text over the existing photo, so I can copyright it direct from my iPhone. I’ll never have to fire up the iMac again. So now you know my dirty little secret, I hope I can trust you not to tell. 😉

Do you sometimes cheat and use your iPhone for the shot, and if so, what apps do you use to help you make them stand out?

My friend, boss, neighbour Kim and I exchange a small token gift every year and this year she got me something I had my eye on from over at Angie’s lovely blog, this beautiful cookie stamp! I couldn’t believe it, I was very excited to give it a go.

This stamp makes a lovely cookie

This stamp makes a lovely cookie. iPhone Photo.

I made the recipe that came with the stamp. Big mistake. It was way too buttery and the indentations all but melted into a flat, round cookie. I was disheartened. But then I remembered I had a batch of chocolate marshmallow fondant left over from cake pops I made a previous week, so I had an idea! The cookies had good texture and great flavour, you just couldn’t make out the stamp, so I rolled out the fondant to about 1 mm thick and pressed the stamp into it, cut it with a similarly sized cookie cutter and applied it to each cookie after it had cooled completely. SUCCESS! I’m tempted to make another batch because this one might have been sampled over.

So if you want to make cookies like this, just bake up a batch of your favourite shortbread or sugar cookies. You can buy the stamp at Chapters or Indigo or on line. The fondant is a very easy recipe from my dear friend Sawsan’s blog, Chef in Disguise. I simply added about 1/2 cup of sifted unsweetened cocoa powder to the finished fondant and kneaded it well to distribute evenly. It was very easy and very tasty!

They chocolate fondant covered cookies turned out better than expected.

They chocolate fondant covered cookies turned out better than expected. Instagram photo on my iPhone

Or you can head over to Ilan’s blog and bake up this recipe; Ilan is an amazing baker and blogger. Just make sure you leave out the leavening as he suggests so that your formed cookie doesn’t lose it’s shape.

A nice, old fashioned gingerbread cookie. And there is no question that they are 'Home Made'

A nice, old fashioned gingerbread cookie. And there is no question that they are ‘Home Made’. Camera Awesome Photo on my iPhone but I hadn’t figured out how to select focus with it yet!

I’d like to apologize, this post was so unprofessional; when I left it last night, everything was done and it was timed to release this morning, as all my posts do. But for some reason, while eating my grapefruit and blueberries this morning, I decided to check it again on my phone and discovered a small typo at the beginning of the post, so I fixed it; unbenounced to me, I hadn’t refreshed the post on the phone to sync with the server, so what I actually did was update an older post, thereby overriding the actual post. ARGHHHHHHH! When I finally saw Norma‘s tongue in cheek comment later that morning, I realized my extreme faux pas. That’s what I get for using multiple devices to update my blog. I shall be ever more careful in the future, thanks Norma for calling me out. My punishment (well, other than mortal embarrassment), is to have to retype the entire post with the exception of the intro below. Now I’ll go stand in the corner.

I know there are many of you who, how shall I say this delicately, can’t stand to be in the same room as coconut, but here chez kitcheninspirations we love the stuff; the taste, texture, colour, aroma (makes me think of a beach vacation), we LOVE it! So this will not be the last coconutty thing we make, and unfortunately, you won’t be able to leave it out as it’s such an integral part of the recipe. So fasten your seat belts and prepare yourself for a chewy, lemony treat!

Chewy Lemon Squares

Chewy and lemony, I've never made this one with frosting and we have never missed it

Chewy and lemony, I’ve never made this one with frosting and we have never missed it

From Company’s Coming Squares by Jean Pare.

Makes 1 pan 9″ x 9″

First Layer Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 c all purpose flour
  • 1/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c butter

First Layer Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Crumble flour, sugar and butter until mealy (you can save time and pulse this in a food processor, metal; blades)
  3. Press into ungreased 9×9 inch pan. Bake for 20 minutes.

Second Layer Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 c granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups flaked, unsweetened coconut
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp lemon essence

Second Layer Directions:

  1. Beat eggs slightly. Stir in the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Spread over shortbread base. Bake at 350°F for additional 30 minutes, until set in the centre and golden in colour.
  3. Cool and cut into squares, or bars.

I got off to a slow start this year due mainly to the fact that my cold just didn’t want to give up, even though I was doing everything right, like my Chicken Soup, Kelly’s delicious alcohol free Hot Toddy and lots of ginger tea with honey. And I still have a slightly lower octave voice but I’m feeling a lot better!

My Hungarian blogging buddy Zsuzsa suggested I post a list of my baking again this year, so here you go, my friend! I will also snap a few photos and post recipes in the days to come. Previously posted recipes are linked back, unless the photos were gross, in which case, I redid them and posted them again with a little twist!

Here is this 2012’s round up:

Now I bet you’re wondering where on earth did I get this gorgeous cookie mold; my dear friend Barb of Profiteroles and Ponytails was lovely to give it to me as a gift last June (shame on me for taking six months to make these gorgeous cookies with them). I know some of the bloggers (Betsy’s recipe, Sawsan’s recipe to name a couple) I follow have posted some very tantalizing recipes for ma’amouls, but I lacked their ingredients so I needed to find a recipe for which I had everything in my pantry. Plus these shortbread cookies have a lot, and I mean a lot of fat in them, so I searched and searched for a slightly lighter version. I made Bethany’s recipe with minor alterations and I also halved the quantity not knowing if we would love them. The dough is melt in your mouth shortbread dough, but it’s also a bit crumbly. The filling is lovely with the right amount of spice; before you jump to conclusions about the powdered sugar, I read somewhere that the date filled cookie is never sprinkled with powdered sugar . I will make these again, and I you’ll see how I’ve changed them up.

Ma’amouls

Please click here for original recipe, Bethany gives some great instructions.

IMG_3635_BLOG

Apparently the traditional ma’amoules are not dusted with powdered sugar.

Dough Ingredients:

  • 425 g semolina
  • 100 g potato starch
  • 225 g of butter, melted
  • 125 mL orange blossom water (I substituted water with a few drops of orange essence)
  • 100 g of caster sugar
  • 1 tsp ground green cardamom
  • 1 ma’amoul mold

Date Filling Ingredients:

  • 125 g dates, pitted
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 25 g of almond flour
IMG_3634_BLOG

I was lucky that mine did not crack. Picture perfect.

Directions:

  1. Combine the semolina, farina, cardamom, sugar and butter together.
  2. Slowly add the orange water a tablespoon at a time, kneading it into a soft sticky dough (it shouldn’t stick to your fingers). Cover the dough and let it sit 2 hours.
  3. Prepare the filling while the dough rests. Add all the ingredients to a food processor container and process until smooth
  4. After it has rested, knead dough one more time and then divide into two or three even balls. Roll out each ball into a rope with a thickness of 2.5 to 3 cm. Cut to about 2.5-3 cm and roll into a ball.
  5. Flatten the dough using the palm of your hand on the counter and spoon a small size ball of filling into the centre. Lift up all sides and form into a nice round ball. It was suggested to roll this in some additional semolina before you press it into the mold, but it was greasy enough and the mold released it quite quickly.
  6. Bake in a preheated oven 200° C / 400° F until the sides are slightly brown in color. It will vary depending on oven — I baked mine for 20 minutes. Cool and serve.

No one will kick you out of bed for leaving crumbs!

So tragic

In light of the tragedy in Connecticut, Kitcheninspirations is not posting today. My heartfelt condolences go to the families.

Indian Dinner Party: Naan

Revised April 23, 2018, added weight measurements.

I have searched high and low for a good Naan recipe and much to my chagrin, I have never found one that was quite what I was looking for. I thought I had found them on occasion, but not quite. That is, until now. I found the Evil Shananigans and it seems that the author Kelly was in the same spot I had been in for so many years. Thank goodness that Kelly did all the work and came up with this fabulous recipe. The only thing I did was reduce the quantity as I didn’t need quite as many and I added 1 level tablespoon of milk powder. Why milk powder you ask? I read somewhere that it adds to the elasticity of the dough and I wanted a chewy dough and it worked wonders! Quite possibly the best Naan ever, I kid you not.

I used an inverted cast iron dutch oven in my gas BBQ to try to replicate the tandoor oven, and by George, I think I got it! The baking method really allowed the dough to bake slowly over indirect heat, maintaining the elasticity and also allowing some parts to crisp up. Dare I say, genius? I hope you’ll bring me down to earth, so I don’t get too comfortable tooting my own horn, even if it is once in a while.

Chewy and crispy at the same time

Chewy and crispy at the same time

Naan

Makes 4 109 g servings

Ingredients:

  • 245 g (1 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 5 g (1/2 tsp) salt
  • 2 g (1/4 tsp) dry active yeast
  • 3/4 cup milk, heated to 110F
  • 2 g (1/2 tsp) sugar
  • 5 g (1 tbsp) milk powder

Directions:

  1. Warm the milk to about 44° C or 110° F and dissolve the yeast and sugar. Allow to bubble up (about 5 minutes).
  2. Combine the flour, milk powder and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer and add the activated yeast. Kneed for 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic (dough is rather tacky).
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for two hours in a warm place.
  4. Once rested, turn out the dough and divide into four equal portions (I measured mine to be about 109 g each). Make each portion into a ball and allow to rest 30 minutes.
  5. Roll out each ball into thin flat sheets (you’ll need a little flour so it doesn’t stick (15 cm x 30 cm) and then cover with a towel and allow to rest another 30 minutes. You can rub a little olive oil on top so it doesn’t dry out.
  6. Pre-heat your BBQ with an inverted cast iron dutch oven to the highest temperature. (I used an inverted cast pan to replicate the tandoor oven).
  7. One by one, drape each naan sheet over the ‘oven’ and bake until golden and slightly puffy (don’t worry, they will deflate).
  8. Keep warm in parchment wrapped in foil in an oven or serve immediately.
The most delicious naan yet

The most delicious naan yet

There is another Indian Restaurant in Toronto that we really like, and you’ve probably heard of it because it’s in all the major cities around the world, it’s called Bombay Palace on Jarvis Street. We usually go there for lunch and there are two particular things I love, the carrot pickle and the Aloo Papri Chaat (described as a sweet Medley of crispy wafers chickpeas, potatoes with yogurt-mint chutney dressing). I tried to find as close a recipe as possible to this tangy, sweet and crunchy side, and this one was pretty darn close. I had to make a few changes due to unavailable ingredients, but to be honest, the flavour didn’t suffer for it. I must warn you, it does take a lot of steps.

Aloo Papri Chaat

A delicious mix of sweet and tangy flavours with the crunchy texture of the wafers

Serves 4-6 as a side dish

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup Semolina flour
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind paste
  • 7-8 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1 dried apricot
  • 1 small cooked potato, cubed
  • 100 g chick peas
  • 1/2 cup low fat yogurt (if using Greek yogurt, you will need to add milk to achieve the right consistency)
  • 1 chopped green chili
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chaat Masala (see spice mix below)
  • Salt
  • 1 cup peanut oil for frying

Directions:

  1. Make a soft dough with the flour and semolina by adding a little bit of water at a time.
  2. Roll the dough out into a rectangle and cut into bite-sized squares.
  3. Heat the oil to fry the squares and fry them until they puff a little and are golden. Drain oil off and set aside.

Directions for the Tamarind Chutney:

  1. In a small heavy bottom sauce pan, add the tamarind paste and the apricot. Add about 1 cup of hot water to it and heat to a boil until the tamarind paste dissolves and the apricot is mushy. Blend well with an immersion blender. Strain out any hard bits from the tamarind paste.
  2. Add the sugar, chili powder and mix well. Boil until all of the water evaporates and you are left with a thick rich paste.

Ingredients for the Chaat Masala:

Note: the original recipe for Chaat Masala called for Mango Powder which I did not have, and therefore I substituted the apricot into the tamarind mix to replicate the sweet and tangy flavour of the mango powder.

  • 1 tbsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp black salt

Directions for the Chaat Masala:

  1. Put all ingredients into a bowl and mix well. If some of the spices are seeds, you will need to grind them well.

Directions for the Yogurt Sauce and assembly:

  1. Whip the yogurt with a whisk until thin and runny (or if it’s Greek Yogurt, add a little milk),
  2. Add  the cubed potatoes, chopped green chili, the chickpeas and a teaspoon or two of the tamarind and mix well (being careful not to break up the potatoes).
  3. Add the bite sized Papri (wafers) and mix gently to coat.
  4. Garnish with Coriander leaves and finely chopped green onions.

A quick shot of the actual serving dish at the dinner party, the lighting sucks as it was already night

I posted a quick picture of this recipe on Facebook and Pinterest and received overwhelming response so instead of putting it in-line with my Christmas 2012 baking, I thought I would interrupt regular programming and post the recipe today. I did a search and found that I might indeed be the first person to make these all-time Canadian favourites into a truffle instead of their normal bar form. Every year JT asks me to make this bar, which personally I find just too sweet. I got to thinking a smaller, bite sized version might be the answer I was looking for so I came up with this idea and only had to marginally modify an existing recipe. I hope you enjoy it. And if you make them, please do let me know how it worked out.

Almost as teeth tingly as the regular Nanaimo Bars

Not nearly as teeth tingly as regular Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo Truffles

For the original recipe, please click here.

Makes about 36 truffles

Inside Layer Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp vanilla custard powder
  • 1 cup icing sugar

Inside Layer Directions:

  1. Cream butter, custard powder and icing sugar together well. Scoop out about 1 tsp and roll into a ball. Freeze for 30 minutes.

Second Layer Ingredients:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 5 tbsp cocoa
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 ¼ c graham wafer crumbs
  • ½ c finely ground almond flour
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup (spray your measuring cup with non-stick spray and it will slide right out)

Second Layer Directions:

  • Melt first 3 ingredients in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat.
  • Stir in graham crumbs, coconut, almond flour and the corn syrup. Set aside.

Assembly Directions:

  1. Take about 1 packed tbsp of the second layer (crumb layer) in the palm of your hand and press to flatten to a large circle about 2mm thick.
  2. Put one custard ball into the centre and wrap the circle around the custard so that it totally covers it. Squeeze the crumb layer to form a tidy ball. Repeat until you have made all of the balls. Freeze for 30-60 minutes.

Chocolate Layer Ingredients:

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter

Chocolate Layer Directions:

  1. Melt chocolate and butter over low heat and mix well. Without allowing the chocolate mixture to cool down, take a frozen ball and carefully stick a toothpick or skewer into it and dip into the melted chocolate to cover. Remove the stick and allow the chocolate to set on parchment paper (you could dip a finger into the chocolate to hide the hole, or not). The frozen balls will help set the chocolate faster. Store in refrigerator. Allow the balls to come back up to room temperature to serve.
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The centre is creamy and smooth which is a nice texture to the outside

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Yum.

;

We have an Indian restaurant just north of where we live in BWV called North of Bombay. It’s a lovely place, nicely decorated in a contemporary style, close enough to walk (about 20 minutes) and the food is very good and it’s never crowded and the service has been very good. But for some reason, we ALWAYS order takeout or delivery. Indian is like that for us. And they have a crappy wine list. But they have the most delicious Beef Bhuna that we’ve ever had so that is the recipe I was trying to replicate for our Indian themed dinner party. Their menu describes it as Eye of round cubes cooked with fresh onions,green pepper, ginger, coriander, tomatoes, herbs & spices. So when I was searching the net, those were the key ingredients I was looking for. The recipe below is loosely based on this recipe but I changed it to replicate the flavours of North of Bombay’s Beef Bhuna. I also changed up the technique because I wanted to cook it slow and low as per Bœuff Bourguignon.

Beef Bhuna

Tender beef cubes drenched in a mildly spicy, fragrant, flavourful gravy

Serves 4-6 as part of a bigger menu

Ingredients:

  • 400 g eye of round beef, cut into 2.5 cm or 1 inch cubes
  • 1 Green Pepper, cut into similar size squares as the beef
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp of mild curry powder
  • 1 tsp of Chilli Powder
  • 1 tsp Garam Masala
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (omit if you find this too hot)
  • a pinch of ground cardamon
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger, finely minced
  • 1+ cup water
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 300° F.
  2. In an oven-proof pan (like Le Creuset’s dutch oven) sear the beef in about 1-2 tbsp high flash point oil (like peanut or canola). Remove from pan. De-glaze with a 1/2 cup of beef stock, pour over the meat.
  3. Add finely chopped onions and cook well (I saw Madhur Jaffrey on Martha Stewart once and she said that Indian cooking doesn’t sweat the onions, but they cook the onions dark, but not burned).
  4. Add the curry, chilli, cayenne, cardamon and coriander and cook JUST until you can smell it. Add the garlic, fresh ginger and garam masala give a quick stir. Now add the water and combine well. Return the beef to the pan and give it a good stir. Cover and bake in the 300° F oven for 2-3 hours or until beef is fork tender. Check frequently and add water as required; you don’t want it soupy, just a nice light gravy. About 30 minutes to serving, add the green pepper — you don’t want the green pepper soft and mushy.
  5. Serve hot garnished with cilantro leaves and green onions with Basmati rice and Naan.


This is an absolute favourite of our household, but to be honest the gravy is usually laden with butter and ghee which is really bad for you, so I prefer to make my own so that it’s healthier. The Makhani gravy is from this recipe, but as I mentioned in the menu post, I had to add a little sweetness (I used Agave Nectar) to counter the very acidic tomatoes — I suspect that the full butter and cream of the original recipe would do the same, so if you choose to go full fat on this baby, omit the agave. There I said it.

The paneer is a soft unripened cheese made similarly to Ricotta, but instead of leaving it loose, you press it into a rectangular shape to be cut into cubes. Easy.

A delicious, rich tasting tomato gravy with gently firm paneer

Paneer Makhani

This is the original recipe I just doubled the quantity

Serves 4-6 as a part of several dishes

Ingredients:

  • 4 liter Fresh whole milk
  • 4-6 tbsp lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Heat the milk in the deep and heavy bottom pan at medium heat (this is really important, otherwise you will need to spend at least a half hour trying to clean the burnt milk off the bottom). Allow it come to a gentle boil and stay there for a minute. Make sure the milk is not vigorously boiling (also important, see note above). If it does, immediately reduce the heat and bring the milk back to gentle boil. But if you do burn your enamel pan, I have a great tip at the end.
  2. Add two tablespoons of lemon juice and quickly stir it in (because I had doubled the recipe, it took a bit longer to develop). At this point, you will start to see small curdles in the milk but no whey. Add another tablespoon or two of juice and again stir it in. The curdles will increase and you will slowly begin to see the yellowish whey. Add the last tablespoon of juice and with this, you should be able to see a clear yellowish whey separating from the curdles, switch of the gas immediately at this point. Depending on the acidity of the juice, the amount of juice you require may differ. Start with one tablespoon at a time till you achieve the results.
  3. You could save the whey, and if you do: Line another pan with double layered cheesecloth. Make sure the cheesecloth is long enough to be bundled up and hanged later. Run the whey through the cloth which will collect all the curdles. Set the whey aside.
  4. Wash the curdles in the cheese cloth, by running it through cold water to remove the lemon taste.
  5. Tie up the cheesecloth in a tight bundle and let it drain for about 30 minutes. Then place weight on the cheese to get it to be flatter and drain out extra moisture. I wanted a nice block of cheese so I pressed the contents of the cheese cloth into a square cake pan about 20 cm (8 inch). Then I took the still wrapped cheese and placed it between two cutting boards and put a heavy pot on top for 1-2 hours.You don’t want to add too much weight for too long as it can drain out way too much moisture from the cheese making it hard and crumbly. Your cheese should have a slightly elastic texture so when you lightly press your finger into it, it will bounce back.
  6. Wrap it and store it in the fridge for up to a week.
  7. Reheat very slowly in the microwave for 30 second spurts until too warm to touch. Add to the makhani gravy at the last minute (I didn’t want my paneer to fall apart).

TIP: if you happen to burn the milk to the bottom of your pan, try this handy tip, cover burnt area with a good thick layer of table salt, add a bit of water and heat but don’t hard boil. Using a silicon scraper, see if it comes off. If it doesn’t, do the same but instead of water, use lemon juice and this time bring to a soft boil. Using a silicon scraper, peel away the burnt layer. Voilà!

I am very excited to tell you that THIS post will tip this blog over the 100,000 views! I can hardly believe it. My humble little blog from Bloor West Village. Go figure. I was going to do some sort of prize, but I have no idea how to measure who my 100,000 visit was. So I’ll have to think of something else. WOOO HOOO!

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Oh Christmas Tree

We decorated the tree a few days after we got it home. Now I know it’s probably a lot larger than many cultures, but for Canadians this tree is small; even by our standards it’s a wee bit puny, we had to put it up on a table to get the height we needed! But I’m OK with that, because that just gives us more room for presents!

These delicious little bites were baked, believe it or not, and you will be surprised at how soft and chewy the centre is and how crispy the exterior becomes when you reheat. I don’t think I will deep fry my bhajis ever again.

Baked Onion Bhajis

Don’t be fooled by their size, they pack a big punch of flavour

original recipe from BBC. Makes about 24 mini bhajis.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 Vidalia onion very thinly sliced
  • 120 g/4 oz all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • non stick cooking spray

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400°F. Pre-heat a 12 or 24 mini muffin tin.
  2. Beat the eggs and add the finely chopped onion rings, mix well.
  3. Combine the flour, ground coriander and cumin and stir well. Add to the egg, onion mixture and stir well to combine.
  4. Generously spray the mini muffin tin, add about 1 tbsp of the batter per cavity. Bake for 7-10 minutes, then flip each bhaji so that it browns evenly on both sides and bake for another 7-10 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. To serve, pre-heat oven to 350°F and place bhajis onto a cookie sheet and heat for about 10-12 minutes, crisping up the exterior.
  6. Serve immediately with some onion chutney or tamarind chutney.

The other day my new friend Trang nominated me for the Liebster award. Thank you Trang.

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You must be getting a sense that we love themed dinner parties. I love everything about it, researching the food, experimenting, cooking and decorating. We had the “King and Queen” 😉 of themed dinner parties over for dinner recently (remember Titanic Anniversary Dinner and Truman Capotes Black and White?) and as one of only two couples from our group who love Indian food as much as we do, we decided to have Indian night. All the food is home-made, of course, but don’t worry, I didn’t spend all day in the kitchen; what’s great about Indian food is that it’s down-to-earth home-cooking at its best and stews are often better tasting the second day, so I was able to prepare much of the feast in advance. This post will show the menu and the photos but the recipes will come one by one, so that I can find them in the future.

This was staged, we actually had A LOT more food than that!

Hors D’œuvres:

  • Baked Onion Bhajis — I’m excited about this recipe because I did a little experiment and figured out a way to bake them instead of deep frying them and they worked out GREAT!
  • Appetizer: Mulligatawny Soup — I prepared this soup similarly to the link to my original recipe, except that I omitted the proteins as the rest of the meal is rather heavy and I didn’t want to be full after the first course! I also puréed about 1/4 of the soup so that the broth is thicker and creamier, but left the majority as chunks.

Mains:

  • Paneer Makhani — this is a rich and delicious tomato gravy with home made unripened, pressed cheese. I used this Makhani recipe but I had to add about 2 tbsp Agave Nectar as the tomatoes were extremely acidic. I suspect that this acidity would be reduced if I had used full cream and butter of the original recipe, but then that wouldn’t be me, would it now?
  • Beef Bhuna — a tasty beef stew with a deliciously flavourful gravy
  • Basmiti Rice
  • Aloo Papri Chaat — a very flavourful and texture filled cold side dish with a yogurt sauce and chick peas

Condiments:

  • Carrot Pickle — a lightly spicy, crunchy pickle to cleans the palate
  • Mango Chutney — I wanted a mango chutney that wasn’t full of sugar

Bread

  • Naan — a delicious chewy Indian bread, baked on the outside of their tandoori ovens, stay tune for my experiment!

Dessert:

  • Light Lemon Mousse — this is where I skipped Indian and went straight to light and satisfying. I checked with our guests and similar to our tastes they find Indian desserts a little too sweet so I improvised. Plus I wanted to use the gorgeous little cups we bought our yogurt in while in Paris.

It’s that time of year again, cold and flu season. For the most part, I can pretty well ward off any cold or flu I come across with my evil powers (just kidding) but this one bugger finally got me late last week. I’d been plagued with a sore throat since a week ago Monday, but no coughing or sneezing or any other symptoms, until Saturday. My voice is now three octaves lower and a little raspier…dare I say sexy? Well, if it wasn’t for the sneezing and coughing, perhaps. But not so much ;-)!

We went Christmas tree chopping on Sunday (you may recall we did this last year too), I probably shouldn’t have gone, but I really, really, really wanted to. And it was cold, and slightly snowing. We snapped a few pics but the weather wasn’t great and I paid for it the following day. I stayed home and nursed my achy body. And with great timing, my friend Kelly up in Ottawa at Inspired Edibles created a alcohol free (I know, what was I thinking?) hot toddy that sincerely HIT THE SPOT. I will make this my go to winter drink when I feel a cold coming on. You can actually taste the healing properties (and heating properties ;-)!) I’m not going to post the recipe because I made it just as Kelly suggested (except I didn’t have star anise, so I used cloves instead) and her pictures are better anyway. Please do yourself a favour and try this drink. It is seriously yummy and it works!

Lightly snowing made it picture perfect for tree cutting
No, we don’t just walk into a forest to chop down our tree, we actually to go a tree farm!

We chose another smallish tree, but this one has a lot more girth (but Mum’s the word when the tree asks if it looks fat all dressed up!)

We’ll decorate it tomorrow night! (Weird glow is from the iPhone 4 flash)

When we arrived home that evening, I just felt like soup, so I made just what the doctor ordered, chicken noodle soup. This is a variation of Nigella’s Cold Cure Soup as I wanted something a little simpler than her version. And I only put 1/4 of a fresh lemon into it as I have found that more than that can make the soup bitter tasting, particularly when your taste buds are a bit off with a cold.

Cold Cure Chicken Noodle Soup

Serves 4 generous portions

A gorgeous mix of carrots, parsnips and onions garnished with parsley and green onion. There are glass noodles hiding in there too!

Ingredients:

  • 2 bone in, skinless chicken breasts (about 400-450 g)
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into large chunks
  • 1 medium parsnip, cut into large chunks (reserve the tops)
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, smashed but left whole (so you can remove them)
  • 1/4 lemon
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • Water
  • Salt to taste
  • Glass noodles
  • Parsley to garnish
  • Green onion to garnish
This is the instagram photo

Directions:

  1. If the chicken still has some fat on it, remove all fat (you’ll thank me later so your soup isn’t a large puddle of grease!). Sear the chicken breasts, meat side down until lightly browned.
  2. Add onion, carrots, parsnips, garlic and the lemon. Stir for a moment. Fill the pot with water to cover all of the chicken and vegetables.
  3. Wash and tie the parsnips tops, add to the soup pot. Cover and simmer until chicken is tender and cooked through (I found that 1 hour 30 minutes was good for our chicken, but you should definitely check the internal temperature) You don’t want to cook it too long so that the vegetables are not mushy!
  4. Remove chicken and allow to rest for about 5-7 minutes (covered). Taste and salt stock to your preference.
  5. In the meantime, soak the glass noodles according to directions.
  6. Strain the soup through a fine sieve, reserving the carrot, parsnip and onions. Discard the parsnip tops, garlic and lemon.
  7. Cut the carrot and parsnips into small bite size sticks.
  8. De-bone the chicken and tear into small bite-size pieces.
  9. Into four bowls, add even amounts of the noodles, vegetables and chicken and cover with the hot stock.
  10. Serve immediately garnished with parsley and green onions.

On an unrelated note, my blog is fast approaching our 100,000 visitor! I’m hoping we can reach that goal before the new year. I might even do a give away! Stay tuned.

Bloor West Village has been going through a bit of a make-over in the last few years. This past summer, we had Payless Shoes close (I always wondered what it was doing in our hood) and a Laura Secord shop close (now that was sad, great ice cream) and in their place a new restaurant opened its doors called The Works. The Works is a burger restaurant, but not like any restaurant you’ve seen, they specialize in burgers, high-end burgers. JT stopped by on his day off to have lunch in November and had a good experience so last Sunday we thought we’d another go.

The restaurant is not huge, but it was hopping at the strange hour of 3pm on a Sunday. I guess we were not the only one’s lunching at that hour! It’s decorated in warehouse grunge and it’s quite cool.; corrugated metal on walls, some graffiti, copper plumbing pipe made into cool linear art. The menu is burgers, burgers and more burgers. They offer • Ground Beef • Whole Chicken Breast • Lean Ground Turkey • Gourmet Veggie • Portobello Mushroom Cap • and Lean Domestic Elk (3.39 upgrade). The menu is laid out in steps, so that Step One is selecting your burger, then you choose the venue you would like the burger presented in, with a variety of toppings or if you wish, a salad topped with a burger. I didn’t see a custom burger option but with the variety of choices offered there are plenty so likely there would be no problem in finding something that will satisfy you. The menu is very Toronto centric which is also quite cool and they change the names depending on the city they service (for example, there is the Bloor West Village – grilled eggplant, ripe tomato, red onion & curry mayo 12.93 or the Distillery District – danish blue cheese, walnut chunks & a smattering of dijon-haze sauce 12.91). The burgers are not cheap, but then they are pretty gourmet, and the toppings are not skimpy so you are getting some good value for your dollar.

As I mentioned we arrived at around 3pm on a Sunday afternoon and it was packed. Fortunately, we only had to wait a couple of minutes for them to clean off the table. We were seated with menus and left to peruse for over 10 minutes before a server came by. Even the host came by and asked if we had been seen by someone. Now in all fairness, this was only their second week open, so they may have some hickups to smooth over even though there seemed to be plenty of servers on the floor for the number of people (it’s not a huge place). We placed our orders for drinks and our meals and the drinks came out in a reasonable time, albeit the water took a while. The server warned us that the food will take at least 20 minutes because they make everything fresh. It would have been nice if they had provided some kind of snack (like in Mexican restaurants they give you home made tortilla chips with salsa, or Thai places give you shrimp chips with peanut sauce) since the wait for the food was so long. But they didn’t. We’ll have to keep that in mind if there is a next time as we were pretty hungry.

JT had enjoyed the Elk burger on his previous visit so we both decided to give it another try. It’s not easy to share dishes here because they serve them on galvanized metal trays without cutlery for the most part (my salad came with a fork, I had to ask for a knife). The non-alcholic drinks are served in glass measuring cups (I found it a bit awkward to drink out of the larger glass, so you had to drink with the straw provided). JT ordered the Elk Burger with the Distillery District topping (danish blue cheese, walnut chunks & a smattering of dijon-haze sauce 12.91), I also ordered the Elk but I decided to go with the Waldork Salad (leafy spring mix, red onion, julienned beets, ripe avocado, walnuts, grilled pear then topping it all with some crumbly blue cheese 14.97). Both were quite generous portions with generous toppings, and all in all I was rather satisfied with my selection. I was however, disappointed in my burger which was a tad overdone and quite dry. Apparently they had asked JT how he’d like his burger on his previous visit, but they failed to ask us this time. When I enjoy a house-made burger, I rather like a more rounded burger than a flat patty, because it’s house made, ground on site, you need not be as concerned over having it cooked to death. My patty was flat, dry and over cooked. JT said his was a little less overdone. But two tables from us, the gentleman couldn’t eat his burger because it was too pink. It would have been nice to be asked. Normally I would have sent it back, but frankly I wasn’t prepared to wait another 20 minutes.

Would I go again? Good question. I’m not a big burger eater, so my answer would have to be no, but that’s not to say I wouldn’t recommend it for the burger lovers out there. But I suggest you wait for a couple of weeks so they can work out their kinks!

A tad overcooked for my taste

Overall rating of The Works (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 2/5, food 2.5/5, Value 3.5/5, Noise: 2.5/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

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

While in Barcelona, Spain we enjoyed many tapas that we’d never tried before and one particular tapa was the Potato Omelet. Now you know that I am not a huge potato eater, but for some reason I really wanted to try it. The starch in the potato makes for a very dense and slightly chewy omelet, which was usually served as a small cube, sometime with bread but most often not.

The potato omelet is the cube centre back.
We enjoyed this plate while dining along side of the Mediterranean Sea!

Now that we’re home, I’ve experimented with other ‘fillings’ for this simple treat and yesterday I think I hit the jackpot. I made this little hors d’œuvres with a shallot, finely diced chorizo and a sliced mushroom. What made it hit the jackpot for me was the texture and because I wasn’t using a potato in this version, I needed to add something to help thicken the egg. I remembered Sissi’s recipe for a Korean Pancake (which I thoroughly enjoyed) and she added corn starch to the egg batter to firm it up. So that’s exactly what I did. Thanks Sissi. It made eight 2.5cm squares (1″) that were tasty and incredibly easy to make. You can even make it in advance and reheat.

A lovely dense texture and a little spice from the Chorizo

Chorizo, Shallot and Mushroom Omelet Tapa

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole egg and 1 egg white
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 1 mushroom, sliced about 2mm thick
  • 30 g finely diced chorizo (I didn’t add extra salt as I find Chorizo salty enough)
  • 20 g finely chopped shallot

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Beat the egg and white together, add the corn starch and beat until all the lumps have disolved.
  3. Generously grease a small loaf pan 7cm x 13cm (2.75″ x 5″) or 200 mL (3/4 cup size).
  4. Add the chorizo, shallots and mushrooms and make sure they are distributed evenly in the pan. Pour the egg batter over it and tap a few times so that it reaches under and over all the inclusions. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until egg is entirely set. You may serve immediately or cool completely and reheat this mixture prior to serving.

And definitely don’t let my ingredient mix stop you from trying something you have on hand…for example, ham and gruyère cheese!

Ham, Gruyère cheese and a little Dijon

The possibilities are definitely endless. I do hope you enjoy this snack.

The potato and bacon omelet took a nose dive out the pan. It must have been possessed! And NO, for all the guys, the three second rule did NOT apply.

On a recent visit to one of our favourite restaurants Bestellen, we chatted with our charming waiter Kirin who is originally from Bath, UK and has been living in the Junction (a short walk from our house) since he arrived about a year ago. He told us about two relatively new restaurants that opened just north or our house, one of which is the Indie Alehouse.

We were excited to try it so we met a friend and her boyfriend on a Friday for drinks and decided to have a small bite while we were there — a Restaurant Review was born.

Let me start by telling you about The Junction; called The Junction because of its proximity to where four rail lines converge and has become an up and coming neighbourhood over the last few years. House prices are still pretty reasonable (for Toronto) and although the overall atmosphere is still a little rough, it’s growing like mad.  This rough exterior adds to its unique character like the Lower East Side in NYC. Lots of young families have moved in and the shops and restaurants are starting to reflect that (when we moved to BWV about 11 years ago, The Junction was actually pretty shady and dumpy).

Indie Alehouse is one of a few new faces on the block and by the local reception, its been a void long needing to be filled. We arrived shortly after seven Friday evening and it was already bustling. We were told a table for four would be about a ten minute wait; but there were four seats at the bar, so we opt for bar seating. Before you knew it, there was a queue outside and the bar area was packed 3 deep in some places.

Indie is a 4,000 square foot brew pub, but most of that square footage must be dedicated to the brewing because the restaurant is not enormous. Decorated with a tin-tile roof, exposed brick, school house lights and warm crafted wooden tables, Indie has a comfortable vibe to it. If it wasn’t for the kitchen pass-through’s blaring fluorescent lights assaulting the warmly lit bar space the lighting wouldn’t have been half bad. And with all the hard surfaces it was rather noisy, and you know how much I like that! Perhaps sitting at a cozy table might have eliminated the overall drone of everyone talking at once, and the odd baby or child crying (yes, these folks bring children to a bar!!!!).

Our bartender (there were two or three) was attentive although my friend must have ticked her off somehow because she conveniently ignored every request my friend made so I started ordering for her. Being a huge fan of coffee beer, I ordered their Breakfast Porter and JT ordered the The Belgian Barnyard (which really didn’t taste like barnyard at all). My Breakfast Porter was a delicious dark creamy beer with coffee, caramel and malt flavours and a very subtle vanilla tone. JTs Belgium Barnyard was a light golden colour with a decent head; it had a light spicy aroma but I think he prefers something a little more robust. My friend ordered a Spadina Monkey which the bartender referred to as a sour beer with a crisp refreshing taste, not unlike a lime and lager; her boyfriend ordered the same as JT. You can also order a flight of five beer tasters for $10 — I wish we had seen that before ordering our pints. We were there for about an hour and getting hungry so each couple ordered a Chacuterie Platter ($19) to share between two of us (if you want to see a photo, click here). To be honest I was disappointed; for $19 we got maybe 100-150 g of meat, although the meat was of excellent quality.

Now we were there relatively early so it was still family time, and we may give it another chance just a little later in the evening. The noise was a downer to me because as you know I am unable to be heard.

Overall rating of Indie Alehouse (in my opinion): Decor 3.5/5, service 3.5/5, food 3/5, Value 2/5, Noise: 1/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

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

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends! And anyone else who happens to celebrate Thanksgiving now. Hope you enjoyed an overload of turkey, stuffing and pies! And then there’s Black Friday, which for some reason Canadian retailers have jumped on and are promoting the heck out of it! Get out there and get some GREAT DEALS, but not before you leave me some of your lovely words.
Honestly, I don’t eat sweets. I just like to bake ’em! And fortunately, JT started a new job (and career) in June and his office are the perfect guiney pigs recipients of my baking! I wanted to bake another batch of the molasses spice cookies, but JT put in a request for something chocolate. OK, I can live with that. The cookies lasted less than one hour and JT only had two. He came home with a request for the next bake: macarons! Can you believe it?

A very tasty treat, if I do say so myself

The recipe is an adaptation from the wonderful Chocolate Crinkle Kisses I make every year at Christmas, but since it’s not Christmas yet (unbenounced to many department stores who are playing Christmas music incessantly) I altered the recipe to be a Chocolate Espresso flavour and I omitted the Candy Cane Kisses!

These cookies have a strong coffee and chocolate flavour and it’s texture is a little browny like.

An explosion of chocolate and espresso in every bite

Chocolate Espresso Crinkle Cookies

Makes about 30-36 cookies

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup icing sugar
  • 3/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup espresso powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsps vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Sift icing sugar into a small bowl.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the melted butter with the cocoa powder, espresso powder and sugar.
  3. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and vanilla Into the chocolate mixture.
  4. Slowly mix in all the dry ingredients until combined. Stir in the chocolate Chips.
  5. Cover and refrigerate about 2 hours.
  6. Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll dough into a small ball about the size of a walnut; roll balls in the icing sugar and press flat with the palm of your hand.
  7. Place on parchment covered baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches between the cookies. Bake 8-10 minutes.
  8. Let the cookies cool on the sheet; transfer to racks to cool completely before storing.

This here post is the reason I love blogging and I’m sure most of you will agree. Blogging provides friendship and advice, cooking and sometimes otherwise. Blogging provides support; I haven’t come across a nasty person yet (well, I would delete them anyway ;-)). And last but not least, blogging provides inspiration particularly when you are deathly sick of every recipe you’ve past blogged about and can’t for the life of you come up with an idea for tonight’s dinner.

I have my friend John, From the Bartolini Kitchens to thank for tonight’s dinner: Roasted Loin of Pork stuffed with Fig Preserves and Goats Cheese. Of course, John made his own fig preserves (which I will do next year) but I had to use a store bought version. I find these store bought preserves rather sweet and I certainly didn’t want dessert for dinner so I decided to add some goats cheese to my stuffing to help temper the sweetness. It worked. PLUS it made an incredible jus for the Celeriac Potato Mash I made with it. I only made a few minor changes to John’s incredible recipe. This was definitely a dinner for the recipe books. Thanks John, again, I might add.

Come on pork, it’s your turn to shine. Work it, work it.
(It’s that time of year when the light SUCKS big time. Sigh.)

 

Pork Loin Stuffed with Fig Preserves and Goats Cheese

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 400 g Pork Tenderloin, butterflied
  • 100 g goats cheese
  • Fig preserves (home made or store bought)
  • 4-6 slices prosciutto
  • butcher’s twine
  • 2 tbsp high flash point oil, such as canola
  • Sherry for deglazing (I used cooking Sherry, but feel free to use the real thing)

Directions:

  1. Pre heat oven to 350° F.
  2. Spread a thin layer throughout the butterflied pork tenderloin. Crumble the goats cheese evenly throughout.
  3. Roll up the pork and wrap tightly with the prosciutto, wrap tightly with the butcher’s twine.
  4. In an oven proof roasting pan, heat the canola oil until almost smoking. Add the pork and cook the prosciutto until crispy on all sides. Remove pork for a minute and deglaze pan with the Sherry. Return pork and bake in a hot oven for 15-20 minutes or until pork has reached a minimum of 145° F. Allow to rest before cutting into slices.
  5. If the pan has juices from the fig preserves and bits of goats cheese you will want to heat on the stove and press through a fine sieve for serving. Serve with Celeriac Potato Mash.

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad
(today would have been their 52nd anniversary)

We don’t often buy potatoes; it’s not because I don’t like them, I do, but they are carbs and I would prefer to eat other vegetables with less carbs and a lower glycemic index. But I bought two medium sized potatoes two weeks ago and only used one for a recipe. I had that potato sitting on my counter for another week before I figured out what to do with it.

I also had a 1/2 celeriac (celery root) in the vegetable crisper just waiting to get brown and tossed so I decided to take my celeriac cauliflower “mash” and change it up a bit with the potato. Since I didn’t have a head of cauliflower either I just made Celeriac Potato Mash. Now I love roasting vegetables because it really brings out the sweetness, so I simply roasted the celeriac (and a few cloves of garlic), boiled the potatoes and presto; what a “mash” this turned out to be! LOVE it!

Celeriac has fewer calories and carbohydrates than a potato as well, it is lower on the glycemic index than a potato so keeping the celeriac ratio higher than the potato was the right decision for me. The potato adds creaminess that you expect from mashed potatoes. This is a bit more labourious than normal mashed potatoes, but I promise you it is worth it. I hope you enjoy it. To see a whole mess of mashed potatoes head on over to Greg’s blog, he has gone all out with this savoury dish.

The star of this photo is the mash, not the pork. The pork is a Primadonna!

Celeriac and Potato “Mash”

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium yukon gold potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium celeriac, peeled and diced
  • 4 medium cloves of garlic, peeled to the outer skin
  • 2-4 tbsp EVOO
  • salt to taste
  • chicken stock or milk or cream, depending on how healthy you wish to make it.

Directions:

  1. Pre heat oven to 400° F. Spread the celeriac evenly on the pan and very lightly coat with olive oil and salt.
  2. Put garlic cloves into a small ramekin and add about a finger’s depth of EVOO and salt.
  3. Bake the celeriac and garlic until both are fork tender. About 30-40 minutes into the roasting, add about 1/2 cup of water to the celeriac roasting pan and give the celeriac a good stir. When the water evaporates, they should be fork tender (if not, then add another 1/2 cup of water and repeat until fork tender)
  4. While the celeriac is baking, in a large stock pot add enough water to cover the potatoes entirely, salt generously. Cook until they are fork tender.
  5. Drain potatoes and allow to sit for a minute so that all of the water evaporates. Either rice with a potato ricer or mash gently with a fork (you don’t want to develop the starches so for heavens sake, don’t blend this with an immersion blender). Don’t add any liquid as the celeriac mash will be a touch wetter than necessary and we’ll need the potato on the dryer side. Set aside
  6. When the celeriac is fork tender, remove from the pan into the immersion blender container, squeeze out the roasted garlic, pour in the oil from roasting the garlic and blend. Blend until it is smooth, smooth, smooth, adding chicken stock, milk or cream to achieve a mashed potato consistency. Celeriac doesn’t have the same level of starch as the potato so this is the only way you will get it smooth. Push through a fine sieve and fold the mashed potatoes into the mix. Keep warm over a bain marie. Serve with the most amazing Fig Stuffed Pork Tenderloin ever (link won’t be active until Nov 21).

This past Wednesday, through JTs work we were generously invited to the European Union Film Festival Gala Opening Cocktail reception at The Revival Bar, 783 College Street in Toronto. We weren’t planning on seeing the films, just hob hobnobbing with the EU Film Festival crowd. There were lovely hors d’œuvres and cocktails to be had, but we had other plans for eating that evening, we made reservations at Frank’s Kitchen about one kilometre from the gala!

We chatted with people from JTs work and a few new faces; it was lovely to reconnect and to make new connections! We chatted at length with Rebecka  Högdahl from the Swedish Trade Council and Dustin Woods from PR firm Marshall Fenn. We enjoyed our conversation at the EU Film Festival Gala so much, we invited them to join us for dinner. Dustin is as big a car dude as JT is, so they had lots to talk about. And girls can always find something to chat about :-).

Before I go on, I must apologize for the photos as it was rather dark in the restaurant so I had to enhance the photos in Photoshop, some worked out better than others.

Rebecka and Dustin were our guests

Frank’s Kitchen is a pleasantly decorated restaurant with flattering lighting. Even though the kitchen is open, they considered the impact of fluorescent bulbs on the tables but it is brightly lit, non-the-less which made our table directly across from the kitchen not as pleasant as some of the other tables out of the bright light range. Owned and operated by Chef Frank Parhizgar and his wife, Shawn Cooper who manages the front of the house. Shawn was very gracious to change our reservation for two to four when we showed up. It was packed on a Wednesday evening at 8pm which is a testament to the quality. The service was excellent, the waiter clearly knew the food and was quick to describe our tantalizing journey of the menu.

We were brought house made breads served with hummus and a little olive oil combo

We started our delicious journey with Chef’s wonderful Porchini Mushroom Velouté served with a spoon with a tiny ball of Goats Cheese Fritter and Cucumber Tomato Salsa. Both were exceptional. I loved the way the truffle oil just elevated the already rich earthy flavour of the velouté. Which reminds me, I should have had JTs as he is not a truffle oil fan!

The earthy flavour of the mushroom velouté was further enhanced by the truffle oil

We ordered a plate of raw oysters and Oysters Rockefeller (highly recommended by James Chatto) and neither disappointed.

Rebecka kindly snapped this photo of JT and I enjoying our appetizers

The lovely texture and not too creamy made this a very tasty experience

We were then surprised by a palatte cleanser of Sangria Sorbet.
I really had to lighten this photo.

At this point I’ve had a few glasses of wine, so I forgot to take photos of the other dishes! Sigh. I had the appetizer portion of Kobe Bone Marrow & Venison Tartare with a Foie Gras Torchon Salad, it was lovely and such a variety on the plate (click here to see a photo). The marrow was rich so I was glad there wasn’t a huge portion of it. JT ordered the Crisp gnocchi in a Gorgonzola Cream with Pancetta and it was delicious (click here for a photo). I do love a crispy fried gnocchi. Both of our guests ordered the Ontario Lamb three ways: Rack, Loin, braised Shoulder and Grilled Merquez Sausage which was a very generous portion (click here for a photo).

I loved this experience, but I must warn you, it is not inexpensive but the service, food and ambiance is well worth it. With a bottle of red and a bottle of white wine we exceeded $300 for the four of us. One small negative was that the bathrooms were not renovated (in fact, the one I went into had to toilets in the same room without a partition…just weird. NOTE: I have slightly modified my text here as Shawn kindly emailed me to bring to my attention that the bathrooms are in the process of being renovated and indeed had a sign on the door apologizing for their appearance and to use as a ‘single’ stall; regretfully I failed to mention said sign and as I was one of two people heading to use the bathroom I chose the unfortunate two toilet stall.

Overall rating of Frank’s Kitchen (in my opinion): Decor 3.5/5, service 4/5, food 4/5, Value 3.5/5, Noise: 3/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet). We paid for our meals in full.

This is the fallen tree. We have several in our neighbourhood,
all about the same age. I’m hoping they have stronger roots!

I’m on a bit of a lentil kick these days, and that’s rather funny as I have never really like them. My favourite is the Lentilles du Puy that I recently blogged about, but the recipe that inspired my recipe kept creeping into my head so I had to make it. It’s a warm or cold salad; for lunch the following day I had it cold over a bed of arugula and spinach (my favourite) and it was very tasty and filling (or the three F’s Full bodied, Flavourful and Filling). This shall definitely go into my repertoire for weeknight dinners and lunches. It was also very easy to make which is a bonus for everyone.

I found the lentils at Pusatari’s in Yorkville, but they were a bit more expensive than the package I bought in Lyon. I got many great tips on where to find them in Toronto from my readers and I thank you kindly. This recipe is from Epicurious and although I did not change much of it, I did change up the method considerably. Also, this would make a great vegetarian dish if you omit the pancetta, I just couldn’t help myself ;-)!

Lentilles du Puy Salad with a Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette

LentilsDuPuys-1

I took this photo over again in the summer of 2014 because I really hated the lighting in the original photos. While the lentils were still warm, I folded in a good handful of baby arugula leaves and served it on a massaged Kale salad.

A feast for the eyes as well.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup lentilles du Puy (French green lentils) picked over and rinsed
  • 3 cups water (the original recipe has 6 cups but you have to drain the remaining water)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 pancetta slices, chopped (about 3-4 table spoons)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 fresh flat-leafed parsley sprigs plus 1/2 cup leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced  (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, finely diced (about 3/4 cup)

For vinaigrette

  • 2 tbsp white-wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard, or to taste
  • 1-2 tbsp cup EVOO
  • 1 bunch arugula, coarse stems discarded, washed well and spun dry

Directions:

  1. In a heavy saucepan render the pancetta to a crispy consistency. Remove pancetta and add the onions and sweat until transparent. Add the garlic, type and parsley sprigs (reserve the leaves). Cook for about 1 minute.
  2. Add the lentils and sauté for another minute, add the water all at once and simmer, covered, 20 minutes. Stir in bells peppers and simmer mixture, covered, until lentils are tender, about 10 minutes. Lentils may be made 2 days ahead and kept covered and chilled. Reheat lentils before proceeding with recipe.

Directions for vinaigrette:

  1. Transfer 2 tablespoons lentil-cooking liquid to a medium bowl and whisk in vinegars, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste. Add oil in a stream, whisking, and whisk dressing until emulsified.
  2. Drain lentils (if required, I didn’t have to) well in a sieve and discard parsley sprigs. Toss lentils with chopped parsley and vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Just before serving, arrange arugula decoratively around salad, or serve without as is pictured below.

I’m just about to have some, won’t you join me?

In October we were invited to another theme dinner party: Truman Capote’s Black and White Masquerade Ball, the party of the century! We were asked to dress in black and white and wear with a mask, which worked out perfectly since Halloween was just around the corner!

Our lovely hostess made this beautiful little booklet for the evening. The menu was pulled from Capote’s favourites, Basil Chicken Hash and served similar to the style of the time. We all had a blast! Mind you, I think we lasted about 10 minutes wearing the masks! Sadly, I didn’t get any pics of JT and I. Nor did I shoot the hash…but rest assured, it was AMAZING. The basil infused the chicken and although there is nothing Thai about it, it had a slight Thai flavouring to me. This will definitely go into our steady repertoire, such a flavourful and easy dish.

My friend chose Ina Garten’s recipe which turns out to be healthier than the real deal, believe it or not; Ina uses an extra pot to sauté the peppers, but I wanted to make it much simpler and modified the recipe accordingly.

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Our lovely hosts also gave us a bit of a teaser for the next themed dinner party in the Springtime…it will be Bond 007! What fun! Now, tell me which Bond girl should I be?

Basil Chicken Hash

Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa on Food Network

Serves 4, 100 g chicken per serving

Ingredients:

  • 1 or 2 chicken breasts, bone-in, skin removed (400 g)
  • 5 stalks of fresh basil leaves
  • dash of EVOO
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 small boiling potato, peeled and large diced
  • 1 red onion, chopped in large quarters
  • 1 red bell pepper, large diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, large diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 4 minced scallions, white and green parts
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh leaf parsley
  • dash of vegetable or chicken stock
  • Sea salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Spray the baking sheet with non-stick spray and lay two stalks of the basil leaves down (I was lucky, I used what was left from the garden).
  3. Place the chicken breasts on top of the basil, bone side down. Lightly rub each chicken piece with EVOO and sprinkle with salt. Put two more basil stalks on top of the chicken and bake for 35 to 40 minutes until cooked through. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then remove the meat from the bones and cut the chicken in large dice pieces and set aside.
  4. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large sauté pan and add the potatoes and onions, salt and saute over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until evenly browned and cooked through. I added a dash of stock at this point. Add the peppers, garlic, thyme, paprika and tomato paste and mix well. Add the chicken and another dash of stock and place into the oven to finish for about 10-15 minutes.
  5. Garnish with the remaining torn basil leaves, minced scallions and chopped fresh parsley, toss together and place on a serving platter. Serve over greens (I only had one smallish potato but if you use the recipe as is, you will not need a side with it).

Let’s take a moment to remember today.
*From Microsoft Clip art.

Have you ever had a dinner party cancellation at the last minute? We’ve not had them often but every few years it happens. This time it was friends who let us know Friday that the guy came down with a cold but should be OK if we don’t mind. I talked to him and he sounded fine so we said we’re on. But then at 9:25 on Saturday morning he called sounding very bad and very apologetic that he must cancel. You’re probably thinking that at 9:25am we should be OK, but the truth is I start kinda early. It’s my own fault but at that precise moment, I had just finished the gorgeous Cappuccino Panna Cotta I saw yesterday at Smidges, the bread was rising and the Moroccan Braised Beefwas already made and in the fridge (because we all know these stews are better the next day). Oh, and I just finished snapping the pic of this delicious soup. My diligence has screwed me today. I put out some feelers for the last minute stand in’s and came up short (we checked with neighbours and friends with no kids as baby sitters are hard to come by last minute). So now, I have a five course dinner for four ready, but no guests. Fortunately, I hadn’t yet made the hors d’œuvres (in fact, I was just about to get a cup of java and sit down with my new tapas cook book from Barcelona) nor had I set the table. I am sorry most of my blogging friends live so far away, otherwise, you would have received a call from me for sure. So tonight JT and I shall eat like kings and queens with a full five-course dinner and dessert to boot!

Have you ever had a last minute cancellation and how did you solve it?

The earthy golden beet was a nice compliment to the creamy celeriac.
Very tasty indeed.

Roasted Golden Beet Root with Caramelized Onion and Roasted Celeriac with Roasted Garlic Soup

Serves 4 (about 1 1/4 cup or 300 mL portion)

Ingredients:

  • 200 g golden beets
  • 300 g celeriac
  • 30 g garlic
  • 80 g sweet onion
  • Vegetable stock
  • Carnation Evaporated milk or cream
  • crispy fried onion for garnish (I hadn’t prepared it yet)

Directions:

  1. Peel and dice the beets and celeriac, spray with a bit of EVOO and roast separately for about 1 hour or until soft (I didn’t want to bleed the colours into each other). After about 30 minutes add enough water to cover the pan about 0.5cm or 1/4″ and continue roasting.
  2. Roast the garlic in a bit of EVOO and sea salt until soft.
  3. Slice the onion very thinly and caramelize on the stove top on a low setting using a bit of EVOO. This will take about 30 minutes.
  4. Using an immersion blender, combine the golden beats, caramelized onion and vegetable stock and purée until smooth and a consistency of creamed soup. Set aside.
  5. Using an immersion blender, combine the celery root, roasted garlic and evaporated milk and purée until smooth and a consistency of creamed soup. Set aside. Make sure ONE soup is slightly thicker than the other, this will help keep them separate in the bowl.
  6. Prior to serving, reheat both soups. Carefully pour the thicker of the two soups into half of the bowl. You can do this by tipping the bowl up a bit and use a large spoon to help keep that side clear of the other. Then, pour the thinner soup into the other side. Garnish with crispy fried onions.
  7. Cheers!

20121105-042826.jpg
We put a little crispy pancetta on top when we knew no one was looking ;)!

I thought I had my workout in the gym today. That’s what I thought when I got home and prepared to go for a walk around the hood and admire the changing leaves before they are all on the ground. I was wrong. As I went into the kitchen for a glass of water (the wine would come after the walk) I noticed the hardwood in front of our wine fridge was buckling a bit. No problem, I’ll just pull out the fridge and see what’s going on. I should have waited for JT to get home because clearly I was in the ‘blue job’ territory. But I just couldn’t help myself, I’m like that. I discovered that the fridge didn’t budge; oh no, it must be buckling under it and catching the little feet. Oh no. Now THIS is a challenge. Some brains and some brawn (and some good old fashioned Eastern European sweat) I managed to get the fridge out and the boards cut out (with my handy Dremel tool, which I use about once every four years). BRING ON THE DYI, I’m freakin’ READY! Tomorrow I’m ripping out tiles from the stairs and I’m cladding them in wood!

Fortunately, there was no water or even wetness below, so there is relief because if you’ve ever had a water leak, it’s almost impossible to figure out where it’s coming from. But now the question is, why did the boards buckle? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Doing manual labour like that inspires me to bake. Fortunately, my friend’s (boss, neighbour) daughter’s after school program is having a bake sale and since my friend (Kim) doesn’t bake much, I told her I would bake some cookies for the sale. I ended up making some old fashioned ginger snaps from my recipe from last Christmas, but then I saw a version Zsusza’s delightful cookie and was immediately drawn to it. I loved the way the cookie crackled on top. Well the kid got two batches for the bake sale (maybe a few were set aside!). I made a few alterations to the recipe, so please pop over to Zsuzsa’s blog to see the original recipe, I didn’t have nutmeg handy so I substituted allspice and I also added an extra teaspoon of dry ginger as well as a tablespoon of freshly grated ginger. It makes for a lovely warmly spiced cookie. And baking cookies is a hell of a lot easier than pulling a stuck wine fridge out of its spot.

They are soft and chewy on the inside

Old Fashioned Molasses Spice Cookies

Makes about 30-36 cookies (if you don’t sample the cookie dough)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp dry ginger
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 large egg

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to (175°C) 350° F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt; set it aside.
  4. In the bowl of your mixer, beat the shortening and sugar until fluffy.
  5. Beat in the molasses, egg and the freshly grated ginger and beat on low speed until just combined.
  6. Stir in the flour mixture.
  7. Chill the dough for 30 minutes.
  8. Using a melon baller, form the dough into 19 g balls.
  9. Place the balls leaving at least 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.
  10. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes (baking more will cause the cookies to be hard)
  11. The cookies will be very soft when you take them out of the oven but they will harden up as they cool, then transfer to a wire rack.

Tortilla Soup

We adore Mexican food, not the fast food kind, but a genuine ma and pa Mexican restaurant. Sadly we have few and far between in Toronto but there are a couple of good ones. The one I love for lunch is Cucina Lucerno down by Maple Leaf Gardens and why I love it for lunch is that they make a TO DIE FOR Sopa Azteca. Full bodied, flavourful and filling, the three F’s! When I saw the link to slow cooker chicken tortilla soup on Barb’s blog (Profiteroles and Ponytails) in her weeknight survival techniques post, I was immediately drawn to it. The sound of the ingredient combo, just made me think of Sopa Azteca (cue mouth watering), which according to Rick Bayless is one and the same! Go figure!

As Yorkesgirl recommends, I BBQ’d a couple of chicken breasts with a flavourful dry rub*, and then I shredded them and ‘finished’ them off in the slow cooker for about 20 minutes. The soup is divine and is so darn easy. You can even drop the chicken breasts directly into the slow cooker and just let it cook for hours and hours, the chicken is best shredded so over cooking is not a problem!

A very tasty soup, if I do say so myself

Sopa de Tortilla

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 2 small chicken breast, BBQ’d* with dry rub (see notes below)
  • 1 can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed, low sodium
  • 300g enchilada sauce (I wouldn’t bother putting this in next time).
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced finely
  • 1 fresh green jalopeño, minced finely
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 1 tsp lime juice

Directions:

  1. Place everything but the chicken into the slow cooker on high, stir. Cook for 2-3 hours and then add the frozen corn and cook five minutes and then add the shredded BBQ’d chicken* and cook for 20 minutes until thoroughly heated through.
    Or, sauté onions and garlic in a soup pot, add the jalopeño, spices, cocoa and cilantro and stir until you smell the spices. Add the canned tomatoes, enchilada, water and simmer for 20-40 minutes (longer you simmer the better the flavours).
  2. Serve with a dollop of low fat Greek yogurt, a sprinkling of cheese of your choice (I had cheddar), some green onions and of course some oven dried tortilla strips. Enjoy.

*BBQ Chicken Rub

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic (not garlic salt)
  • 1 tsp ground dehydrated onion flakes

Directions:

  1. Mix the spices together in a small bowl.
  2. Remove skin from the chicken breasts and cover with the dry rub. Grill or pan fry finishing in the oven on medium heat until chicken juices run clear (around 165° F).
  3. Tent and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Using a couple of forks, shred the chicken into bite-sized bits.

I’ve had this soup a couple of times now and still have a serving in the freezer which I’m saving for a particularly ugly day when I need some soup to cheer me up.

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