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applepreserves_first

This is a naturally sweet applesauce, no added sugar or chemicals, just the beautiful sweetness of the apples!

Since JT and I have embarked on our diet, I have been expanding a recipe collection because there is nothing worse than eating ‘diet food’. JT can attest that our food has been the furthest from ‘diet’, at least, our perception of ‘diet food’. We’ve had:

  • Chicken Schnitzel with cauliflower mash
  • Zucchini spaghetti and chicken meatballs
  • Mushroom and cauliflower crêpes with lentil béchamel sauce
  • Apple and Dijon glazed pork tenderloin
  • Pulled pork tenderloin crêpe with homemade BBQ sauce
  • Navy bean mushroom ‘risotto’
  • Pacific Salmon with cauliflower dill sauce on wilted spinach
  • Chicken Tikka Masala on cauliflower ‘rice’
  • Pork tenderloin on braised red cabbage
  • Pork tenderloin with mushroom sauce on sautéd veggies
  • Tilapia en papillote
  • Bouillabaisse

The real challenge is finding alternatives that fit into the diet parameters so I created this apple preserve (or butter) as a condiment, but also as a sweetener in some of the dishes named above. I try to vary the meals so that we don’t get bored of the same thing.

The other thing that I’m finding quite helpful is weighing everything to make sure we are not having more than we should — I’ve fallen off that bandwagon a few times, so it’s great to get back to it. Measuring is a great tool to keep you on track and it keeps you from inching up the volume (which I can be guilty of)! I measure out 100 g  (3.5 oz) portions of any protein we purchase and freeze them individually. I know each baggy is 100 g (3.5 oz) which is exactly the portion size we should be eating. It doesn’t take long to get used to the smaller volumes particularly since we have to drink a lot of water. And the veggies are quite generous (230 g 8 oz per portion), in fact, JT has a difficult time eating the allotted volume of veggies sometimes (I do a lot of wilted spinach…makes for a smaller amount!). Fortunately, we can season to our heart’s content so the food isn’t bland. The other thing about 100 g or 3.5 oz portions is that it makes the budget go further! I’m not going to post a lot more about my regimen but I will share the odd recipe I think you might enjoy. Plus, we have a few cheat days planned (Super Bowl for one!) so I’ll share some of those tasty treats. Thank you for allowing us to indulge in our resolutions, while I enjoy your wonderful recipes from afar, for the time being.

Unsweetened Apple Preserves

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 750 mL (3 cups) preserves.

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg (about 2 lb) red delicious apples, peel and core included*.
  • 1 L (about 4 cups) water
  • 6 cinnamon sticks
  • 10 g (about 3 tbsp) freshly grated ginger
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. In a medium Dutch oven, add chopped apples, water and cinnamon sticks and cook on medium heat until apples have broken down and thickened and most of the water has evaporated, about xx minutes.
  2. Add freshly grated ginger and pinch of salt, stir well.
  3. Pour into prepared containers and seal with new lids. Store in the freezer. Use refrigerated preserves within a month.

Uses:

  • Use to sweeten sauces and dressings instead of sugar.
  • Pour over unsweetened yogurt or ice cream or gelato.
  • Use as a condiment for pork.
  • Combine with a little Dijon Mustard as a glaze over pork tenderloin.

*The peel and core add natural pectin to the preserves which help to thicken and preserve it.

applepreserves

strawberrypreserves_first

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

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

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

Apple Sweetened Strawberry Preserves

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 500 mL (about 2 cups)

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

 

saltedcaramelsemifreddofirst

Here in Toronto, we have a lovely grocery store chain called Loblaws; you may have heard of them through their widely distributed President’s Choice (PC) products, a high-end food product range created by Dave Nichol. What has this got to do with my recipe today? Patience grasshopper…

In recent years, Loblaws has rebranded themselves and have created a truly upscale grocery shopping experience; their stores are beautiful and inspiring. The Toronto flagship store is the Loblaws at the old Maple Leaf Gardens and they merchandise product in a visually appealing way, so much so, that a long-time shopper like me, ends up adding a few extras into my grocery cart when I shop there! In addition to an inspiring shopping experience, Loblaws offers cooking classes! Some of the cooking classes are demonstration-style and for $10 (Canadian) we watch a real Chef cook a couple of recipes to make a meal, and at the end of the demonstration we get to eat the results! And, because they promote several PC products, we are given a $10 Loblaws gift card to use at our leisure! Win/win in my opinion.

In December, they offered a special cooking class focusing on a few new premium Black Label PC products, but they only advertised it to regulars at the cooking classes. It was a bit more expensive ($15 Canadian) but SO WELL WORTH IT! I went with a bunch of friends and we made an evening of it. We cooked up some pretty amazing things that evening, Crispy Sesame Rice cakes with PC® Tuna Tataki, PC® La Belle Rivière Cheese, Cranberry and Pear Stuffed Roasted Turkey Breast with Peri Peri Kale with PC® Hollandaise Sauce. I enjoyed the turkey and Kale so much, I made it for JT for Christmas Day dinner. The pièce de resistance was the Avocado Lime and Coconut No-Bake Cheesecake, but our Chef decided to make it a semifreddo instead and he won me over. As you know, I am not much of a dessert eater, but the semifreddo was too difficult to resist, I polished off my entire slice! I have since made the semifreddo version of this tart and sweet dessert without the crust and it was very well received. Just after the holidays, I had an avocado on its way out so I thought I’d recreate the dessert using a caramel sauce I made for a Christmas party and froze the leftovers, the recipe below, Salted Caramel Semifreddo with Skor Bits is the result. I served it for a dinner party last week. It’s not much of a calorie saver (duh, caramel sauce!) but it’s a nice treat from time to time, plus did I mention it has Skor® bits?

saltedcaramelsemifreddo

This small slice bangs a lot of flavour.

Salted Caramel Semifreddo with Skor® Bits

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 500 mL (about 2 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 160 g cream cheese (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 ripe avocado (mine was on the smaller side but larger will work too)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 85 g (about 1/3 cup) caramel sauce (or to taste)
  • sea salt
  • 2 tbsp Skor® caramel bits

Directions:

  1. Combine cream cheese, avocado, lemon juice and caramel sauce in the small bowl of your food processor (I used my Cuisinart Smartstick mini processor attachment).
  2. Prepare your freezer-safe containers by spraying them with non-stick spray and lining with parchment if possible (round containers may prove difficult).
  3. Evenly sprinkle sea salt and Skor® bits on the bottom of each container and pour the cream over. Cover and freeze overnight.
  4. Using the parchment to lift out the semifreddo (or dip ever so slightly into warm water), put it on a cutting board and slice or plate. Drizzle with additional caramel sauce and sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Serve immediately.

saltedcaramelsemifreddo2

I used gold sea salt to make it more festive!

Note: I was not renumerated in any way for this post, it is simply my opinion of an entertaining event in Toronto that is not too expensive.

Lady Orange Marmalade

marmalade_first

My dear friend Lorraine recently launched her new travel company, focussing on unique food and travel experiences, traveling in the style and class that she has grown accustomed to! Her first journey is to Peru, a gastronomical hot-bed, who knew? Do take a gander to her new site Experiential Traveller and check it out.

It so happens that I have had Peruvian cuisine only a couple of times, in New York City, of all places! A few years ago, JT and I were sitting in our hotel lobby waiting for our dear friends Paul & T to arrive when this very animated woman, Melony comes in holding a bag of freshly baked bagels. She comes bounding over to us with such excitement and says, “I bet you’ve never had a Brooklyn bagel!” We said we’ve had bagels in New York but she interrupted and claimed with no uncertainty that they were most likely not authentic Brooklyn bagels and that today was our lucky day because she just bought a bag of the city’s finest and we MUST try them. It’s not like we had a choice, so we followed her into the attached hair salon (she was the manager) and she proceeded to hand us authentic Brooklyn bagels. Well, you can’t just eat someone’s authentic Brooklyn bagels without some small talk, and that’s how we found out about the BEST (THE BEST, Jerry. THE BEST) Peruvian restaurant in the city (Mancora in The Lower East Side)! And on the plus side, it wasn’t a wallet-breaker either! We had one of the best lunches there with our dear friends Paul and T! You see, I did come back around to Peru!

Orange marmalade goes so well with Brooklyn bagels so when I had a few oranges left over from a gig late last summer, I decided to make orange marmalade! I chose an Ina Garten recipe that took two days as we were heading up to the cottage and I didn’t have time to finish it in the city. Having to do it again, I’d probably go with a long cooking jam instead of macerating the fruit as I didn’t feel it gave anything different to the texture. But if you need a jam recipe spanning over two days, this one is for you!

This recipe is roughly based on Ina Garten’s Orange Marmalade

Easy Orange Marmalade

Yields: 500 mL (~2 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 2 large oranges (ends removed and sliced very thinly, yields about 575 g)
  • 2 cups water
  • 300 g sugar
  • 45 mL lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Combine thinly sliced orange slices and the water in a non-reactive pan (I used my Le Creuset). Bring to a boil, stirring often.
  2. Remove from heat and add sugar, stirring until entirely dissolved. Add lemon juice and stir.
  3. Cover and leave overnight.
  4. The following day, bring the mixture back to a boil, stirring often. Reduce to a simmer and simmer uncovered for 2 hours, stirring often. Turn up the heat again and gently boil for an additional 30 minutes, skimming off any foam that forms. Cook the marmalade until it reaches 105° C (220° F) or when a small sample forms wrinkles as you run your finger through it on a very cold plate. At this point, I felt there was too much peel and not enough jam, so I took about half and processed it smoothly with an immersion blender and returned it to the peel and combined. It’s quite a lovely texture.
  5. Pour into sterilized jars and apply lids. Process for 10 minutes in hard boiling water.

marmalade_2

Notes:

  • The sugar was reduced to 300 g  (a little more than the 3:1 ratio).
  • I found the multi-process a bit much for the result, I will find a version that is not so labour intensive next time. You may wish to try Helene’s family recipe.
  • The platter was a gift from my cousin and his wife when they stayed with us for a little more than two weeks, summer 2015. I adore gifts like that, I will always think of them when I use the platter. It’s hand painted Herend Porcelain, a very famous Hungarian porcelain house.

This is a good article on the differences between a Brooklyn Bagel and a Montréal Bagel (my favourite). Updated Jan 10/17.

creme-caramel_first

Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe we’re at the beginning of 2017! Wasn’t it just Y2K yesterday? Time flies when you’re having fun, as they say. And we did have fun in 2016! 

Crème Caramel has been on my bucket list for a long as I can remember. I seem to recall it being really popular in the 1980’s but I haven’t seen it on a menu in a really long time. It’s a light-tasting, creamy baked custard with a surprise when you turn it out on a plate: deliciously moreish caramel oozes over the out-turned dessert. It’s classy looking and it’s super easy and I’m going to bet that you will love it. I referred to this Martha Stewart recipe because, as luck would have it, I had two egg yolks that needed to be used. I also reduced the recipe to make 3 ramekins because that’s what I needed for a dinner party. Martha’s recipe makes 8 servings so if you need more, feel free to use her original proportions. I also used slightly larger ramekins (250 mL or 1 cup size) but filled each one about 120 mL or 1/2 cup of the custard.

Crème Caramel

Makes about 360 mL (about 1 1/2 cups) custard (3 or 4 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/8 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 350 mL (~1 1/2 cups) unsweetened cashew milk (I use this brand)
  • pinch of salt
  • teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325° F (165° C). Place a large, high-sided pan into the oven and fill about half way with warm water.
  2. In a heavy bottom saucepan, add 1/3 cup sugar, lemon juice and water and mix well. Place pan over medium-high heat and melt the sugar without stirring until it reaches a beautiful amber colour. Remove from heat and pour evenly into each ramekin. Set aside.
  3. In a double boiler, combine the eggs, cashew milk, salt and vanilla extract and whisk over simmering water until slightly thickened and warm.
  4. Pour into prepared ramekins evenly. Place ramekins into the pan in the oven and add more water so it reaches about two-thirds up the side of the ramekins. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the custard has set.
  5. Remove from the water bath and allow to cool. Place in the refrigerator so that the custard sets up (a couple of hours should do).
  6. To serve, carefully run a thin knife around the edge and place a plate face down over the ramekin and flip. You may need to give the ramekin a bit of a jiggle to release the custard. Serve as is or with raspberries and whipped cream.
creme-caramel

It’s a lovely, light-tasting dessert.

Notes:

  • I used cashew milk because I had some on hand from recipe testing, but in all honesty, I would do it again! Cashew milk is less than a quarter of the calories and less than half of the fat of 2% milk! And the flavour was spot on. 
  • Feel free to use almond milk or even coconut milk for taste variation, with same quantity.
  • If you use coconut milk instead, consider making coconut caramel by using coconut sugar (a simple substitution will work just fine or use double of this recipe).

sliderbuns_first

Merry Christmas dear friends, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. JT and I spent Christmas Eve with my family in Toronto and then had a quiet Christmas Day on our own. We had planned on volunteering at a soup kitchen but left it too late and couldn’t find one that would take us! Who knew that would be a problem? We’ll try to get on it earlier next year. I baked a stuffed turkey breast with a baked potato and sautéed a little kale for dinner and then we enjoyed an avocado lime semifreddo. We ate by the fire and opened presents all night. The quiet was just what I needed as I worked a lot in December, still not complaining but man, I should have done my ‘standing job’ earlier and my ‘sitting jobs’ later in my career! Most studios I work at have cement floors, and they are cold and hard which is great for the camera but not so much for the feet and back.

I’ve also been doing some recipe videos:

And, last month I catered a party for sixteen at the new home of the marketing firm I work with. Catering is like cooking for a dinner party on steroids! Timing and organization is everything!

One of the dishes I made was pulled pork sliders; those small, moreish buns filled with slow cooked pork in a delicious BBQ sauce, topped with either a vinegar or creamy coleslaw! I’m licking my lips as I type! Getting the bun right is important as it is the delivery vehicle for the meat. I usually make pretzel buns but the finishing is a two step process and I was so tired, instead, I hacked a King Arthur burger bun recipe instead because it was much easier!

These buns will surprise you, they are light and fluffy but, they have a bite to them because of the egg, and they are not overly eggy. I chose to top the buns with a beaten egg and sesame seeds, you could go au naturel as they are quite tasty. Since I significantly reduced the sugar from the King Arthur recipe, I replaced the water with warm milk and I think it was the right choice. I would definitely make these again, they are delicious and not fussy to make.

sliderbunsSlider Buns

An adaptation of this recipe

Makes about 30 slider buns

Ingredients:

  • 265 mL (1 cup plus 1 tbsp) lukewarm 2% milk
  • 8 g (1 tbsp) instant yeast
  • 5 g (1 tsp) sugar
  • 500 g (3 1/2 cups) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 15 g (1 tbsp) sugar
  • 6 g (1 1/4) tsp salt
  • 30 g (2 tbsp) butter, at room temperature in small bits
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • Sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. Whisk the milk, yeast and 5 g (1 tsp) sugar together and allow to proof for a few minutes.
  2. Meanwhile sift the flour, 15 g (1 tbsp) sugar and salt together in the bowl of your stand mixer.
  3. Add the whole egg to the flour mix on low speed using the cookie dough attachment (I used the scraper attachment), then add the small bits of the butter to the egg-flour mixture until well combined (or rub in the butter with your fingers).
  4. Switch the attachment to the dough hook and while on slow speed, pour in the proofed yeast. Knead on medium speed for 5 minutes or until you achieve a silky, elastic and smooth dough.
  5. Form dough into a ball and put it into an oiled bowl covered with a clean tea towel and then set in a warm, draft-free location for 2 hours or until doubled in size.
  6. Punch down and knead the dough into a long roll. Divide the dough into 30 even pieces (about 35 g each) and knead each piece into a smooth ball. Set each ball into a greased pan (I did 5X6) and cover with a tea towel. Set in a warm, draft-free location for 15 minutes or until doubled in size.
  7. Whisk the egg yolk and brush the bun tops generously. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  8. Bake in a 176° C (350° F) oven for 20 minutes or until buns have golden tops.
  9. Cool slightly and serve.

Notes:

  • I also made 25 g mini-slider buns, 34 buns. Bake for 20 minutes or until the internal temperature is 85°C- 88°C (185° F – 190° F).

 

pomegranatedate_focaccia_first

Several weeks ago, we had our fall progressive dinner and our lovely neighbours Tom and Iona chose Pomegranate as the theme! What a coincidence for JT and I, since we were just there in September! (Please recall that Granada means pomegranate in Spanish!). JT and I served hors d’œuvres and appetizers; the hors d’œuvre was a delicious pomegranate guacamole with homemade fajita chips and the appetizer was a cob salad with a corn and pomegranate mix and a pomegranate syrup dressing.

summercobbsalad

The cobb salad was similar to this one, but I added pomegranate seeds to the grilled corn and instead of beans, I served BBQ’d pulled chicken breast.

And because I don’t extend myself enough, I decided to make a sourdough pomegranate, date and rosemary focaccia. Although the dates did certainly added some sweetness, the perfumy flavour of the rosemary increased the savoury aspect without being overwhelming. The recipe below is a modified version of this recipe, which I originally made at the cottage.

pomegranatedate_rawfocaccia

This is the raw dough just before I popped it into the oven. It’s quite festive looking making it perfect for the holidays!

Pomegranate, Date and Rosemary Sourdough Focaccia

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes one focaccia 28 cm x 36 cm (11″ x 14″)

Ingredients:

  • 265 g (1 cup) fed, sourdough starter
  • 300 g (1 1/3 cup) warm water
  • 100 g (1/2 cup) olive oil, divided
  • 1  1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 8 g (1 packet) instant yeast
  • 8 g (1 tbsp) milk powder
  • 500 g (3 1/2 cups) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 70 g (~1/2 cup) loosely packed dates, sliced in half, lengthwise
  • 75 g (~1/2 cup) pomegranate seeds
  • 4 g (1 generous tbsp) roughly chopped rosemary

Directions:

  1. In the large bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine sourdough starter, water and 50 g (1/4 cup) olive oil and mix well. Sprinkle the yeast into it and mix well.
  2. Whisk to combine the salt, milk powder and flour and add in batches to the liquid ingredients. Combine and then knead with the machine for 5 minutes. This dough is quite sticky
  3. Pour remaining 50 g (1/4 cup) olive oil into a clean bowl and turn the dough into it. Roll the dough around in the olive oil to coat, cover with a clean tea towel and allow to rise in a warm dark place for 1 hour.
  4. Pre heat oven to 190° C (375° F). Turn the dough out onto the baking sheet and with your fingers, press dough evenly to create a rectangle about 28 cm x 36 cm (11″ x 14″).
  5. Gently press the sliced dates, pomegranate seeds and rosemary into the dough, making sure they are spread evenly. Drizzle the olive oil remaining in proofing bowl over the raw dough. Allow to rest for 20 minutes.
  6. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the internal temperature is 43°C (190° F).
  7. Cool slightly and cut into portions. Serve warm with your best extra virgin olive oil and pomegranate syrup or Ice Wine Syrup..
datepomegranate_focaccia3

They are like little edible jewels! I was quite happy that the pomegranate seed jewels did not lose their luster after baking.

datepomegranate_focaccia2

A pillowy-soft focaccia.

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