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It’s been a busy year and I’ve seen spending a lot of time in front of my computer. I don’t mind doing that type of work, but I do miss cooking and with that, getting my advanced blog posts ready to publish. In fact, I am nowhere near the advanced the blog posts I should be, in preparation for our yearly sojourn to Arizona. I have four posts ready to go but I should have 10! That makes me nervous because I may not have time to post while we are in Arizona; we have three separate group friends coming down for 5-7 days each! That means a lot of sightseeing and daily adventures and less cooking and recipe developing.

You can definitely see the winter light creeping in.

I modified and made this little recipe because during one coffee break JT mentioned that he would love to have a little biscotti to nibble on while we sit and enjoy our coffees. I like making biscotti because they are easy and are not overly finicky. This recipe came together quickly and more or less in one bowl.

Chocolate Chip and Almond Biscotti

For the original recipe, please click here.

Makes about 20 biscotti but it depends on how thickly you form and cut the logs

Ingredients:

  • 57 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 225 g brown sugar
  • 10 mL pure vanilla extract
  • 5 mL almond extract
  • 275 g all-purpose flour
  • 75 g almond flour
  • 20 g baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 165 g chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time and best until entirely incorporated. Add the extracts and beat.
  4. Whisk together the dry ingredients (omit the chocolate chips) and blend into the butter mixture.
  5. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  6. Form into two even logs and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and flatten slightly. Bake for 30 minutes.
  7. Slice diagonally into 10 slices each and lay flat on the same parchment-line baking sheet and bake again for about 10 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool completely before serving.

Notes:

  • I shaped my logs too wide, next time I shall make them more slender and have twice the number of biscotti.
  • Biscotti store well in an airtight container but if it will take you more than a week to consume, I would freeze them until required. Defrost at room temperature.
  • I didn’t have whole almonds but this would have been lovely having a few whole almonds folded into the batter.

Fresh Fig Scones

Why do the cold temperatures always surprise me? I’ve been doing this fall thing for a long time and yet, every year when the temperatures plummet, it’s like a cold, hard, slap in the face! It happens from one day to the next; on Saturday, we are lavishing in the sun, cocktailing on the back deck and enjoying al fresco meals and then on Sunday, we are dawning our socks and woolly sweaters to avoid the chill INSIDE, let alone outside! JT and I are typical Canadians, we are stubborn about admitting that its fall and winter is coming; we delay turning on the furnace at all costs because that would mean defeat, we have acknowledged the cold and succumbed to it! But eventually, we give in. I like to rebel and I generally continue to wear sandals until I can no longer feel my toes. My feet understand they don’t like to be encased in socks and shoes…they were meant to be free in flip flops and sandals!

It was on one such day that I needed a little heat-help in my chilly kitchen that I decided to make scones, and to use up some figs that were leftover from a shoot (what can I say, no one wanted them!), so I came up with this tasty treat. This recipe is very delicate and light. They are best eaten right away with sweet butter but freezing them also works. Use the oven to reheat them, the microwave doesn’t do it justice.

Fresh Fig Scones

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 10 scones

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp green cardamom, finely grated
  • 1/2 cup unsalted cold butter, cut into small bits
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 160 g fresh figs (chopped)
  • 2-3 tbsp milk or yogurt for brushing the tops.

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients in the large bowl of your food processor and pulse to mix.
  3. Add the cold, cubed butter and pulse until it resembles a coarse meal.
  4. Slowly pour in the buttermilk while pulsing until the dough comes together. Remove and pour into a large bowl.
  5. Fold in the chopped figs carefully.
  6. Place largish spoonfuls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush the tops with yogurt. Bake for 15-17 minutes.
  7. Cool for 10 minutes and serve with sweet butter.

The light was still good when I shot them.

Stuffed Clams

I am always inspired by my favourite blogs, and this recipe is no different. My gourmet chef blogger-friend Stefan, made this wonderful hors d ‘œuvres a few weeks ago and I just had to try them. I made only eight halves because it was just the two of us, so I adjusted the recipe while maintaining the proportions he suggested. I also changed up the bread crumbs with whole wheat panko because that is what I have at home. They were delicious and quite impressive looking! Definitely will make them again soon. They are so easy to make for a large group because you can stuff the shells and hold them in the refrigerator and bake them when required. Thank you Stefan for another tasty treat!

These are tasty, bite-sized morsels.

Stuffed Clams

Makes 8 halves. Please click here for the original recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 8 large clams (about 60 g clam meat)
  • 100 mL dry white wine
  • 10 g butter
  • splash of garlic oil
  • 50 g green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 25 g minced onion
  • 40 g dry chorizo, finely diced
  • 20 g whole wheat panko
  • minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
  • grated cheese

Directions:

  1. Place the cleaned clams in a large pan with a lid and pour the wine over them. Heat covered, until boiling and cook the clams until they have all opened.  Remove the clams as they open and set aside. Pour off the liquid and reserve.
  2. Remove the clams from the shells (reserve the shells) and chop finely.
  3. Add the butter and splash of garlic oil and sauté the bell pepper and onion. Add the chorizo and cook for a minute or until the chorizo renders and colours the onion.
  4. Add the panko and the parsley and stir well. Add a little of the reserved wine and clam juice liquid until the mixture is slightly damp but not soaking wet. Add the clams.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  6. Stuff each shell with the clam mixture and top with grated cheese. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Serve immediately with slices of lemon and a sprinkle of parsley.

These worked very well with our favourite Italian Pinot Grigio.

Fig Tarte Tatin

The green grocers in my neighbourhood have fresh figs and they don’t cost and arm and a leg! I love to buy them for this little hors d’œuvres but even when I make a bunch, I have leftover figs! I served the tasty hors d’oœuvres for a friend who came over for a glass of wine. The figs made a lovely snack but 3 days later, I still had 7 leftover! So I decided to make a tarte tatin using a different pastry.

My new friend Stefan of Stefan’s Gourmet Blog recently brought to my attention that the original Tarte Tatin did not incorporate a puff pastry crust! The original pastry is more of a short-crust pastry. Who doesn’t love pastry? And this tart is definitely about the pastry! Stefan developed a short-cut for the short-crust that makes it even flakier (don’t take my word for it, check out the last photo!). And it’s so easy. Just a few steps in the refrigerator and Bob’s your uncle. Check out Stefan’s blog to see his step by step technique.

Figs and walnuts make a great pair.

Fig Tarte Tatin

Click here for the original recipe. Makes 1 tarte about 20 cm in diameter.

Ingredients for the pastry:

  • 200 grams pastry flour, divided
  • 25 g sugar
  • 1 g salt
  • 100 g cold butter, in cubes
  • 1 egg, beaten well, divided

Directions for the pastry:

  1. Combine 130 g of the flour, the sugar, and the salt in the large bowl of your food processor and pulse. Add the cold butter and pulse until it comes together.
  2. Flatten the dough with your hand (make sure the safety is on) and sprinkle the remaining 70 g on top and pulse until it crumbles (should not come together). Transfer the crumbly dough into a bowl.
  3. Pour most of the beaten egg over top of the crumbly mixture and cover; reserve the leftover egg. Refrigerate for about 10 minutes.
  4. With a wooden spoon (not your hands), mix the egg into the dough to form a soft ball (add cold water if necessary, I did not); wrap the ball with plastic wrap, flatten and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Ingredients for the filling:

  • 7-10 small figs
  • 40 g walnut halves
  • 100 g sugar
  • 100 ml water
  • 40 grams unsalted butter
  • 1 g salt

Directions for the filling:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
  2. Cut the stems off the figs and cut them in half. Set aside.
  3. Combine the sugar and water in a small cast iron pan. Without stirring, cook the sugar until it is amber in colour. Don’t leave its side!
  4. When the sugar has caramelized to a gorgeous amber colour, turn the heat down to low and add the salt, swirling it around to mix. Add the walnuts and coat with the caramel and cook for about one minute. Tuck the figs into the caramel cut-side down in the midst of the walnuts and cook for another minute. Remove the cast iron pan from the heat.
  5. Roll out the cold dough into a slightly larger circle than the pan. Lay the pastry over the top and tuck the edges into the pan. Brush the top of the pastry with the reserved egg.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden on top. Allow the tarte to cool for about 10 minutes and then turn it carefully onto a plate, the caramel will be scorching hot. If the figs don’t settle into the pastry as pretty as they could, move them around until you are satisfied.
  7. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The pastry is meant for a larger pan but I didn’t have enough figs so I had a slightly thicker edge than normal, who’s complaining?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gluten-free English Muffins

When the reno finished, we had a couple of weekends of non-stop entertaining! We were excited to show off our new space and our friends were excited to see it. On one such weekend we had dinner guests on Friday, brunch guests on Saturday and cocktail guests on Sunday! Fortunately, I was able to gang up some gluten-intolerant friends so I made a small batch of Gluten-free English muffins. They are a bit denser than their glutenated cousin but they are not bad.

Although I did split them using a fork, they don’t have the same traditional nooks and crannies as the glutenated versions do.

Gluten-free English Muffins

Makes 4 regular-size English Muffins. The original recipe came from Bob’s Red Mill here.

Ingredients:

  • 4 g quick yeast
  • 15 mL Honey or Sugar
  • 60 mL Water (about 110°F)
  • 180 g Bob’s Red Mill, 1 to 1 GF flour, divided
  • 30 g tapioca flour
  • 12 g finely ground Psyllium husk
  • 12 g Baking Powder
  • 380 mL water (110°F)
  • 1 large egg, whisked
  • 30 mL white vinegar
  • cornmeal for dusting

Directions:

  1. Combine the yeast, honey and water and whisk. Allow to stand for 3-5 minutes or until frothy.
  2. Combine 150 g gluten-free flour with the tapioca, ground psyllium husk and baking powder, whisk to combine.
  3. In a tall measuring cup, combine 30 g of gluten-free flour, water, egg and vinegar and blend until smooth.
  4. To the flour/tapioca mixture, add the yeast and the flour slurry and knead until combined. Knead for an additional 5 minutes. It should look like super thick cookie batter.
  5. Prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment paper. Measure the dough and divide into 4, (mine were 116 g each). Roll into rounds and flatten with your palm until the size of a standard English muffin. Lay each muffin on the baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly on both flat sides with the cornmeal. Cover with a clean tea-towel and allow to rise for 1 to 2 hours in a warm, draft-free place (I use my oven with the light on). Cross your fingers that they will rise a little!
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 325° F. Using a cast iron skillet on medium heat, cook the muffins on each flat side until golden. Place on the parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake for 15–20 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 205°F. Allow to cool before splitting.

They toast beautifully.

Notes:

  • The original recipe calls for gluten-free sourdough starter which I did not have on hand so I improvised and made a slurry instead.
  • Gluten-free breads never quite double in size during proofing, so even 20-30% is a gift, which is what happened with this dough after about 2-3 hours!
  • You may use English muffin rings but I did not see much need for them.

 

Over the summer we don’t watch a lot of television, instead, we enjoy sitting outdoors on our patio and chatting about the day’s events. But since the renovation has finished, we cannot help but want to retire early to our fancy room and enjoy a television show or two before bed. On such an occasion, we were watching America’s Test Kitchen and they made this wonderful dish. Both JT and I were drooling by the end of the show and if it weren’t 10pm, we would have jumped out of bed to make the dish right away. The very next day, I shopped for the ingredients and made a large batch. This makes a lovely light meal or a slightly heavier appetizer or hors d’œuvres. It brings all of the usual flavours of Vietnamese cuisine and it’s so satisfying. The raw patties freeze well and can be grilled frozen because they are small, just make sure the internal temperature reads 155° F (Canada) 160° F (US). Don’t skip marinating the grilled burgers in the sauce, it adds a rich meaty flavour to the sauce and the sauce flavours the meat beautifully.

Vietnamese Grilled Pork Patties

Makes about 20 small slider-sized patties

Ingredients for the sauce:

  • 10 mL chili paste
  • 10 mL roasted garlic purée
  • 10 g sugar
  • 45 mL fish sauce
  • 45 mL freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 160 mL hot water

Ingredients for the pork patties:

  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 15 mL fish sauce
  • 2.5 mL baking soda
  • 2.5 mL white pepper
  • 454 g pound ground pork

Ingredients for the salad for 2-4 people:

  • 250 g rice vermicelli
  • 1 head Boston lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1 English cucumber, peeled, quartered lengthwise, seeded, and cut into chunks
  • a generous handful of fresh cilantro leaves and stems, cut thinly
  • a generous handful of fresh mint leaves, cut thinly
  • a handful of peanuts, sesame seeds or finely sliced green onions for garnish

Directions:

  1. Make the sauce first because it is best if it stands for a few hours. Add all of the ingredients to a heatproof container and combine well until the sugar has entirely dissolved. Set aside in the refrigerator.
  2. Combine the ground pork with all of the ingredients and mix well. Measure out small portions (we wanted them for hors d’œuvres and appetizers, so we did slider-sized patties) and form into firm patties.
  3. Grill each patty on a hot grill until sides have caramelized and the centre is 155° F (Canada) or 160° F (US). Directly from the grill, add the patties to the sauce and allow to sit in the sauce for 5-10 minutes turning a few times if they are not entirely immersed.
  4. Meanwhile, boil enough water to cover the rice vermicelli and allow to soften to al dente! Strain.
  5. To serve, lay the torn Boston lettuce on each plate or a serving platter, scatter the cucumber, cilantro and mint over the leaves. Top the greens with the softened noodles and add the pork patties. Garnish with peanuts, sesame seeds or finely sliced green onions or all of the above! Drizzle with the sauce and serve remaining sauce on the table.

One of the last meals we had outdoors before September kicked in.

Notes:

  • The sauce needs to mellow because it is very limey at the beginning. The meat juices help the sauce mellow out.
  • We have reduced the sugar in this recipe by eliminating it from the patties, we found it balanced enough.

This unusual cake was a contribution of a dear neighbour we had over recently for a dinner party. We were so blown away with the use of quinoa that we had to give it a try ourselves. The recipe is super easy and oh-so-chocolatey! The original recipe isn’t vegan or dairy-free but I did substitute melted coconut oil for the butter and lactose-free milk for the milk. For Vegan, you could use soaked chia seeds for the eggs. Let me know how it turns out if you try the vegan version.

Be ready to hand out the recipe, this cake is that good. I was pleasantly surprised with the frosting, very rich and chocolatey; the mild avocado flavour was not off-putting (unless you hate avocados).

Care for a slice?

Chocolate Quinoa Cake

For the original recipe, click here.

Makes a double layer 20 cm cake

Ingredients:

  • 300 g cooked quinoa (3/4 cup dry yields about 300 g cooked)
  • 120 mL whole milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 5 mL pure vanilla extract
  • 170 g unsalted butter, melted
  • 140 g coconut sugar
  • 90 g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line 2 20cm round baking pans with parchment and spray with non-stick spray.
  2. Add all of the wet ingredients, quinoa, eggs, vanilla, milk with sugar, salt and cocoa to your large food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Add the baking powder snd blend until combined.
  3. Turn into prepared pans in equal portions and bake for 30 minutes-or until a cake tester comes out cleanly.
  4. Cool. Turn out of pans and frost with the frosting below.

Chocolate Avocado frosting

Click here for the original recipe.

Makes about 250 mL, plenty to frost the cake above

Ingredients:

  • 2 very ripe avocados
  • 45 g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 90-120 mL pure maple syrup
  • Splash of pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of sea salt

Directions:

  1. Add all of the ingredients into the cup of your immersion blender and blend repeatedly until entirely smooth.
  2. Frost cake as soon as it has cooled. Store covered in the refrigerator.

Notes:

  • If you blend all of the cake ingredients together for too long, you’ll get a brownie-like texture.
  • Flegg (vegan egg substitute) is ground flaxseed with water mixed until gelatinous.
  • For the frosting, I used 90 mL Maple syrup and it was sweet enough.
  • The original recipe suggests the icing will discolour if made too soon before serving but we didn’t think leaving it for a couple of days impacted the colour to a great degree after all it’s pretty chocolate-brown anyway!
  • Avocados must be super ripe to get the creamy texture of a buttercream. You may use frozen avocados.
  • The second time I made this recipe I used coconut oil instead of butter and it was lovely.

Well, the renovation is complete. What should have taken 4-6 weeks ended up almost 5 months! This was a better experience than the first; our contractor was younger and had excellent communication skills which made the process much smoother. Basically, we took about 1/3 of our master bedroom and added an ensuite and walk-in closet and we also updated the main bathroom. We contracted the cabinet maker to make the built-ins on the wall across from the bed. JT and I installed the crown moulding. The master bath has all the amenities: fog-free mirror, heated floor, heated towel rack, flush-mount rain shower and so on. I am still on the hunt for a carpet for the bedroom. Here is a short video of the project.

 

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