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Korean Pork “Bulgogi”

Bloor West Village (BWV) is really starting to shape up in terms of restaurants. Of course we have more than our share of the usual pubs and sports bars but fine dining and house made food restaurants have had a difficult go at it mainly due to greedy landlords offering absurdly high rents. But in recent times, the restaurant selection has expanded and now we have some excellent choices for good food. One of the more recent places is a Korean BBQ place and although the food is wonderful, the ambiance is not (I think I counted about 21 TVs surrounding the perimeter just below the ceiling, and it’s not a huge place!) so we will reserve our patronage for lunch or take out.

I was immediately intrigued by the spices and flavours of Korean cuisine but my only experience was with Charles (Five Euro Food, in hiatus presently) when we met up in Paris in 2012 and Sissi’s tantalizing recipes for pickles and kimchi. So one afternoon, I decided to explore said cuisine at home. Of course, I was ill-prepared and did not have some of the specific spices (Korean chili paste, Korean red pepper powder) so I had to improvise using ingredients found in my European kitchen. We loved it and, because we have a relatively young Korean palet, did not immediately taste a huge difference compared to the restaurant food we’ve experienced. In general, (in my opinion), Korean food can be rather spicy (hot) and may not be for everyone (they seem to have only one way to make it: really, really hot) so the recipe below is a slightly tempered version. Of course, you may make it as hot as you like.

Korean Pork “Bulgogi”

For the original recipe, please click here.

Print Korean “Bulgogi” Recipe

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 200 g Pork Tenderloin, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 large sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, crushed
  • 45 mL (3 tbsp) fresh ginger, finely minced
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) sweet pimento paste (like this) or Korean chili paste
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame seed oil
  • 63 mL (1/4 cup) dark soy sauce
  • 30 mL (2 tbsp) Hungarian sweet paprika (or Korean chili powder)
  • 3 mL (1/2 tsp) smoked Spanish paprika
  • 5 mL (1 tsp) hot Hungarian paprika paste (like this), or to taste
  • 30 mL (2 tbsp) honey
  • 30 mL (2 tbsp) mirin
  • 2 medium scallions, white and green parts, finely sliced
  • 10 mL (2 tsp) toasted white and black sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. Combine everything but the pork, scallions and sesame seeds in a blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Toss the pork with the onions; cover with 1/2 of the marinade (reserve the rest for another time) and coat well, refrigerate for 1-4 hours.
  3. Warm a cast iron pan on the grill (or stovetop), add a little oil and cook the marinated meat and onions until the pork is cooked through. Leave the top open to allow the sauce to thicken.
  4. Serve with finely sliced scallions and toasted sesame seeds over sticky rice or cauliflower rice.

This is a richly flavoured Korean inspired dish.

Notes:

  • This version is not an overly spicy dish, but it is richly flavoured with a very slight kick.
  • I modified the ingredient list to suit what I had in my pantry. I cannot say whether the original recipe would be significantly spicier but my guess would be, that it is.
  • Make a double or triple batch of the marinade and reserve for future meals, it really is tasty.

Or you may use chicken, like this and make it a Bulgogi Bowl! I made a quick carrot pickle and topped shredded ice burg lettuce for a lighter dinner, it was wonderful!

In early August, JT and I had the honour of giving Dave (Fine Dining at Home) a foodie tour of our fair city. You see, Dave is a Captain of a Jet and was flying to the Big Smoke, so obviously, we wanted to take him on a foodie tour. It’s been a tour, a long time in the making, as soon as Dave mentioned that his airline would be flying to Toronto several months ago, I started making a list of things to do…it was long and heavy so the day before Dave’s arrival, JT and I sat down and made a lean list with opportunity to be spontaneous. Dave was a great guest, being very flexible to what we were going to do; it was a super hot and humid day so I also altered the tour to be more air conditioned car oriented than walking, even though we did our share of walking too!

It was a hot, humid day.

We started our day with the St. Lawrence Market, Toronto’s oldest market; it is made up of two stories of food and food related independent stores. While there, we had to have Toronto’s world famous Peameal Bacon on a bun (also known as back bacon or Canadian bacon) at the infamous Carousel Bakery. We loaded up our sandwiches with condiments and sat outside on picnic tables to have our breakfast! It’s a serious sandwich and I could only finish half of it! Then we toured the market, taking in the smells and sounds of Toronto’s culinary marketplace. We ended our tour in Placewares, one of my favourite kitchen stores in the city. From there, we detoured and walked along Front Street to see the new dog fountain (I know it’s not food, but it was along the way). We walked to Brookfield Place where we showed Dave the worlds largest underground pedestrian walking path, called PATH! Path sure comes in handy in the middle of winter when temperatures could be as low as -20° C because of wind chill! It’s basically a system connecting one food court to another under almost every building in downtown Toronto!

The dog fountain, they are all dog statues

Then we headed back to the car and did a little car tour of the city on our way to The Distillery District where we walked around the old distillery grounds and popped into Vom Fas, where I found a rather unique spice called Tasmanian pepper berry, that I had to have! While at The Distillery, we thought we would do a beer tour of Mill Street Brewery but sadly their tours only begin at 4pm and we didn’t want to wait around so I googled another brewery in the city and found that Steamwhistle did tours every 30 minutes. So off we went, unfortunately, the tour was very hot in some places which made it rather uncomfortable and made us sleepy, particularly with the free beer they offered. We decided that we needed lunch and we took Dave to our favourite French bistro, Le Select. By the time we finished lunch, we were all ready for a nap. We dropped Dave off at the hotel and beat the rush hour traffic home.

Dave generously gave me some gifts: Tonka Beans and a delicious bottle of Hungarian Tokay, dessert wine.

What are Tonka Beans? And, why can’t you buy them in the U.S.? They are the black seed of a South American tree that have a similar flavour to vanilla but more complex. Apparently they are poisonous if consumed in large quantities and are illegal in America! In 1995, Health Canada deemed them unacceptable as an additive in food and drugs but they are not illegal here! I guess Canadians are less likely to eat a tree full of them 😉!

A few months back, I had commented on a beautiful Tonka Bean panna cotta dessert that Dave had posted on his blog, hence the thoughtful gift, so I knew I had to make my interpretation. If you follow Dave’s blog, you will know that he makes rather fancy, labour intensive and multi-layered food and this lovely dessert was no exception; I, however, do not have the patience, so I cut it down to something I could do again, without being too labour intensive. Thank you Dave, for your generosity and inspiration. I thought the Tasmanian Pepper Berry that I picked up at Vom Fas would be a lovely accompaniment to the Tonka Bean Panna Cotta. The pepper berries have a distinct peppery flavour with hints of fruit and best of all, it lightly colours what you make a pink colour! I knew the panna cotta would be a winner.

Tonka Beans are mostly aromatic but there is unmistakable vanilla flavour with a subtle flowery, smoky cinnamon. It is rather complex and works well with both sweet and savoury applications. I can certainly see this as a flavouring in butternut squash soup or even a beautiful risotto.

Tonka Bean Panna Cotta on Chocolate Crumble with Almond Tuile

Makes 400 mL of panna cotta (I used 4 x 100 mL forms)

Tonka Bean Panna Cotta Ingredients:

  • 400 mL 1% milk
  • 25 g granulated sugar
  • 1/2 Tonka bean, finely grated
  • 5 Tasmanian pepper berries, chopped roughly
  • 8 g (1 packet) gelatine

Directions:

  1. Reserve about 25 mL milk and add the gelatin powder, stir, set aside.
  2. In a thick-bottom small pan, add the remaining 375 mL milk, sugar, Tonka Bean and Tasmanian pepper berries and heat until lightly boiling, stirring constantly.
  3. Strain through a fine sieve and pour the dairy mix into the gelatin dairy and stir until gelatin has entirely dissolved. Allow to cool to room temperature, then pour into vessels and refrigerate until set (4-6 hours or overnight).

Chocolate Crumble Ingredients:

  • 9 g butter
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 15 g coconut sugar
  • 16 g ground almonds
  • 8 g coconut flour
  • 6 g cocoa powder

Directions:

  1. Melt butter with the salt and pour over the sifted remaining ingredients and mix well. Spread evenly on a Silpat covered baking sheet and bake at 350° F for about 5-8 minutes. Allow to cool, then crumble.

Almond Tuile Ingredients:

  • 50 g sugar
  • 25 g sliced almonds

Directions:

  1. Caramelize the sugar, add the almonds and cook a bit more until the almonds are toasted.
  2. Spread thinly onto a Silpat and cool until hardened.
  3. Break into smaller bits and pulse in a food processor until sugar and almonds have broken down (I left a few in slightly larger chunks).
  4. Spread out onto a Silpat sheet and bake again for about 6 minutes in a 350° F oven, remove and cool slightly, cut or score while warm or break into uneven bits after it has hardened.

Assembly:

  1. Sprinkle a bit of the crumble onto each plate.
  2. Place the panna cotta on top of the crumble. Decorate with the tuile.

Notes:

  • This dessert is a celebration of flavours and textures; the chocolate crumble brings intense chocolate flavour and wonderful texture, juxtaposed to the smooth and creamy, exotically flavoured panna cotta. And then there is the tuile, easier to eat than brittle because it won’t break your teeth. Crumble, creamy, crunch. This is definitely a keeper recipe but I’m going to toss the moulds, they were not impressive!
  • Dave’s version had a fruit jelly cube and a chocolate mousse which I’m sure made it out of this world, but I was too lazy to add the two additional layers, even so, it was restaurant worthy!

Smoked Ketchup

A while back, I was having an online conversation with Sissi (with a glass) about condiments (Sissi makes the most beautiful and delicious condiments I have ever seen, and soooo many of them)! Not sure how the conversation landed on ketchup but there we were. I have always thought that ketchup was one of the most basic of condiments and, to be honest, never really liked it. That dislike quickly turned to disdain and until now, I could honestly say, I hate it! Store bought ketchup has no connection to tomatoes other than its vibrant colouring, and even that is faked! Sissi confided that she felt the same way until she had begun to make her own. Now, why didn’t I think of that?In North America, ketchup is used on EVERYTHING! We slather our eggs with it, plunge our fries in it, and much to the chagrin of chefs, we drown our steaks,
hamburgers and tourtière in it. In grade school, my brother had a friend who even put it in his tomato soup! Really?!??? But Sissi was onto something, by making her own, she controls the sugar (the number one offender in store-bought ketchup), the herbs and spices. So, I took the plunge and made a small batch of gourmet, smoked ketchup to serve along side of our last Progressive Dinner, Tourtière! Thank you Sissi, for the inspiration!

You control the sugar.

Smoked Ketchup

Please click here for the original recipe.
Please click here to print this recipe.

This recipe makes a little more than 125 mL.

Ingredients:

  • 750 g tomatoes, roughly chopped (about 5-6 good size, vine ripened tomatoes)
  • 140 g sweet onion, chopped (about 1 small, sweet onion)
  • 5 g garlic, finely minced (about 2 cloves)
  • 30 g (2 tbsp) dark brown sugar
  • 15 mL (1 tbsp) tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) water
  • Pinch of baking soda

Directions:

  1. Combine everything but the baking soda in a thick-bottomed pan and cook on a medium boil for about 1 hour or until dark and thick.
  2. Add the baking soda and stir well (be careful because the baking soda will foam up).
  3. Press through a fine sieve or veggie mill and cool.
  4. Bottle for immediate use.

Notes:

  • There is not enough sugar or vinegar in this to preserve the tomatoes, use immediately or freeze.
  • The spice mix is personal preference, change it up if you don’t like something.
  • The baking soda neutralizes the acidity in the tomatoes, you literally only need a pinch.
  • The baking soda will fizz up, so be careful.
  • If you press the ketchup through a fine sieve (or a food mill), you need not worry about peeling and seeding the tomatoes.

 

Hey, look what was on my streetcar! This is part of the campaign I worked on for Tetley.

Close up of the lemon flower.

 

We had our 15th or 16th (I’ve lost count) progressive dinner recently. It was our turn to host the main course, so we got to choose the theme and we chose Canada’s 150th birthday! This opens up the menu to several options and we all did very well! We began our feast with appetizers at John and Nancy’s, they had a lovely selection of Canadian cheeses with a variety of crackers. We were up next and we chose Tourtière as our main course. We finished the evening off at Tom and Iona’s where we enjoyed a Canadian Touque cake! I wish I had taken a picture of it, but it was dark and we were already into a few bottles of vino! 😉

Tourtière is a traditional Québequois meat pie with as many variations on the recipe as there are families! So, of course, I had to put my own spin on it. But before I get to the recipe, allow me to give you a bit of history that I found interesting (like to learn more? This is a good article).

This was the first test recipe.

Tourtière can be traced back to the 1600’s, served on Christmas Eve as part of a massive réveillon after Christmas Mass, it is time-consuming and expensive to make. Original recipes were made of cubed meat instead of ground meat and usually contained a variety of pork, beef, veal and in some cases, wild game. The uniqueness of Tourtière comes from the spices used to flavour the meat blend, most commonly would be cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, summer savoury, and thyme. Some even added grated potato, bread crumbs or oatmeal to help soak up the liquid. The pastry is always a rich, savoury, buttery pastry in a pie form, or are baked in layers like a lasagna; I chose to make mine a log similar to Beef Wellington. I will say, it was tasty but I doubt I would make it again (unless it was a special request).

The first one looked a little rough.

The first recipe I tried included grated raw potato which was added to the browned meat at the end and stock poured over to help cook it. Both JT and I agreed that it lead to a starchy filling and I decided right then and there that I would not go that route. You do need a little something to absorb some of the flavouring liquid so I chose bread crumbs. For this quantity of meat, some recipes added an entire cup, but I really wanted to avoid that starchy, gummy texture so I reduced both the stock and breadcrumbs significantly and was much happier with the outcome. The other thing I did slightly differently, is I added cooked bacon! It really brought a nice, layer of flavour to the pie without being overly bacon-ie.

The pastry is rather rich and employs a completely different method than regular pastry, the butter is room temperature and is basically rubbed into the flour and then the lightly beaten eggs and water are added at once, using the paddle attachment until just combined. Then it is set into the refrigerator to allow for the butter to set. It is rather odd, but it does work and it does make a very rich pastry that is both delicate but firm enough to hold the heavy meat filling. I decorated the log with maple leafs and then I scored the leaves for effect.

Just about ready to be popped into the oven.

Tourtière

Please click here to print recipe
Serves 6, plus

Ingredients:

  • 100 g bacon
  • 275 g each beef, veal, and pork
  • 130 g onion, finely diced
  • 125 g celery, finely diced (roughly 2 ribs)
  • 10 g garlic, finely minced (roughly 2 cloves)
  • 125 mL beef stock
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 20-30 g bread crumbs (unseasoned and finely ground)
  • 1 tsp each, salt and pepper (less salt if your bacon was really salty or to taste)
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp dried thyme

Directions:

  1. Crisp the bacon. Reserve 30 mL (2 tbsp) of the rendered fat (set remainder aside if desired).
  2. Caramelize the onions in the 15 mL (1 tbsp) bacon fat. Near the end, add the garlic and stir until you can smell the aroma (this will cook further, later in the process). Reserve the onions and garlic mixture.
  3. Brown meat in batches using a little bit of the remaining 15 mL of bacon rendering. On the last batch of meat, deglaze the pan with a mixture of the beef stock and Worcestershire sauce.
  4. Turn the heat right down and return all of the meat to the pan, and add the celery and stir well.
  5. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs a little at a time while stirring to achieve a slightly drier texture but be careful, because it can make it mushy and starchy (I used about 20 g of the bread crumbs).
  6. Lightly toast the aromatic spices (nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon). Mix with salt, pepper and dried thyme and sprinkle evenly onto the meat mixture and stir well. Allow the meat to cool completely and then assemble into the pie crust.

 

This one turned out very well.

The Savoury Pastry Recipe

Please click here for original recipe. The recipe makes enough for 1 log.

Please click here to print this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 470 g cake and pastry flour
  • 12 g salt
  • 254 g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 125 mL cool water
  • 2 eggs

Directions:

  1. Combine flour, salt and smallish chunks of butter in the large bowl of your stand mixer, equipped with the paddle attachment. Mix until the butter is fully incorporated into the flour (should be mealy).
  2. Combine the water and eggs and mix well. Add the water egg mixture to the dough all at once and mix until just incorporated, the dough will be very shaggy.
  3. Transfer the dough without a lot of handling to a smaller bowl and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours so the butter can set.
  4. Turn the shaggy dough out and bring it together with your hands, flattening and folding the crumbs until it comes together.
  5. Roll as required or wrap and chill or freeze for future use.

 

May I offer you a slice? Please have some smoked ketchup with it.

Assembly:

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Bring the pastry out of the refrigerator about 15 minutes (or less if it is hot in your kitchen) before you wish to begin rolling. Roll pastry with a little flour on parchment paper.
  3. Roll a rectangle about 30 cm x 40 cm (12″ x 16″) and place the meat mixture into the centre in a long log, leaving space at each end. Fold up the ends and pinch closed and fold up the sides and pinch closed. Cut off excess pastry at the ends, reserve for decoration.
  4. Flip the entire log so that the seam is underneath. Roll the remaining pastry a little thinner than the rectangle and cut out shapes with a cookie cutter (I used a maple leaf).
  5. Lightly brush the pastry with the lightly beaten egg. Decorate with cut outs and then brush the cutouts with the remaining egg.
  6. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until pastry is golden and shiny. Slice into a variety of thicknesses to please all your guests.

Notes:

  • I served the Tourtière with Bacon Jam recipe and home made ketchup (recipe to come) and this Chutney.
  • Sides to consider: creamed corn, peas, green beans with garlic and almonds, and or mashed potatoes. It is a heavy meal so you may wish to include a salad.
  • JT made a wonderful no knead bread and I cut little patts of butter with my small maple leaf cookie cutter.

Night photos always suck.

Zucchini Rösti

On a recent trip to visit friends in Delavan, we traveled to New Glarus, a very Swiss town in central north Wisconsin. After visiting the New Glarus Brewery (which was very cool), we were quite hungry for some lunch, so we went into town and had a very delicious lunch at Glarner Stube. They make a Rösti potato dish that is out of this world: they stuff it with Swiss cheese (something like Appenzeller) and it was awesome! I knew I wanted to recreate this dish at home, but I really needed to get back to healthy eating, so I parked the idea for another time.

We had a dear friend and her hubby for brunch at the house and I wanted to make a healthier meal so I decided to experiment in making zucchini rösti (similar to rösti potatoes, a traditional Swiss treat). My dear friend is gluten intolerant so I decided to use coconut flour instead of the gluten free flour mix as I was also trying to keep the carbs low. This is a very flavourful dish, however, I would be lying if I said it was like rösti potatoes because the zucchini does not crisp up like potatoes do, but it is still quite tasty (although, it might if you pan fried it in a small amount of oil instead of non-stick spray). I know I will make this alternative for myself when I make the potato version for the carb lovers!

A tasty alternative to Rösti Potatoes.

Zucchini Rösti

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes one Rösti about 20 cm or 8″ diametre.
Click here to print the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 430 g zucchini, grated (all the liquid squeezed out to about 350 g zucchini)
  • 80 g sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 20 g coconut flour
  • 5 g salt
  • 3 tbsp egg white (or 1 egg)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Directions:

  1. Combine grated and drained zucchini with the sliced onion and sprinkle with the coconut flour. Mix well.
  2. Combine salt, egg and minced garlic and mix well. Pour this mixture over the zucchini and combine well.
  3. Prepare a small frying pan with oil (or non-stick spray) and heat. Add the entire zucchini mixture into the hot frying pan and cook over medium heat, about 15 minutes. Flip and continue to cook for an additional 10-15 minutes until cooked through and golden on the edges.

Here are a few pics of our trip to New Glarus and the New Glarus Brewery.

I enjoy a slice of bread with my breakfast of hard boiled egg whites, a half of a smashed avocado, but I like to manage my carbs so often I go without the bread. Our local German bakery recently released a high protein/low carb bread so we bought some for the inconceivable price of $7.99 Canadian; it had about 8 thin slices! I didn’t mind the texture at first but then it really ragged on me, it was a dense, cardboard-like texture that was difficult to cut and chew. I started hating one of my favourite meals of the day! So I searched the net and found that there are several high protein/low carb bread options out there, starting with cloud bread (meh, it’s really just a fluffy egg white pancake) and then I found this recipe and I was intrigued.

Firstly, I had never baked with protein whey powder and the bread had so few ingredients, I really wanted to experiment. Of course, the first round, I stayed fairly true to the original recipe and it was fine but the second time I added herbs and sesame seeds and it was even better. This version has a bit more body to it with the addition of sunflower seeds and flax seeds.

What I like about this “bread” is that it slices like bread, toasts like bread and can be used for sandwiches but I like mine first thing in the morning, lightly toasted with 3 hard boiled egg whites and a tablespoon of salsa.

The bread has enough body to make a sandwich. But if you don’t like the taste of eggs, this bread is not for you.

High Protein “Bread”

Print High Protein Bread Recipe

For the Original Recipe, please click here.

Makes 1 loaf, about 10 slices.

Ingredients:

  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • 50 g (1/2 cup) protein whey powder (unflavoured)
  • 3 g (1/2 tsp) salt
  • 20 g (2 tbsp) sunflower seeds
  • 10 g (1 tbsp) flax seeds
  • 10 g (1 heaping tbsp) sesame seeds (I used black and white)
  • non-stick spray

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200° C (400° F).
  2. Prepare a 4″ x 8″ pan by lining it with parchment paper and spraying with non-stick spray.
  3. Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until fluffy and stiff but not dry.
  4. Add the egg yolks, whey protein and salt, beat for about 30 seconds or until well combined.
  5. Fold in the sunflower and flax seeds.
  6. Pour into the prepared pan and sprinkle with the sesame seeds on top. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.
  7. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, remove from pan and cool completely on rack. Slice into 10 slices. Freeze in a piece of parchment and store in a ziplock Baggy until needed.

Notes:

  • This ‘bread’ reminds me of a Genoise cake, it has body but is light and fluffy.
  • The bread toasts very nicely.
  • JT feels it is a bit eggy tasting to have with poached eggs but I like it.
  • Add a handful of chopped herbs as a flavour option.
  • I freeze this ‘bread’ because storing it in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator makes it a little soggy.
  • It’s important to line the pan with parchment and spray the parchment with non-stick spray because in my experience the batter sticks otherwise.

It was somebody’s birthday last month and I wanted to bake a special birthday cake that was not too sweet or too heavy because it’s been ridiculously hot and humid in these parts. I had also just finished baking a mess of macarons so I was still in the meringue-making kinda mood. I found this recipe from Ricardo Larrivée’s of Food Network Canada and was intrigued. Years ago, a dear friend had brought a La Rocca Caramel Crunch Cake to the cottage and it was made with meringue instead of cake and I’ve never quite forgotten how moreish the texture was (think giant macaron!) so I modified Ricardo’s recipe a bit and came up with this decadent Chocolate, Chestnut, Coffee, Crunch Cake.

Decadent Chocolate, Chestnut, Coffee Crunch Cake

Makes one 20 cm (8 inch) layered cake.

Original recipe may be found here.

The Cake

Ingredients for the light cake:

  • 40 g (1/2 cup) almond flour
  • 65 g (1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 30 g (1/4 cup) icing sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • 95 g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 325° F (170° C).
  2. Cut four parchment paper circles, about 20 cm (8 inches) in diameter. Spray circles with non-stick spray.
  3. Combine almond flour, all-purpose flour and icing sugar in a bowl and mix well. Set aside.
  4. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form, then add the granulated sugar one tablespoon at a time until stiff peaks form.
  5. Add the almond flour mixture all at once and fold into the beaten egg whites, macrophage-style.
  6. Spread 2 circles with the batter right to the edge and bake for 30 minutes or until lightly golden and firm to the touch. If the batter sticks too much to your spatula, spray it with non-stick spray.
  7. Cool completely.

Ingredients for the chocolate cake:

  • 40 g (1/2 cup) almond flour
  • 65 g (1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 25 g (scant 1/4 cup) icing sugar
  • 5 g (1 tbsp) cocoa, sifted
  • 2 egg whites
  • 95 g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar

Directions:

  1. Combine almond flour, all-purpose flour, cocoa powder and icing sugar in a bowl and mix well. Set aside.
  2. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form, then add the granulated sugar one tablespoon at a time until stiff peaks form.
  3. Add the almond flour mixture all at once and fold into the beaten egg whites, macronage-style.
  4. Spread 2 remaining circles with the batter right to the edge and bake for 30 minutes or until lightly golden and firm to the touch. If the batter sticks too much to your spatula, spray it with non-stick spray.
  5. Cool completely.

Chestnut filling:

Ingredients:

  • 100 g (3.5 oz) peeled chestnuts*, roasted
  • 30 mL (2 tbsp) milk or cream
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. In a small, narrow container blend the chestnuts with the milk and pinch of salt with a stick blender, until smooth and creamy. Set aside.

Cake assembly:

Ingredients:

  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) Chocolate Buttercream
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) Coffee Buttercream
  • 200 g (7 oz) Belgian chocolate wafers
  • 30 mL (2 tbsp) heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Place the chocolate layer first and spread the entire quantity of the chestnut cream on top. Add the white layer and spread the coffee buttercream on it. Add the chocolate layer again and spread the chocolate buttercream on it. Finish the cake with the white layer but place it upside-down so the smooth side is up.
  2. Melt the Belgian chocolate wafers the heavy cream to make a ganache, pour over the cake and spread out on top and sides evenly.
  3. Refrigerate. Decorate with chocolate curls. Serve chilled (it’s been extremely warm in these parts and the buttercream would melt if served at room temperature!)

Like a Macaron, this cake is best if filled a day or two before serving so that the buttercream has time to soften the meringue cake.

Notes:

  • For buttercream, I always use this recipe.
  • For roasted chestnuts, I usually buy this brand.
  • Use a serated knife to make a clean cut of the meringue.

Recently, we had a dinner party and I served a grilled caesar salad as one of the courses. Of course, you MUST have REAL bacon so JT cooked the bacon up on the BBQ (none of that maple crap) and I asked him to save the drippings for the roast potatoes but by the time I got around to tossing the tators in the bacon drippings, I had second thoughts so I used only about a tablespoon and tossed the rest with olive oil. I had about a 65 mL (1/4 cup) bacon drippings sitting in the refrigerator, crying for something creative so I came up with this easy recipe. The drippings have such an amazing flavour, and the bits of bacon add just the right amount of crunch. I think I may have to cook up another batch of bacon just for the drippings so I can bake another batch of these tasty morsels.

Bacon and Parmesan Cheese Puffs

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 42 small puffs

Ingredients:

  • 250 mL (1 cup) water
  • 65 mL (1/4 cup) bacon drippings
  • 5 mL 1/2 tsp salt
  • 145 g (1 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 120 g (1 cup) grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 1/2 slices bacon, cooked until crispy and crumbled to small pieces

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 200° C (400° F).
  2. Place water, bacon drippings and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  3. Remove from heat and add flour, and stir until combined.
  4. Return to heat and stir cooking the flour mixture until it comes away from the sides of the pan and is a shiny ball.
  5. Place in a food processor with plastic blades and process for 15 seconds (give or take).
  6. Add eggs, one at a time and process for 40 seconds (err on the longer side of give or take).
  7. Add the cheese and process for another 5-10 seconds until smooth. Stir in the crumbled bacon.
  8. Dip a spoon or small ice cream scoop into 1 cup cold water with 5 mL (1 tsp) plain vegetable oil, place walnut-sized spoonfuls on a parchment lined cookie sheet about 3 cm (1 1/2 inches) apart.
  9. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.
  10. Serve warm or room temperature.

Notes:

  • You may also prepare this recipe with a good quality handheld mixer or stand mixer but I would suggest an immersion blender with the whisk attachment is not strong enough for this pastry.
  • These delightful balls puff up about 12 minutes into baking and are ideal for stuffing with a piping funnel (I bought a really cheap one from a dollar store and it works very well). Stuff with goats cheese, or your own recipe.
  • Unstuffed, they freeze very well, just pop them into a zip lock bag. To use, you need not defrost them, simply put them into a preheated 150° C (300° F) oven for 10-12 minutes, until defrosted and heated through.

The bacon drippings give this treat great flavour and the bacon bits some nice texture.

When I was down in Florida with my dear friend, Kimberley from University, I mentioned that I had recently baked some killer cinnamon buns and she sighed. She is gluten intolerant but will splurge every couple of years on a Cinnabon with dire results, she explained that it’s never really as good to warrant the pain afterward. That is the precise moment I decided to create a gluten-free cinnamon bun that she would be happy to eat AND digest! This is the result of several tests, I hope you love them as much as we did!

Gluten Free Cinnamon Sticky Rolls

Print GF Cinnamon Rolls Recipe

Makes about 6 small cinnamon buns.

Ingredients:

  • 230 g (1 1/4 cup) gluten-free flour (I used this one)
  • 15 mL (1 tbsp) coconut sugar
  • 5 mL (1 tsp) cinnamon
  • 5 mL (1 tsp) baking powder
  • pinch baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 30 mL (2 tbsp) cold butter
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) buttermilk

Directions:

  1. Combine gluten-free flour, coconut sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix well.
  2. Using a fork or pastry blender, cut in the cold butter to distribute evenly (may be done in a food processor).
  3. Sprinkle in the buttermilk and using a fork, bring the pastry together quickly to get a sticky ball of dough. On a lightly floured (with GF flour) board, knead a few times, but not enough to heat up the dough. Pat into a rectangle about 23 x 20 cm (9 inches x 8 inches).
  4. Preheat the oven to 400° F (200° C). See directions for the filling.

Ingredients for the filling:

  • 30 g (2 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
  • 40 g (2 tbsp) brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon

Directions for the filling:

  1. Combine the butter, sugar, cinnamon and mix well.
  2. Spread the filling over the rectangle to all four sides.
  3. Roll up the rectangle into a tight roll. Cut into 6 small rolls.
  4. Place cut sides down into a lightly greased oven proof pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool slightly and remove with a spatula to a cooling rack.
  5. Drizzle with a little icing sugar and water mix. Serve warm or at room temperature.

A more biscuit-like pastry, these strongly-flavoured cinnamon rolls heat up beautifully and satisfy a cinnamon roll craving.

Zucchini Wraps

In early April, my dear friend from University invited me to spend a few days at her second home in southwestern Florida. I did a lot of the cooking because I enjoy doing so and she just loves my creations. I whipped up a batch of the zucchini wraps that JT and I often have, because I thought she might enjoy this calorie reduced, gluten free deviation and I was right. I knew I had to share the recipe and spread the love. It’s a cross between a crêpe and a wrap but it is sturdy enough to hold in your hand and fill with whatever your heart desires. I’ve tried the cauliflower version and to be honest, I did not find them satisfying nor were they sturdy enough to hold the filling. We have these at least once a week, I hope you will give them a try.

Zucchini Wraps

Updated March 19, 2019

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 6 wraps 15 cm (6-inch) diametre (they shrink quite a bit)

ZucchiniWraps Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 400 g (4 cups) raw zucchini, grated
  • Salt for osmosis
  • 30 g (1/4 cup) coconut flour
  • 5 g (1/2 tsp) sea salt
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) egg whites, lightly whisked
  • Non-stick spray

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200° C (400° F).
  2. Grate the zucchini and salt generously in a bowl to remove excess liquid. Allow to sit for about 30 minutes.
  3. Rince zucchini well and squeeze out as much liquid as possible, return to a clean, dry bowl.
  4. Combine the grated zucchini with the coconut flour and toss until evenly coated. Add the salt.
  5. Pour the egg whites over the zucchini and mix well. Allow to stand for 5 minutes.
  6. Line a baking sheet with parchment (I have only tested this recipe with parchment, not Silpat or any other silicon matt). Spray well with non-stick spray.
  7. Tightly fill an 80 mL (1/3 cup) measuring cup with the zucchini mixture. Turn out onto the prepared parchment and using the back of a fork, spread out the zucchini to make a 20 cm (8-inch) diameter pancake, the same thickness throughout (they will shrink to about 15 cm (6-inch)).
  8. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden along the edges, carefully flipping about halfway through. Spray lightly with non-stick spray before you flip.

Notes:

  • You may flavour the zucchini wraps with herbs or spices but I prefer to keep mine relatively simple so that the filling can do all the flavouring. We usually have these as fish tacos or chicken fajitas.
  • The zucchini wraps do shrink quite a bit as they bake so make sure you make them large enough to hold the filling of your choice.
  • Spraying the parchment is necessary because, without it, they really stick to the parchment.

Nutrtional Facts for 1 Shell

Weight Watchers Points

Yesterday, my country celebrated its 150th birthday! The months and days leading up to this grand event have been epic. Sadly, we had planned to be away without even thinking about it. This is where social media really gets to shine because with all the awesome photos and videos everyone posted, it felt like we were right there! Plus, the friendly lake we were visiting decided to have their 4rth of July Celebrations on July 1st, but we really know they were helping us celebrate our 150th birthday! Thank you America!


In early May, I purchased some pears and then immediately forgot that I had them. Then on May 17, my friend Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella, posted that it was Cheese Soufflé Day and linked to her twice baked cheese soufflé recipe, and I immediately knew how I would use one of those pears!

When one reads a “soufflé” recipe, one might back out of the room, ever so slowly, so no one would notice, because cheese soufflées are known to be complicated and finicky. Let me assure you, this one is NOT. This recipe comes together quickly and easily, and I love that they can be frozen and rebaked when required, how easy is that? I also love béchamel sauce (that was my addition) so this is a win/win on all accounts.

Pear, Blue Cheese and Leek Twice-Baked Soufflé

This recipe makes 4 x 200 mL (7 fluid ounces) ramekins. For the original recipe, please click here.

Print Recipe Twice Baked Soufflee

Ingredients:

  • 30 g butter, divided, plus additional for buttering ramekins
  • 30 g/1.5oz plain all purpose flour
  • 250 mL (1 cup) milk, heated
  • 150 g (1 small) pear, finely chopped or cubed
  • 40 g (1/4 cup) leeks, finely chopped
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 60 g blue cheese, crumbled
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C).
  2. Butter 4 ramekins well, all the way up the sides. Boil some water.
  3. Melt 10 g of the butter in a saucepan and add the chopped pears and leak and cook on medium heat until softened. Season with salt and pepper. Pour out of the pan and set aside to cool.
  4. Melt the remaining butter in the pan and add the flour all at once. Cook the flour for a minute without burning it. Add the milk and whisk until smooth, it will be very thick.
  5. Add the pear and leek mixture and stir well until combined in the roux. Add the egg yolks and stir well to combine. Set aside to cool.
  6. Meanwhile, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Take about 1/4 of the beaten egg whites and stir it into the roux mixture to loosen. Fold in the remaining egg whites until well incorporated but not deflated.
  7. Divide the mixture into the four ramekins and bake in a bain-marie (this is why you were boiling the water) for 35-40 minutes or until tops are lightly golden (remember, they will be baked again).
  8. Allow to cool in the ramekins for about 5 minutes (they will deflate a bit), then gently loosen sides with a sharp knife and turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool until room temperature.
  9. Wrap each soufflé individually in plastic wrap and then bag in a large zip lock freezer bag. Freeze until required.
  10. To defrost, remove from the freezer the night before it is required and defrost in the refrigerator. The microwave is not suitable for this step.
  11. Prepare the béchamel finishing sauce.
  12. Lay the soufflés into individual oven proof dishes (I used cast iron) and prepare the béchamel finishing sauce.

Ingredients for Béchamel Finishing Sauce:

Serves 4

  • 5 g (1 tsp) duck fat, bacon fat or unsalted butter
  •  (1 tbsp) all-purpose flour
  • 250 mL (1 cup) milk
  • 5 mL (1 tsp) thyme leaves
  • 1 1/2 slices bacon, cooked until crispy, chopped
  • Salt

Directions for Béchamel Finishing Sauce:

  1. Melt butter in a small saucepan, add the flour and cook the roux without burning for about 1 minute.
  2. Slowly add the milk while whisking to creat a smooth sauce, cook until thickened.
  3. Flavour with the thyme leaves, bacon and salt.
  4. Pour over the defrosted soufflés in an oven-proof bakeware and bake about 25 minutes in a preheated 350° F (180° C), to heat it through.

A wonderful combination of sharp blue cheese, salty bacon and sweet pears with creamy baked béchamel. Is your mouth watering yet?

Notes:

  • You may use any cheese you wish, although I would stick to full-flavoured cheeses.
  • If you don’t like leeks, try caramelized onions instead (I always have frozen leeks in my freezer and come to think of it, caramelized onions!).
  • Lorraine poured about 300 mL (1 1/4 cup) heavy cream over her soufflées instead of the béchamel sauce.

Although I am not a huge fried food fan (I know, I’m weird), JT loves the stuff. I don’t even like the way it stinks up the house, so if I do pull out the deep fryer, I usually set it up on top of the BBQ outside, sorry neighbours!

Recently, I’ve been experimenting using coconut flour instead of regular white or whole wheat flour in the breading process because I discovered that coconut flour draws moisture out, so it actually makes a fabulous base for a truly crispy coating, much like that of the unhealthy deep frying method. The first time I made this dish, I just eyeballed everything and hoped for the best. I received a lot of mmmmm, yummmm and best of all, JT said, “please make this at least once a week.” If that isn’t the top accolade, I am not sure what is. A week later, I got out my scale and measuring cups to document the recipe. If you like crispy breaded, deep fried-like things, I would encourage you to try this healthier alternative.

I can see using this method to “un-deep fry” many things in the near future!

Crispy Unfried Breaded Fish

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 2, 100 g portions

Ingredients:

  • 200 g firm white fish, like tilapia
  • 40 g (1/3 cup) coconut flour
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) egg whites
  • 30 mL (2 tbsp water), plus a little more near the end of the breading process
  • 45 g (1/2 cup) whole wheat panko bread crumbs
  • Salt, to taste

Directions:

  1. Cut the fish up into smaller, one to two bite portions, about the same thickness.
  2. With a whisk, beat the egg whites with the salt until frothy.
  3. Dredge the fish in the coconut flour, then dip it into the egg whites until entirely covered. Place the fish back into the coconut flour and coat again, and dip it into the egg white for the last time.
  4. Toss the wet fish pieces into the panko until entirely covered, shake excess off. Place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Continue with steps three and four until all of the fish is coated evenly and lined up on the baking sheet. You may need to add a bit more egg or water into the egg white mixture as it thickens with the coconut flour near the end. Discard unused coconut flour, egg whites and panko.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for thirty minutes to two hours.
  6. Preheat the oven to 200° C (400° F). Bake fish, turning once until both sides are golden and the fish has an internal temperature of 63° C (145° F). Serve immediately with Romesco sauce.

You may toast the panko, like my friend Sissi does, but I find using the whole wheat panko gives it a head start to a gorgeous golden colour.

Notes:

  • Use this recipe in the popular fish tacos (like my friend John’s recipe), but these are much healthier.
  • These fish pieces would also make a delicious hors d’œuvres, serve with tartar sauce.
  • The facts below do not include the frying process.
  • Recently, I have been adding about a tablespoon or so of toasted black and white sesame seeds and it really enhances the crispy texture as well as adds lovely flavour (I wish I had taken a quick pic of it, they are truly fabulous).

This is the nutritional breakdown of the coconut flour breading.

All purpose flour and whole egg breading.

I have seen this beautiful sauce pop up over a couple of blogs I follow, like Karen of Back Road Journal and Maureen of Orgasmic Chef and since I was making a Spanish potato omelet for an appetizer for a recent dinner party, I knew I had to pair it with this luxurious sauce. Spaniards sure know how to make beautiful raw dishes like Gazpacho, this sauce is smooth and perfectly balanced, making it an amazing addition to chicken or fish or even a simple pasta or gnocchi dish. The toasted almonds become the thickener and the olive oil emulsifies everything to a smooth, creamy sauce. I omitted the bread because I wanted to make it gluten free and because our dinner party had two kids, I went light on the smoked paprika and garlic, feel free to ramp it up if you’re in the mood.

Spanish Romesco Sauce

Makes 375 mL  (1 1/2 cups) sauce

Original recipe, please click here

Ingredients:

  • 1 large fire roasted red pepper, skin removed
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup almond flour, toasted
  • 3 Campari tomatoes (see notes)
  • 2 tbsp Red Wine vinegar
  • Pinch of smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Mediterranean Sea Salt*, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Parsley, finely chopped

Directions:

  1. Add everything but the parsley to your immersion blender container and blend until creamy and smooth.
  2. Stir in the finely chopped parsley.
  3. Serve warm or room temperature over fish, chicken or pasta. You can even use it as a dip for raw veggies or crackers.

*This is the sea salt I used. I purchased it San José, Spain last year.

Notes:

  • You may use 1/2 cup passata if you don’t have campari tomatoes
  • I always forget the parsley so it’s not a big deal if you miss it.
  • I have also used smoked sea salt and it’s heavenly
  • I generally use roasted garlic purée which I have on hand because our stomachs can’t take raw garlic

Dulce de Leche Tiramisu

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1 round 18 cm (7 inch) round dessert

Ingredients:

  • 6 churros (I bought mine from here)
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) strong coffee
  • 30 mL (2 tbsp) Tequila (I used this one)
  • 415 mL (14 oz) dulce de leche (I made this recipe), divided
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 125 g  (1/2 cup) cream cheese, softened
  • 5 mL (1 tsp) cinnamon, divided
  • 237 mL (8 oz) whipping cream, stabilized (see below)

Directions:

  1. Cut the churros in half lengthwise. Cut each end about 6 cm (2 inches) long. Lay cut churros into a pan large enough to hold them in one layer.
  2. Combine the coffee, tequila and 15 mL (1 tbsp) of the dulce de leche and mix well. Pour half of this mixture over the cut churros and set aside for 10 minutes, turned occasionally.
  3. In the meantime, in a double boiler or bain-marie, combine the remainder of the coffee, 30 mL (2 tbsp) dolce de leche and 2 egg yolks and mix well. Set over hot water and beat with a hand mixer constantly until doubled in bulk and thickened. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  4. Cream the cream cheese until smooth and slowly add the thickened egg mixture and beat until fluffy and well combined.
  5. In a 18 cm (7 inch) springform pan, begin to line the edges with the churros, placing cut side down so the nice curly side is up. Line the bottom of the churros with the remaining middle cuts (this will also help hold the churros on the sides up!).
  6. Reserve 30 mL (2 tbsp) dulce de leche. Add the remaining dulce de leche sauce to the bottom of the tiramisu directly on top of the bottom layer, spread as evenly as possible. Sprinkle with 2.5 mL (1/2 tsp) of cinnamon. Spoon the cream cheese mixture on top and spread evenly. Sprinkle with the remainder of the cinnamon.
  7. Whip the cream with the final 30 mL (2 tbsp) dulce de leche until incorporated. To stabilize, see notes below. Spoon the whipped cream over the cream cheese mixture and swirl naturally on top.
  8. Chill well to cut nice slices. To serve, sprinkle with additional cinnamon if desired.

Notes:

  • No need to stabilize the whipped cream if you are eating this treat right away, only if you plan to keep leftovers.
  • To stabilize whipped cream, melt 1 tsp of gelatin in about 3 tbsp cold water, nuked until gelatin melts completely, cools to room temperature but does not set, whip into the whipping cream.
  • You may use whole churros, you’ll need to buy 12.
  • The churros I purchased were 6 for nine Canadian dollars, which I found to be pricey. I will make my own next time (and there will be a next time!). This recipe looks good!

Mexican Lasagna

On May 5, we hosted a Cinco de Mayo dinner party with a few friends. I’m not sure what I was thinking because I had already a very busy week planned, then my dear Mom’s widow became ill and had to be hospitalized so we were running up to the hospital he was in (about 45 minutes away) every few days (he is doing better but still in the hospital). I only had 3 days to prepare!!! I chose the menu based on foods that I can make ahead of time, knowing that they would only get better! In case you wondered, I made a variation of this dip as hors d’œuvres, this salad and for the main, this pulled chicken molé AND a Dolce de Leche tiramisu (recipe to come) for dessert. It was a bit decadent, but sometimes I really need to play in the kitchen!

This lasagna is a delicious combination of flavours and it’s worth making each layer yourself, if you must, choose canned beans to save a little time.

It’s a flavour sensation! I put a poached egg on top the next day for a very tasty brunch!

Mexican Lasagna

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 4 as a meal or 6-8 as an appetizer

Ingredients for the Pulled Pork:

  • 250 g pork tenderloin
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) stock (I used beef)
  • 250 mL (1 cup) passata (tomato sauce)
  • 125 g (1/2 cup) sweet onions, thinly sliced
  • 5 mL (1 tsp) cumin
  • 5 mL (1 tsp) coriander
  • 5 mL (1 tsp) Hungarian paprika
  • 1.25 mL (1/4 tsp) smoked paprika
  • 2.5 mL (1/2 tsp) salt
  • 1.25 mL (1/4 tsp) pepper

Directions for the Pulled Pork:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a slow cooker or crock pot and mix well.
  2. Cook on high for 4 hours or until pork is easily pulled using two forks.

Ingredients for the Lasagna:

  • 6 corn tortillas, cut in half
  • 250 mL (about 1 cup) shredded pork (recipe above)
  • 85 g (1/2 cup) dried black beans, cooked and either puréed or mashed with a fork
  • 80 g (1/2 cup) sweet onions
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) grilled corn
  • a handful (~1/4 cup) of cilantro
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) Salsa
  • 150 g (about 1 cup) Mexican cheese or mozzarella
  • cilantro, for garnish
  • loosened yogurt (in a squeeze bottle)
  • sriracha sauce mixed with loosened yogurt (in a squeeze bottle)

Directions for the Lasagna:

  1. Preheat the oven to 220° C (425° F).
  2. In a non-stick skillet, caramelize the onions, add the beans, mushing some of the beans (add some stock if necessary). Set aside.
  3. Spray a pate terrine with non-stick spray.
  4. Layer 2 half corn tortillas on the bottom of the pan, cover with 1/3 of the shredded pork, 1/3 of the mashed beans, 1/3 of the corn, 1/3 of the cilantro, 1/2 of the salsa and 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat for two more layers, leaving out the salsa on the last layer. Cover with a non-stick sprayed piece of foil or the top of the pan, if you have one.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes covered, then uncover and bake for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is bubbling and lightly golden. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.
  6. Serve garnished with a drizzle of loosened greek yogurt and sriracha sauce and a sprinkling of chopped cilantro.

Notes:

  • I was unable to find Mexican cheese so I used Manchego and Mozzarella.
  • If you cannot grill fresh corn, frozen is acceptable but you will miss the grilled flavour.

Last month, the Japanese Cherry Blossoms (Sakura trees) blossomed in Toronto. This was a big deal because last year, they failed to bloom as we had a hard frost after several weeks of very warm weather. In fact, the frost was so hard that we lost a few trees. These trees are special because they were a gift from the Japanese ambassador to Canada, Toru-Hagiwara in 1959 as a gift to the citizens of Toronto for their support of Japanese-Canadian refugees after the Second World War. You can read more about the history here. It’s such a popular time in High Park (a park that is only about a 10-minute walk from our house) that the streets become clogged with traffic and it is virtually impossible to drive into the park; well, not quite impossible, but it will take you more than 1 hour! And don’t even think about parking in the park because you won’t be able to find a spot. Last year, a friend parked illegally and had a lovely surprise of a $450 ticket on her car upon return!

If you want to see the blossoms in Toronto, you’ll need to be here in April and you can watch this website, which predicts when they will blossom! JT took these beautiful photos so I wouldn’t miss them when they peaked as I was in Florida with a girlfriend.

Before I left for Florida, we invited friends, who live downtown, to join us for a walk to the park and then dinner in the village, it’s really the only sensible thing to do, if you wish to see the blossoms (and get in my 10,000 steps!) We had some wine and cheese before we left for our walk and I decided to make a french baguette, a recipe I haven’t made in quite a few years. This is the first bread recipe I ever made when I was around 14, it’s really that easy. In those days, I kneaded by hand, but now I get the big guns out and let the stand mixer do the heavy lifting for 8-10 minutes. The recipe produces two or four amazing french baguettes. I baked two and froze the others for another time. The recipe is basically true to the original recipe I made except I updated the method of rolling into the uique baguette form and the baking method.

That’s Bonny & Clyde, the Mum & Dad Capybara’s that escaped last year. They had babies this spring!

Simple French Baguette

Original recipe from Five Roses, A guide to good cooking, 5th edition

This recipe make four 33 cm (13 inch) French sticks

Ingredients:

  • 300 mL (1 1/4 cup) boiling water
  • 30 g (2 tbsp) butter
  • 15 g (1 tbsp) sugar
  • 8 g (1 package, about 1 tbsp) bread machine yeast
  • 50 mL (1/4 cup) lukewarm water
  • pinch of sugar
  • 570 g (4 cups) All Purpose Unbleached Flour
  • 15 g (2 tsp) salt
  • Olive oil
  • 1 egg white, beaten

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter and 15 grams of sugar in the boiling water and cool until lukewarm.
  2. Sprinkle the yeast over 50 mL water with a pinch of sugar and whisk to combine. Set aside to proof for a couple of minutes (I like to do this even with quick rising yeast to make sure it’s not dead).
  3. Combine the buttery water (when it has cooled to lukewarm) with the proofed yeast and stir to mix well.
  4. Combine the flour and salt in the large bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Pour the liquid yeast into the centre and turn the mixer on low speed until it forms a nice dough.
  5. Knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth and elastic (mine took about 8 minutes).
  6. Lightly coat with olive oil and set aside in a warm place, 1 to 2 hours or when double in size. Punch down and divide the dough into two equal portions.
  7. Divide the dough into two or four equal portions. With the base of your palm, press out the dough to a little rectangle, roughly size it 1:3 — it should not be huge at this point. then fold the long side up about 1/3 of the way and press into the dough with your knuckle or fingers to seal. Repeat with the other long side. Flatten the roll and press an indentation into the centre along the long side. Fold down to form a long baguette and seal with your fingers or knuckles. Roll out to elongate and taper the ends. This is the Julia Child method which may be seen here at roughly 6 minute 10 second mark.
  8. Preheat the oven to 450° F (230° C). Place the baguette seam side down on a baguette baking sheet and brush them with the egg white and then dock them using a sharp lame, you can see how this is done at roughly 9 minute 53 second mark of the same video. Place the baguette pan in a larger pan with a few chunks of ice off to the sides, cover tightly with foil paper.
  9. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 425° F (220° C) , remove the foil wrap and brush again with the egg white and then turn the pan 180 degrees and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes or until the baguette is golden brown and the crust has stiffened up and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

The steaming process produces the great texture.

Notes:

  • There are as many baguette recipes as there are blogs, if you have one you like to use, I encourage you to try this rolling and baking method, I am sold and will make crusty bread this way from now on.
  • I used 5 normal sized ice cubes.
  • The crust is nice and crunchy and the crumb is chewy and wonderful.
  • If your larger pan doesn’t have tall enough sides, I would spray the foil with non-stick spray so that when the bread rises and touches the foil, it will not stick.
  • This is the baguette pan that I use.

The baguette has a crispy crust with a nice chewy crumb.

Today is Victoria Day of the long weekend, which happens to be very important for Canadians because it is the May Two-Four Weekend: Queen Victoria’s birthday, cottage opening, garden planting, and the first outdoor BBQs and patios!! It is also the weekend that JT and I tied the knot! Yes indeed, we hitched up on the holiday Monday of a long weekend. Now, now, don’t get your knickers in a knot, the wedding ceremony started at 3pm on the holiday Monday, so people realistically could still get up to the cottage, open and get back in time for the wedding. Not everyone was happy about our decision, but it wasn’t really our fault, you see it was our first time and we had no idea how far in advance you had to book your venue for the reception (we found one venue that was taking bookings 3 years from the date), so when we found one available on the holiday Monday only 5 months after we got engaged, we went for it.

The weeks leading up to our wedding were lovely; gorgeous, warm, spring weather, three beautiful bridal showers, and the shear excitement every time a parcel arrived at the door! I had everything planned out, it would be a glorious day and everything would be perfect. I should have known things don’t always go as planned.

The night before the wedding, I tried on my dress and Mom and I decided we really didn’t love the neckline, it was far too high; fortunately, the dress was lace and I was able to trim away the bits we didn’t care for, using manicure scissors, and it worked out perfectly. I went to bed that night with my hair in rollers and I said a little prayer for my Dad who had passed in 1981 and crossed my fingers and toes that it would be a beautiful, sunny, spring day.

I awoke Monday, May 19 to a cold, dark and dreary, rainy day. I honestly thought I would be devastated but I wasn’t, I was absolutely fine. Things would go on with slight modifications. No big deal. And because the rain persisted ALL DAY, people were not that upset about having to leave the cottage early (we had a lot of cottager guests). After the ceremony, we were going to take photos in my In-Laws’ garden but since we couldn’t, we moved it inside (they had a lovely mansion), everything was just fine. The strange thing about that day was that it rained constantly, without stopping ALL DAY with the exception of the few times I stepped outside — to get into the limo from my Mom’s home, to get out of the limo at the Church, and to and from my In-Law’s home and finally to and from our reception! It stopped EVERY SINGLE TIME! I didn’t use an umbrella and I did not get wet! Thanks, Dad! We had a typical dinner for a wedding of that time (caesar salad, roast beef, Yorkshire puddings, and steamed veg) but considering the cool day, we sure could have used some soup and this soup would have been perfect. (click on the photo below for a short slide show). Please forgive me, the eighties were unforgiving style-wise!

To celebrate our 31st wedding anniversary (I was a child bride ;-)), we took a little road trip to Stratford, Ontario to see Guys and Dolls and stay overnight. Stratford is aptly named for the city in England and its primary mandate is to present Shakespearean plays but also includes a variety of Greek tragedies and Broadway-style musicals (wiki) to broaden its reach. It was a great weekend, although the weather went from 30° C (86° F) to 10° C (50° F) with high cold winds, we enjoyed walking around this pedestrian-friendly town with an excellent food scene. Here is a little slideshow of our trip.

As I mentioned, the weather turned on the morning of our trip (and our actual wedding day) and we were basically back in November! I had a huge soup craving and this one would have certainly hit the spot. I have made these grilled cheese croutons, again and again, they are excellent in a caesar salad too (use Parmesan instead of cheddar)!

Creamed Broccoli Pesto Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1 L or 4 cups soup

Ingredients:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 100 g (1 medium size) sweet onions, chopped
  • 300 g (2 stems) broccoli, including the stems, chopped
  • 20 g (3-4 cloves) garlic, roughly chopped
  • 45 ML (3 tbsp) basil pesto (I used this recipe but used ground almonds instead of pine nuts)
  • vegetable or chicken stock

Directions:

  1. Using a splash of olive oil, caramelize the onions, about 15 minutes.
  2. Add the broccoli and garlic and cover with stock and cook until softened (about 30 minutes).
  3. Add the basil pesto and cook for an additional minute.
  4. Using an immersion blender, blend soup until very smooth, adding more stock to achieve desired thickness (I did not need to). Press through a fine sieve.
  5. Serve with Grilled Cheese croutons (recipe below).

These are crisp, cheesy croutons.

Grilled Cheese Croutons

Ingredients:

  • 1 slice of seeded bread (we like this one)
  • 30 mL (2 tbsp) Mycryo
  • 50 g (1/2 cup) shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F (177° C).
  2. Cut the bread into bite-sized cubes and coat with the Mycryo. Bake, stirring often until bread has become dried croutons. Toss with the shredded cheddar and return to the oven and bake until cheese melts and caramelizes.
  3. To serve the soup, ladel soup into warm bowls and toss the grilled cheese croutons on top and serve piping hot.

If you love crispy cheese, you will love these croutons.

When JT and I were first married, we lived in our first home in Stouffville, a bedroom community Northeast of Toronto. JT would drive 30 minutes to an hour to work and I would take the hour long GO Train (Government of Ontario commuter train) downtown. Fortunately, the downtown train station was connected to an intricate underground system called PATH, Toronto’s Downtown Pedestrian Walkway that I would take all the way to work in the Financial District. Of course, these underground paths were always lined with stores, tempting you to buy, buy, buy!! There may have been one or two instances when I may have picked up a new outfit on the way to work, and I would change into it at the fitness club after my workout!

There were also several food courts along the way, so if one became a little famished from the long journey to work, one might pick up a nibble or two along the way! That is when I became addicted to Bran Date Muffins. These overly processed, moist and sticky muffins were sold at a “healthy” eatery along my walk to work. I usually don’t go for the ready made treats but there was something so moreish about these muffins (texture and taste) that I bought one or two every week (that’s when I had a metabolism!). These days, I wouldn’t dare eat that type of muffin, knowing what I know about the ingredients they use to make them so moreish so that is why I decided to try to recreate my obsession using healthy ingredients. I also decided to make them mini so that I could have a small treat without committing to a regular-sized muffin.

They are not the same as the ones I had so many years ago, but they are quite tasty and not nearly as bad for you so I’m pretty happy with the outcome. The bran and nuts provide great texture, the apples and the dates give it some moistness. Next time, I think I will reduce the flour component and increase the apples and fruit juice.

JT was quite surprised that there is no processed sugar in these babies, just dates, apples and fruit juice to sweeten.

Apple, Bran and Date Mini-Muffins revamped

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 30 mini-muffins

Ingredients:

  • 250 mL (1 cup) fruit juice
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 375 mL (1 1/2 cup) peeled and shredded apple
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) chopped dates
  • 250 mL (1 cup) bran buds
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) chopped pecans
  • 2 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 30 mL (2 tsp) cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F (190° C). Spray 24 mini-muffin pan with non-stick spray. Set aside.
  2. Combine the whole egg and the egg white and beat until well mixed, add the milk and stir to combine.
  3. In a large bowl, add the bran buds, shredded apple and dates, stir until combined. Pour the egg mixture over the top, stirring it in. Allow to stand 5 minutes.
  4. Sift the flour with the baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
  5. Fold the flour mixture into the bran mixture until everything is combined. Stir in the chopped pecans.
  6. Divide batter into 30 mini-muffin cups evenly (24 first, then 6). Bake for 20-22 minutes or until cake tester comes clean.

Notes:

  • If you’d rather make regular-sized muffins, this recipe will produce 12.
  • The bran buds I use are rather hard so soaking is important, your bran cereal may be loser and not need as much time to break down. I like a little bran texture so I didn’t soak my bran very long.
  • I used fruit juice instead of milk so that I could eliminate the 1/4 cup sugar from the recipe. I used Mango because I had it on hand, use whatever you wish, apple juice would work equally as well.
  • You may use 3 whole eggs instead of 1 whole egg and 2 egg whites, someone over here used up the whole eggs and forgot to write it on the shopping list. I wonder who that was?
  • These were pretty moist, even without the use of oil. Next time, I will reduce the flour to 1 1/2 cups and increase the fruit juice and shredded apple by 1/4 cup each.

A new Italian resto moved into the outskirts of the village (Bloor West Village) and we have hesitated to try it because it’s a small chain (currently 2 in the GTA) but we were on one of our long walks and it was lupper-time and we were a bit peckish so we decided to go for it.

It’s a well-designed Italian-like interior with stonework and wood finishes in a contemporary rustic feel. The food was very good as was the service

JT ordered Tagliolini alla Carbonara ($16.00 Canadian) which is described on the menu as “Long pasta, pancetta (Italian bacon), organic eggs, Pecorino Romano cheese, black pepper and extra virgin olive oil“. We prefer a slightly drier carbonara but I must say, it was delicious. The over the top crispy-fried pancetta really made the dish.

TAGLIOLINI ALLA CARBONARA $16.00

I ordered the appetizer portion of the Carpaccio di Vitello ($17.00 Canadian, currently removed from the menu due to lack of sales) which was described on the menu as “Thinly sliced veal drizzled with fresh lemon juice, baby arugula, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and shaved Parmigiano – Reggiano cheese”. It was wonderful. It wasn’t quite as bountiful as the Carpaccio I had in Arizona, but the perfect size for lupper (that’s Lunch and Supper combined)!

CARPACCIO DI VITELLO $17.00

Compared to the one I had in Arizona, which was SO MUCH FOOD! To give you an idea for size, the plate at Goodfellas was about the size of a dinner plate whereas the plate in Arizona was the size of a serving platter (you can see the size difference of the salad plate at the back, it was HUGE!)

Go big or GO HOME!

Overall rating of Goodfellas Bloor West Village (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 4/5, food 4.5/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 5/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

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

Goodfellas “Wood Oven” Pizza

1 Old Mill Drive,
(Bloor & S.Kingsway), Toronto

Telephone: (855) 433-5527
Email: info@goodfellaspizza.ca
Hours, Every day: 11AM–11PM

Cinnamon Buns

Warning: there is nothing healthy about this.

Ok, sometimes it happens: I make a totally unhealthy recipe. We had a friend stay overnight because he and JT were heading down to Buffalo first thing in the morning, to see a hockey game so I made cinnamon buns. We had some for tasters and one each for breakfast, then I froze the rest. Now these damn things will be calling my name every time I open the freezer!

I was down in Florida last week for a bit of girl-time with one of my dearest friends. It was a wonderful break and the weather was amazing! Might have done a bit of shopping too!!! Sorry I was MIA on comments, will catch up this week. XOXO

Cinnamon Buns

Please click here for the original recipe

Makes 12 buns

Ingredients for dough:

  • 250 mL (1 cup) warm milk
  • 8 g 1(2tbsp) quick yeast
  • 590 g (about 4 1/4 cups) all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 55 g (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 3 g (1 tsp) cinnamon
  • 6 g (1 tsp) salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 76 g (1/3 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature

Directions for dough:

  1. Combine yeast and warm milk and stir to dissolve yeast.
  2. In the large bowl of your KitchenAid mixer fitted with the scraping cookie dough hook, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt, eggs and butter, blend until thoroughly combined.
  3. Add the milky yeast and switch to the dough hook. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes or until it comes away from the sides and is soft and silky.
  4. In a greased bowl, in a warm place, allow to rise until doubled in bulk (about 1 hour).
  5. Roll the dough into a rectangle about 0.5 cm (1/4 inch) thick, about 60 x 35.5 cm (24 x 14 inches).
  6. Spread the filling evenly over the rectangle to all side but one long side.
  7. Roll from the long side with filling to the edge into a tight roll, pinching the final side closed. Cut into 5 cm (2 inch) slices and place into a lightly greased pan 26.5 cm (10.5 inch) springform pan.
  8. Pre-heat the oven to 175° C (350° F). Let rest 15 minutes.
  9. Bake for 40-50 minutes until light golden brown and it has baked through (an internal temperature of 88–93°C (190–200° F ).
  10. Ice only right before serving.

Ingredients for Filling:

  • 245 g (1 cup) packed brown sugar
  • 18 g (2 1⁄2 tbsp) cinnamon
  • 76 g (1/3 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature

Directions for Filling:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients to make a smooth paste, set aside.

Ingredients for Icing:

  • 20 g (1/4 cup) butter, room temperature
  • 70 g (1/4 cup) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 200 g (1 1/2 cups) icing sugar
  • 3 mL (1/2 tsp) clear vanilla
  • 2-4 tbsp cold water
  • Pinch of salt

Directions for Icing:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients to make a smooth paste, set aside.

Notes:

  • I reduced the sugar by half in the dough from the original recipe as I find these things usually super sweet. I increased the flour to make up for the sugar.
  • I also added cinnamon to the dough.
  • I added water to the icing as I prefer it to be drizzled instead of dipped or smeared.

Last month we hosted dessert for our fifteenth(?) progressive dinner. Our neighbour, John selected Georgia State as the theme because of the Golf that was going on (what golf?) at that time so food had to be a Georgia favourite or something connected to the PGA. Of course, I went straight to the expert, my dear friend Betsy of Bits and Breadcrumbs for her advice and she really came through for me, Thank you, Betsy. I made three mini desserts, one of which, the Chocolate Pecan Pie is traditionally served at the Open, the other two were Southern favourites, Peach Crumble (recipe below) and Chess Pie, that I really just wanted to make. All of the desserts are miniatures because we always tend to over do it at these progressive dinners and I served them all in the living room at the coffee table, take as many or as few as you wish. I followed some tried and true recipes for the Chocolate Pecan Pie and the Chess Pie (see links above) and I loosely followed Betsy’s recipe for the crumble. Hope you don’t mind, Betsy, I combined a few ingredients from various southern recipes on your blog and I think I scored a hole in one! And that concludes my golfing puns!

So, let me tell you about our dinner! For the first course, Tom and Iona (read Iona) did a bunch of things, we began with an Arnold Palmer (with vodka)! I’d never heard of this concoction before this past February when we were in Arizona visiting friends, it was very tasty! Then, the food: Iona made Pimento Cheese sandwiches (OMG, so GOOD!), jalopeño Poppers (baked) and a wonderful bean and rice dish served in a glass. Then we had the main course, it was Mike Weir’s (Canadian) signature Master’s Dinner (I had no idea the winner can choose the dinner menu!) It was Elk and Arctic char (that’s a fish), with Canadian beer (I had some of his wine!). And, of course, there was dessert! We also set up a little putting green for fun!

 

Mini Chocolate Pecan Pies and Mini Chess Pies. How many would you have?

The putting green was quite successful!

Bourbon Peach Crumble: Progressive Dinner #15(?)

Makes 4 60 mL (2 oz) ramekins and 4 30 mL (1 oz) ramekins

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups roughly chopped peaches (I used frozen because it is not peach season)
  • Bourbon, to cover peaches for soaking
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar (reduce if your peaches are sweet, mine were not)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp soaking bourbon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of salt

Ingredients for the crumble:

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp toasted pecan pieces
  • 1/4 cup oats
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp Skor® bits
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Chop the peaches into wedges and then into thirds so they fit better in the ramekins.
  2. Add the peaches to bowl with a cover, and pour the bourbon over it so it covers all of the peaches, Soak peaches overnight in the fridge.
  3. The next day, strain the liquid from the peaches reserving 30 mL (2 tbsp), reserve the remainder for another use.
  4. Preheat the oven to 175° C (350° F).
  5. Spray the ramekins with non-stick baking spray.
  6. Combine the flour, cinnamon, reserved bourbon from soaking liquid, vanilla and salt and mix well. Sprinkle over the strained peaches and stir well to coat.
  7. Add roughly 15-30 mL (1-2 tbsp) of the coated peaches to each prepared ramekin.
  8. Combine the brown sugar, toasted pecans, oats, flour and cinnamon and mix well, cut in the butter until the butter is well mixed. Top each ramekin with about 15 mL (1 tbsp) of the crumble and then sprinkle about 1.5 mL (1/4 tsp) Skor bits over the top.
  9. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Allow to cool slightly to serve or reheat when ready to serve. Serve with stabilized Bourbon Whipped Cream (to stabilize whipping cream, please click here).

Oozy, boozy goodness. I intended for the sauce to drip and bake down the sides. No, really, I did!

Notes:

  • For the mini tarts, I used Martha Stewarts cream cheese pastry recipe, but I doubled it. You can freeze left over pastry dough.
  • I made 1/2 of this chess pie recipe and I netted about 20 tarts various sizes (although I only show the tear-drop shape in the photo. If I make this again, I’ll make half of the recipe.
  • I made 1/4 of this pecan pie recipe (I melted 10 g of semi-sweet chocolate, allow to cool, into the recipe) and netted about 14 small tarts (muffin tin-sized).

We added a few tee’s and golf balls but it was too dark for a pic.

MiniMeringueTarts_Rev

This shot is part of a creative collaboration I recently did with a professional photographer and prop stylist for our portfolios. I also served the little bite-sized lemon curd meringues for the progressive dinner just because you can’t have too much dessert! Photograph by Paula Wilson and Props by OK Props, Oksana Slavutych.

 

 

 

Gluten Free Crêpes

I have been perfecting my gluten-free crêpe recipe for a few months now and I have finally landed on a very good one! These don’t have the coarse texture that gluten-free crêpes usually have, they are slightly chewy too which I really like and they have an innate sweetness even without the addition of sugar. Although I usually try to avoid the addition of unnecessary fats, I think it is the Olive Oil in this batter that helps emulsify the grainy ‘flours’. In my humble opinion, these crêpes can easily pass as their gluten-containing cousins, although, JT did comment that they weren’t quite as sturdy as a regular crêpe.

Gluten Free Crêpes

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 2 crêpes

Ingredients:

  • 40 mL egg white (about 2 large egg whites)
  • 80 mL (about 2.5 oz) soda water
  • 35 g (about 1/4 cup) gluten-free flour mixture (see below)
  • 15 mL (1 tbsp) EVOO

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in the container of your immersion blender and blend for about 1-2 minutes. Set aside for about 3-5 minutes.
  2. Heat a large non-stick pan to medium hot (do not spray with oil or add oil to the pan, the batter sticks better this way). Pour half of the mixture into the pan and quickly roll around to cover the entire bottom of the pan, without going up the sides. Cook until golden and most of the batter has set on the top side.
  3. Carefully lift the crêpe and turn it to cook the other side until golden. Repeat for second crêpe.
  4. Keep warm by covering.

Gluten Free Flour Mix

Ingredients:

  • 6 parts brown rice flour
  • 3 parts yellow corn flour (not meal)
  • 1 part white corn flour (not meal)

Directions:

  • Mix well and use as required.

These crêpes have a very similar texture and mouthfeel as glutenated crèpes.

Notes:

  • These crêpes have a tendency to dry out and turn crisp very easily, so keep an eye on them whilst cooking.
  • The crêpe will start out the size of the pan but will shrink due to the high water content.
  • My Mom always used soda water in her crêpe, saying that it made them lighter and thinner but you could substitute milk like a traditional crêpe batter, note that they will be thicker.
  • I changed the gluten free flour mixture because I was out of tapioca flour and to be honest, I liked the way this version worked in this recipe.
  • I used the T-Fal Induction Non-Stick 30cm frying pan and although I am normally not a non-stick lover, this material is not surface coated, it is all the way through which makes me feel it is safer to use than traditional top coated non-stick pans. I have tried my cast iron pans but find them a bit heavy to twirl around to spread the batter evenly.
  • Crêpes are great for desserts or mains, we used these to wrap pulled pork with a mustard béchamel. Because we are still trying to eat healthily, I omitted the sugar and ketchup from the BBQ sauce and used apple preserves and about 15 mL (one tablespoon) of maple syrup to sweeten. The béchamel was a rice-flour based sauce with a splash of milk and loosened with chicken stock.

Mediterranean Sriracha Fish

Recently, I worked on an on-location two-day motion shoot. I was one of four food stylist employed for the two days. We worked from the compact, professional, mobile kitchen called Maindish, it was rather cosy! They were 15 hour days with few opportunities to sit down (who said food styling was glamorous?). I’m always amazed at the shear number of people it takes to make a commercial happen, 60, in this case! By the way, on location also means cramped, because you’re having to squeeze in everyone and everything into relatively small spaces, it really is quite the orchestration! 

I found this recipe on Epicurious; I chose it because I had most of the ingredients at home (along with an inordinate amount of sun-dried tomatoes). It was absolutely delicious, so I decided to document it for the future, plus, I made a few changes.

Mediterranean Fish in a Tomato Sriracha Sauce

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • splash of EVOO
  • 70 g (1/2 medium) sweet onion, peeled and finely sliced
  • 90 g (~1/2 medium) fennel bulb, finely sliced
  • 1/2 tsp sriracha sauce (add more if you like heat)
  • 250 mL (1 cup) tomato purée from fresh or canned tomatoes (I used homemade)
  • 30 g (~1/4 cup) sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 2oo g white fish fillets
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • A handful of baby spinach
  • Black olives (I used Niçoisse)

Ingredients for the topping:

  • 2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley
  • Small handful of spinach
  • 2 tbsp sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 small clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped or grated
  • Zest of 1 lemon, plus a squeeze of juice

Directions:

  1. In a medium-sized, frying pan (I used cast iron), heat a splash of olive oil and sauté the onion, fennel and sun-dried tomatoes for 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Combine the tomato purée with the sriracha sauce and stir well. Add the tomato purée to the frying pan and simmer for 4 to 5 additional minutes. Season to taste with a little salt and pepper.
  3. Place the fish on top of the tomato mixture, spooning a little of the sauce over the fish. Cover and simmer on medium-low for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the fish is fully cooked.
  4. Meanwhile, in the small bowl of a food processor combine the parsley, spinach, sundried tomatoes, garlic, lemon zest and juice and process until chopped and well mixed. Set aside.
  5. When the fish is completely cooked, carefully stir in the olives (putted and sliced, if you’re using larger olives) and baby spinach and warm through (spinach should wilt).
  6. To serve, place the fish on a spoonful or two of cauliflower mash or polenta and dollop the tomato sauce over the hot fish. Dot the herb topping over the fish and sauce to finish.

Notes:

  • This combination of vegetables and tomatoes would work very well with chicken, but you’ll need to increase your cooking time.
  • I used Tilapia for this particular recipe, but haddock, cod, sea bass or monkfish would also work well.
  • The first time I made this recipe, I did not have fennel so I substituted 2 stalks of celery, it was equally as delicious.
  • I used sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, you may use dry but you might need to soak them in water so they are not chewy.
  • To reduce calories, omit the olives and use non-stick spray instead of olive oil.
  • If you use ordinary black olives, pit them and cut them into thirds.
  • The weights I suggest in the recipe are not carved in stone, just gives you an idea of proportions for two.

 


There is a new Japanese restaurant in our hood and it’s called Kenkou Sushi. It literally took over the space of a previous Japanese chain called Sushi 2 Go and sadly, they still haven’t changed the signage (apparently, they are waiting for good weather). Personally, I think this is a mistake as Sushi 2 Go was expensive and inferior quality than the present family owned resto. For some bizarre reason, chain restaurants usually don’t do well in my little hood so this bodes well for Kenkou Sushi. I’ve been 3 times since the beginning of February and it’s been excellent each time. It’s not fancy, but the food is fresh, tasty and nicely presented and best of all, it’s quite reasonable. If you are looking for a good Japanese restaurant in Toronto’s west end, I suggest you pop in, it’s right beside Jolanta Interiors at the corner of Bloor and Willard, you’ll need to look for Sushi 2 Go until the weather gets nicer!

The restaurant is simply decorated, with the sushi kitchen lining the back wall. There are only 7 tables but they do takeout. I like a place a little fancier for dinner, but I’ll certainly do takeout for dinner.

We decided to have a late lunch and make it the main meal of the day, but I still couldn’t finish my entire Bento Box! Both lunches came with Miso Soup, Small Salad, 6 California Rolls, 5 pieces of tempura (including 2 shrimps) and glass noodles.  JT ordered the salmon teriyaki (because he is making more of an effort to eat more fish), sitting on a bed of sautéed veggies.  The salmon looked to be about 110-120 g (good solid 4 oz).

Salmon Teriyaki Bento Box $14.00

I ordered the Sashimi Bento Box that came with 10 pieces of very fresh fish. They are not specific what fish comes out, it depends on what is fresh each day. They were wonderful and flavourful. As I previously mentioned, I was unable to finish it all, so the leftovers (I did eat all of the raw fish) will be lunch tomorrow.

Sashimi Bento Box $16.00

It’s excellent value and I love that the family members work there. So if you’re in the mood for Sushi, give them a go.

Kenkou Sushi

2370 Bloor Street West
Toronto, ON M6S 1P5

Hours:
Everyday: 11:30 AM–10:00 PM

Swedish Apple Cake

Due to the overwhelming response on social media last Saturday, I am re-posting the recipe for this show stopper apple cake (plus I made a few changes since the first time I made it in 2013). I originally found this cake on my friend Charles’ blog, Five Euro Food (in hiatus right now), I had made it for Easter dinner for the outlaws. It was quite the success the first time, so I’m not really sure why I haven’t made it since. Way back in 2013 I had to alter the original recipe because we had diabetic and hypo-glycemic guests and you know how I hate to make two different things, so I was happy to convert Charles’ recipe to fit the circumstance. Last Saturday did not present such issues, so I revised the recipe again and liked it even better.

The recipe depends on the sweetness and flavour of the apples and I must say that the humble Macintosh really shined. As you read the recipe, you will notice that it has exactly 17 g (1 tbsp) brown sugar so don’t expect a super sweet cake, but those of you who like dessert, but not overwhelmingly sweet, will love this version. Of course, the Skor bits add sweetness and a touch of caramel flavour within the sliced apples, in the topping adds some lovely texture. Of course, you may omit them if you cannot find them (or you could buy them on Amazon).

Swedish Apple cake

This is all about the apples.

Appelkaka Remake, A Swedish Apple Cake

Makes one 16.5 cm (6.5 inch) cake, serves 4-6, depending on the slice size
To make a 23 cm (9 inch) cake, double the recipe

Ingredients:

  • 800 g (1 3/4 lb), about 8 small Macintosh Apples, peeled and thinly sliced
  • lemon juice
  • 17 g (1 tbsp) brown sugar
  • 120 g (1 1/4 cup) oats
  • 50 g (1/2 cup) almond flour or meal
  • 2 g (1 tbsp) cinnamon
  • 35 g (1/4 cup) Skor bits, divided
  • 60 g (2 tbsp) unsalted butter

Directions:

  1. Pre heat the oven to 395° F (200° C).
  2. Line a 16.5 cm (6.5 inch) spring form pan with parchment.
  3. To the small bowl of a food processor add, brown sugar, oats, almond flour, cinnamon, 1 tbsp of the Skor bits and butter; pulse until it resembles a coarse meal.
  4. Take about 1/2 of the oat mix and press firmly into the bottom of the prepared springform pan.
  5. Peel and finely slice the apples, a splash of lemon juice will prevent them from discolouring.
  6. Carefully arrange about half of the apples on the oat mixture, sprinkle with half of the remaining Skor bits, then finish layering the remaining apples and press down firmly.
  7. Sprinkle the remainder of the oat mix with the remainder of the Skor bits on top, just like a crumble.
  8. Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until the apples are luciously soft (test with a toothpick).
  9. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Notes (updated):

  • I used macintosh apples (sold in a bag) from no frills, they are the perfect baking apples.
  • Slice the apples using a mandolin, believe me, it makes it a lot quicker and far less tedious (but watch your fingers!).
  • I used large oats which were not instant, instant would probably work as they are used to absorbed the liquid the apples release.
  • If you don’t use Skor bits, try a squeeze of organic honey!

Cheese Crisps

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

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

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

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

Cheese Crisps

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 350 g crackers (about 6 cups)

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Notes:

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

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We just got back from a two-week holiday in Arizona. I apologize for not commenting as much as I usually do, but you know the drill on holidays.

Regarding Arizona, I would love to say it was perfect weather, and perhaps it was, for Toronto weather but it was cold, sometimes snowy and rainy. Our time with dear friends more than made up for the lousy weather. Although we did have a few gloriously sunny days before the ugly, rainy days we spent in Sedona. Fortunately, our time at the Grand Canyon was clear, albeit cold (read: two layers of leggings, three long-sleeved Ts and a light winter jacket with hat, mittens and scarf). Once I get our photos sorted, I’ll post a few good ones on the blog, in the meantime, I thought I’d share one of my favourite ‘diet’ dishes, chicken “schnitzel” with roasted garlic cauliflower mash!

Chicken “Schnitzel” with Roasted Garlic Cauliflower Mash

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 460 g cauliflower
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, roasted
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 165 g chicken breast, boneless, skinless
  • 35 g egg white
  • 2 Ryvita whole wheat snack bread
  • 10 g whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup Herbes en Provence with granulated onion and garlic
  • few sprays of non-stick spray
  • chopped fresh dill for garnish

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 425° F.
  2. Break down cauliflower into equal-sized florets and set on a baking sheet lightly sprayed with non-stick spray. Roast until softened. Add a bit of water at the end to steam to perfect tenderness for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the cauliflower florets into a glass bowl and add the roasted garlic cloves. Blitz with the hand blender until creamy and smooth, adding a bit of water if necessary (I just added the left-over steaming liquid from the roasting pan). Set aside.
  4. Divide the chicken into two equal portions and butterfly each, cover the chicken with plastic and flatten it to about 0.5 cm or 1/4 inch with a kitchen mallet. Put them into the fridge.
  5. Add Ryvita to a small zip lock bag and smash into smaller but coarser bits. Add the Herbes en Provence and mix well.
  6. Add the egg whites into a large flat bowl and beat with a fork.
  7. Remove one chicken cutlet from the fridge and lightly dust each side with the whole wheat flour. Then dip it into the egg whites to cover both sides. Sprinkle each side with the Ryvita mixture to coat evenly. Repeat with second cutlet.
  8. Heat a non-stick frying pan. Spray each side of each cutlet and cook cutlets on both sides until nicely golden and the internal temperature is 185°F. Serve immediately with a slice of lemon and some fresh dill sprinkled onto it.

Notes:

  • The diet I use allows for two 100 g servings of protein per day.
  • If you don’t have roasted garlic on hand, simply put a few unpeeled cloves into a ramekin filled with a little water or stock and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake until softened.
  • Even though the chicken is very thin, it is so tender, it will knock your socks off.

Gluten-free Cheez-itz


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There are recipes that convert well into gluten free and this happens to be one of them and they freeze incredibly well too, but be warned, it will be unlikely that you’ll have leftovers to freeze! I rolled this recipe thinner than the glutinated recipe and the result was a crispier, cheese bite. I’ll probably do the same for the glutinated version, as I preferred the crisp texture. Plus, a thinner roll gives you more crackers and who doesn’t love more cheese crackers?

Gluten-free Cheez-itz

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 227 g (about 2 cups) sharp cheddar, grated
  • 45 g (3 tbsp) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 14 g (1 tbsp) vegetable shortening
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 67 g (1/2 cup) brown rice flour and 67 g (1/2 cup)  white corn flour (not corn starch) or 134 g (1 cup) gluten-free flour
  • 30 mL (2 tbsp) ice water

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients except the ice water in a bowl of a food processor. Pulse for 2 minutes to cream the mixture together.
  2. Slowly add the ice-water while pulsing. At first, it looks like you might need more water, patience grasshopper, patience, the dough will come together in a moment, continue pulsing until it does.
  3. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  4. Using plastic wrap, roll the dough into two logs about 1.5 inches or 4 cm in diameter. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or freeze for 15.
  5. Cut log into 1/2 cm or 1/4 inch thick slices and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet leaving about 2.5 cm or 1 inch between each cracker.
  6. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown and crispy! Be careful – there’s a fine line with these between golden brown and overdone – and it only takes seconds to burn!

Alternative instructions:

  1. Cut dough in half and pat the dough down into a disk, cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Place disk on parchment paper and put the plastic wrap on top and roll each disc to 2mm or 1/8 inch thickness (this is the perfect thickness).
  3. Using a cookie cutter of your choice, cut into shapes. I found that my 2.5cm square cut the perfect size.
  4. Transfer to a baking sheet (I line mine with parchment).
  5. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown and crispy! Be careful – there’s a fine line with these between golden brown and over done – and it only takes seconds to burn!
  6. Remove to cooling rack to cool.

Notes:

  • If the crackers become a bit soggy after you defrost them, toss them in the oven in a single layer on a baking sheet on low heat for 5-10 minutes to crisp them up.

glutenfreecheezitz

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We had a bunch of dear friends for Superbowl a few weeks ago and I made this vegetarian chili. I know I’m a little late, but I wanted to capture the recipe for next year. It was delicious and it makes a huge amount (1 L or 8 cups). It has a lot of great flavours and textures, I’ll definitely add it to my repertoire for future Superbowl parties.

Vegetarian Butternut Squash Chili

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1 L (8 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 180 g (1 cup) dried red kidney beans (soaked for 12 hours)
  • 1 small onion, diced (100 g)
  • 1 small carrot, diced (100 g)
  • 1/2 butternut squash, diced (150 g)
  • 2 celery ribs, diced (100 g)
  • 250 mL puréed tomatoes (200 g)
  • vegetable stock or water, to cover
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp red pepper paste
  • 2 tsp ground cumin, toasted
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp smoked sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup Pearl Barley, cooked
  • 1 avocado, for garnish
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, for garnish
  • chopped cilantro, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Put the beans in a pot, cover with 2 inches of water, and bring to a boil. Boil for ten minutes. Drain.
  2. Combine beans with everything but the frozen corn, cooked barley and the garnishes in the bowl of a slow cooker. Add enough water to cover. Cook for 8 hours on low or until beans are tender. Add frozen corn and cooked barley about 30 minutes before serving to allow to heat through.
  3. Serve with garnishes or plain.

vegetarianbutternutsquashchili

Banana Cream Pie

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We’ve been doing enormously well on our path to better health so when we had friends over for dinner recently I asked JT what dessert he wanted and he said banana cream pieBanana cream pie is definitely NOT diet food, but you need a treat every once in a while.

There are many recipes out there and JT was specific that he didn’t want chunks of banana so I had to improvise by adding puréed bananas and increasing the thickening agent to make up for the added liquid ratio. I used Martha’s recipe as a starting point. This pie is not overly sweet and it packs a lot of banana flavour. It’s best to make this dessert the day before to allow it to set.

Banana Cream Pie

Makes one rectangular pie about 12 cm x 36 cm (14 inch x 4.5 inch)

Ingredients for the crust:

  • 3/4 cup cookie crumbs (I save mine from broken cookies in a freezer bag)
  • 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 cup oats (not instant)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tbsp Skor® bits

Directions for the crust:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Combine everything but the butter and Skor bits in the small bowl of a food processor. Slowly drizzle in the butter. Fold in the Skor bits.
  3. Press into a 12 cm x 36 cm (14 inch x 4.5 inch) rectangular tart pan (preferably one that has a removable bottom to make it easier to release).
  4. Bake for 15 minutes. Cool completely before filling.

Filling Ingredients:

  • 3 ripe bananas (about 1 cup puréed)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups half & half
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • Whipping cream

Filling Directions:

  1. In a heavy-bottom saucepan or double boiler, combine cornstarch, sugar, egg yolks, half & half, and salt and mix well. Set over simmering water or medium to low heat and whisk until thoroughly thickened.
  2. Cool over an ice bath and when cooled, whisk in the vanilla and puréed bananas. Set plastic film over the top of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until set.
  3. Whip the butter until light and slowly add the cooled filling to incorporate butter evenly.
  4. Combine bananas and lemon juice and purée until smooth. Whip into the prepared pudding.
  5. Spoon into the prepared pastry crust and set another plastic film over the top. Refrigerate.
  6. Serve slices of the pie garnished with stabilized whipped cream and sprinkled with Skor® bits.

Notes:

  • Cookie crumbs are usually trimmings I save from bars, broken cookies and such. I save them in a zip-lock baggy in the freezer and blitz them in the food processor for pie crusts. I got the idea from Momofuko’s Momofuko’s Crack Pie Recipe, plus it gives us a good reason not to eat the trimmings! (Method in my madness!)
  • The Skor® bits add a lovely crunch and flavour to the crust, omit without repercussions if you wish.
  • The bananas do oxidized a bit, so I modified the instructions to include the puréed bananas just prior to adding to the crust.

bananacreampie

Pickled Garlic Radishes

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I had an excess of radishes in my pantry so I decided to pickle them before they turned bad. They will make a nice garnish to pulled pork or a rich stew like bœuf bourguignon.

Pickled Radishes

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 250 mL (1 cup)

Ingredients:

  • 160 g (~1 cup) radishes, sliced thinly
  • 30 g (~5 cloves) garlic, sliced thinly
  • 250 mL (1 cup) white vinegar
  • 5 mL (1 tsp) salt
  • 5 mL (1 tsp) sugar
  • 5 g (~ 6 sprigs) dill sprigs
  • 250 mL (1 cup) sterilized canning jar

Directions:

  1. Combine vinegar, sugar and salt and heat until both salt and sugar have dissolved, stir well.
  2. Add the radishes and garlic slices to the jar and pour the hot liquid over to cover. Tap the jar a few times to burst any air bubbles.
  3. Pour the liquid over the radishes and tap the jar on the counter a few times to get the liquid dispersed evenly. Add the dill sprigs, making sure they are covered in the liquid. Screw on the lid.
  4. Use immediately or process jar for 10 minutes (or as required in your neck of the woods), allow to cool on the counter. Label. Store for 3 months in a cool, dark place or use within a month in the fridge.

pickledradishes

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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.

 

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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

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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.

Gazpacho Gelato

gazpachogelato_first

One of the first courses we had at the One Star Michelin Restaurant, Alejandro, just outside of Almeria (in the quiet town of Roquetas de Mar) was a wonderful Gazpacho Sorbet. During our Paella Lesson in Madrid, we discovered that Gazpacho is a staple in most Spanish households. They make a few batches each week, drinking a cup-full when peckish or feeling down. It makes total sense, as it’s packed with raw vegetables and full of vitamins. I, too, have begun to keep a litre or so in the fridge, particularly now, with the seasons changing, and it’s so easy to catch a cold.

gazpachosorbet_alejandro

This is the original Gazpacho Sorbet at Alejandro’s in Spain. I didn’t care for the odd presentation in the glass so mine was more freestyle. It was garnished with a candied lemon slice.

You may use any old Gazpacho recipe, I used the one we made during our Paella Cooking Lesson at Cooking Point. The main difference is that the Spaniards add a slice of bread (for body) and a significant amount of olive oil to balance the acidity. The New York Times published a beautiful description of a good Gazpacho (see original article here), “The texture is always smooth and light, with a mouth feel similar to that of whole milk. It is not the watered-down salsa or grainy sludge often served in the United States under the name of gazpacho, but an emulsion of fat (olive oil) in liquid (vegetable juice and vinegar) that is light and fluffy on the tongue and a fantastic conductor of flavor, just like vinaigrette or hollandaise.”

The recipe below is perfectly balanced, I wouldn’t change a thing. There is just a hint of onion and garlic, you don’t want this to be too oniony or garlicky. And while I would normally shudder at the volume of olive oil in this recipe, you really need it to balance out the acidity and it adds that silky mouthfeel Eric Asimov of the New York Times described above. Turning it into Sorbet is a surprising, yet satisfying dish. Definitely bookmark for the warmer weather.

gazpachogelato_2Authentic Spanish Gazpacho

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 500 g ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 50 g green pepper (about 1/2 an ordinary sized pepper)
  • 40 g cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped (English is fine)
  • 30 g onion, roughly chopped
  • 20 g bread, crust removed
  • 1/2 garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • 15 mL sherry or red wine vinegar
  • 5 mL cumin
  • salt, to taste
  • 60 mL EVOO

Directions:

  1. Add all of the ingredients but the Extra Virgin Olive Oil to a blender or a large measuring cup. Blend or use an immersion blender to blend until smooth.
  2. Pass the liquid through a fine sieve. Return the liquid to the blender or large measuring cup and blend in the Olive Oil in a slow, steady stream to emulsify. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. Pour the soup into the bowl of your chilled ice cream maker and turn it on until it has thickened and frozen like sorbet. Serve immediately or store in an airtight freezer container in the freezer for no more than one hour, it will freeze solid.
  4. Garnish with herbs, or finely chopped vegetables. Alejandro served it with a slice of candied lemon.

roastedwildmushroom_first

During our Epic European Vacation this past September, JT booked us into a One Star Michelin Restaurant, Alejandro, just outside of Almeria in the quiet town of Roquetas de Mar. We decided to do lunch because it was a little far to drive for dinner and we were already in Almeria, dropping off our dear friends Paul and T at the airport. Plus, lunch is more reasonable and probably less crowded. As it turned out, we were the only ones in the small restaurant for the majority of our meal, the entire kitchen team (I saw three chefs) and front of the house (two people) focussed on serving us, talk about service! The luncheon degustation tasting menu (nine courses) was only 50 Euros each, including a 10% tip (10% is the norm)! There were a few outstanding courses that I will attempt to recreate, tipping my hat to my new friend, David Crichton of Fine Dining at Home who consistently creates restaurant-quality meals in his humble home kitchen. Dave, I think you’d like this.

I won’t do a full review of the restaurant because they did not speak English, although, they had one English menu that they pointed to as they explained the dish in Spanish. #lostintranslation I should have used google translate! Notwithstanding, it was an exceptional meal and for the price, I would definitely recommend a visit if you are in or near Almeria (it’s only about a 30-minute drive from Almeria).

I won’t lie, this recipe is not quick, nor is it an easy recipe but if you make the mousse in advance, the rest comes together rather quickly. The mousse freezes well so I can see freezing 60 mL or 1/4 cup portions for future dinner parties.

The first layer, obscured by mushroom crumbs, is a mushroom mousse. The mushroom crumb is made from mushroom powder with toasted panko, seaweed and sea salt; it provides textural balance to the ultra-creamy mousse. The whole wild mushrooms are coated with Mycryo® and roasted in a super hot oven to coax out their subtle sweetness and temper their earthiness (the mushroom mousse and crumb brings all the earthiness needed for this dish). I used a variety of wild and cultivated mushrooms, sadly, not nearly as interesting as the dish below, but equally as tasty. I’m excited to make this dish for our next dinner guests!

The original dish

The original dish: Roasted wild mushrooms, sitting a top of mushroom crumbs which was covering a smooth as silk mushroom mousse. An incredible combination of flavours and textures. Fortunately for photography, the restaurant was brightly lit.

Roasted Wild Mushrooms on Mushroom and Chestnut Mousse with Mushroom Crumbs

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe inspired by the One Star Michelin Chefs at Alejandro, Spain.

Makes 6 appetizer servings

Ingredients for the mushroom mousse:

Makes about 300 mL (1.25 cups) Mousse

  • 30 g (2 tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 50 g shallots, roughly chopped
  • 35 g garlic
  • 60 mL (1/4 cup) EVOO
  • 30 mL (2 tbsp) Mycryo®
  • 200 g mix of wild mushrooms,roughly chopped
  • 100 g peeled, roasted chestnuts, roughly chopped
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) mushroom stock

Directions:

  1. Remove outer layer of garlic skins but leave the inner layer intact. Place garlic bulb into a heatproof ramekin and cover partially with olive oil. Roast in a 175° C (350° F) oven until soft. Set aside.
  2. Melt butter in a dutch oven, add shallots and cook until caramelized.
  3. Dust the mushrooms in Mycryo® and add to shallots, stir and add the roasted chestnuts. Cook mushrooms and chestnuts until they are well seared and very soft, add roasted garlic.
  4. Purée with an immersion blender with the mushroom stock (adding a little at a time until desired consistency for mousse is achieved). Press the mousse through a fine sieve. Set aside and keep warm until plating.
mushroommousse

This is the mushroom mousse, so smooth and creamy.

Ingredients for the roasted mushrooms:

  • Mycryo®
  • 240 g wild mushrooms, mixed (choose smaller ones for the presentation)

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 220 ° C (425° F). Coat the clean and dry mushrooms with Mycryo®. Spread in a large cast iron frying pan, leaving plenty of space around each mushroom (do not crowd, you don’t want them to steam, you want them to roast).
  2. Place cast iron pan in the hot oven. Turn mushrooms often for about 15-20 minutes or until mushrooms have browned and cooked through. Set aside and keep warm until plating.

Ingredients for the mushroom crumbs:

  • 60 g (1/2 cups) panko
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 15 g (1/4 cup) mushroom powder
  • 10 g Seaweed Bouchées (like this), crumbled
  • sea salt
  • Pinch of smoked paprika

Directions:

  1. Melt butter in a frying pan, add panko and toast until golden. Remove from heat, add the mushroom powder, salt, smoked paprika and seaweed bouchées, stir well. Spinkle onto a clean piece of parchment and cool.
mushroomcrumb

This is the mushroom crumb, an earthy flavour with a good crunch.

Assembly:

  1. On warms plates, smear about 50 mL (1/4 cup) of the warm mushroom mousse. Sprinkle with the mushroom crumbs covering the mousse entirely and top with a variety of roasted mushrooms.
roastedmushrooms

The finished dish. It was met with a lot of mmmmmm.

Notes:

  • To make mushroom powder, take a variety of dried mushrooms, pulse in a coffee grinder dedicated to spices until it is a fine powder. Press through a fine sieve to catch any sand bits. Reserve in a clean jar for future use.
  • To make mushroom stock, take 10 g (1/3 cup) of a variety of dried mushrooms and place in a microwave-safe container and cover with 250 mL or 1 cup water. Microwave on high until mushrooms have reconstituted. Pour mushroom liquid through a fine gold coffee filter to capture all the sandy bits. Reserve 125 mL or 1/2 cup and freeze the rest for some other recipes (great in mushroom risotto).
  • This recipe is my impression of what we had in Spain. JT said it was pretty good according to memory.
  • UPDATE (January 2, 2017): I served this as the first course of our New Year’s Eve Dinner 2016 and got RAVE reviews! If you have mushroom lovers in your crowd, it’s worth the time and effort to prepare this dish. I made extra mousse (it’s the fussiest part) and froze it for an upcoming dinner party.
  • Because I was serving this as a course in a multi-course meal, I pre-roasted the mushrooms and then reheated them in a non-stick pan with about 2 tbsp butter.

 

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