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applepreserves_first

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

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

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

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

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

Unsweetened Apple Preserves

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 750 mL (3 cups) preserves.

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Uses:

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

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

applepreserves

strawberrypreserves_first

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

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

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

Apple Sweetened Strawberry Preserves

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 500 mL (about 2 cups)

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

 

saltedcaramelsemifreddofirst

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

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

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

saltedcaramelsemifreddo

This small slice bangs a lot of flavour.

Salted Caramel Semifreddo with Skor® Bits

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 500 mL (about 2 cups)

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

saltedcaramelsemifreddo2

I used gold sea salt to make it more festive!

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

Lady Orange Marmalade

marmalade_first

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

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

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

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

Easy Orange Marmalade

Yields: 500 mL (~2 cups)

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

marmalade_2

Notes:

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

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

creme-caramel_first

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

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

Crème Caramel

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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

It’s a lovely, light-tasting dessert.

Notes:

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

sliderbuns_first

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

I’ve also been doing some recipe videos:

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

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

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

sliderbunsSlider Buns

An adaptation of this recipe

Makes about 30 slider buns

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Notes:

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

 

pomegranatedate_focaccia_first

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

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

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

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

Pomegranate, Date and Rosemary Sourdough Focaccia

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

  1. In the large bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine sourdough starter, water and 50 g (1/4 cup) olive oil and mix well. Sprinkle the yeast into it and mix well.
  2. Whisk to combine the salt, milk powder and flour and add in batches to the liquid ingredients. Combine and then knead with the machine for 5 minutes. This dough is quite sticky
  3. Pour remaining 50 g (1/4 cup) olive oil into a clean bowl and turn the dough into it. Roll the dough around in the olive oil to coat, cover with a clean tea towel and allow to rise in a warm dark place for 1 hour.
  4. Pre heat oven to 190° C (375° F). Turn the dough out onto the baking sheet and with your fingers, press dough evenly to create a rectangle about 28 cm x 36 cm (11″ x 14″).
  5. Gently press the sliced dates, pomegranate seeds and rosemary into the dough, making sure they are spread evenly. Drizzle the olive oil remaining in proofing bowl over the raw dough. Allow to rest for 20 minutes.
  6. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the internal temperature is 43°C (190° F).
  7. Cool slightly and cut into portions. Serve warm with your best extra virgin olive oil and pomegranate syrup or Ice Wine Syrup..
datepomegranate_focaccia3 They are like little edible jewels! I was quite happy that the pomegranate seed jewels did not lose their luster after baking.

 

datepomegranate_focaccia2 A pillowy-soft focaccia.

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.

 

KingMushroomScallops_First

With the holidays fast approaching, I thought I would post a few favourites. I created a “king mushroom ‘scallop'” recipe last year (here) but the pic was awful and I wanted to try the recipe again using Mycryo®, the powdered cocoa butter that sears and seals in flavour. The mushroom ‘scallops’ seared beautifully, just like a real scallop and as I mentioned before, they have an uncanny textural resemblance to real scallops, without the price tag!

Scallops, these days, are outrageously priced and I don’t know why. Costco has a bag of extra large frozen scallops that used to go for about $17 but over the years have snuck up to almost $30 which works out to just less than $3 each! Even though this recipe uses a vegetarian mushroom, you won’t miss real scallops. These tasty little morsels are sitting on a pillow of creamy avocado paste and then drizzled with caramelized shallots, deglazed with a hint of champagne vinegar. The flavours are sophisticated and the presentation is easily eaten by hand, good enough for any upcoming cocktail party, or before a dinner party and they are vegetarian. If you can’t get your hands on Mycryo®, use ghee, or if you wish to make them vegan, use a good quality oil with a high smoke point.

King Oyster Mushroom “Scallops” on Crostini

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 5-6 pieces

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 60 mL (1/4 cup) champagne vinegar (white wine vinegar works too)
  • 2 relatively thick stemmed King Oyster Mushrooms, cut into 2 cm (0.5 inch) thickness (tops removed and reserved for another recipe)
  • 2 tbsp Mycryo®
  • 2 tbsp avocado paste (recipe here) or pesto
  • 5-6 crostini

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter in a small frying pan, add the shallots and cook until caramelized. Deglaze pan with the champagne vinegar. Scrape into a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Coat the king oyster mushroom slices generously with Mycryo®. Heat the same frying pan until very hot, add the mushroom ‘scallops’ and sear each side until golden and heated through. Remove from heat.
  3. Return the caramelized shallots with vinegar to the pan with the seared mushrooms and coat mushrooms well. 
  4. Prepare each crostini with a good smear of avocado paste or pesto, add one mushroom ‘scallop’ to each toast and spoon caramelized shallots with deglazing sauce over the crostini. Garnish with tiny basil leaves. Serve warm.

Notes:

  • White wine vinegar is a good substitute for champagne vinegar.
  • Fry a little pancetta before melting the butter for added flavour (not vegetarian).
  • Substitute real scallops for the mushrooms (not vegan).
  • Try to get King Oyster mushrooms that are about the same thickness as a good-sized scallop.

strawberryjam_first

On a recent trip to Europe, our dear friends Paul and T met us in Almeria to spend a few days together at my cousin Lucy’s flat in San José, Spain.

We stayed one night in Almeria because the flat was already booked. We stumbled upon Joseba Anorga Taberna quite by accident and had one of our most memorable meals in Spain (not counting the one star Michelin, but that’s another story). The Tapas were excellent and beautifully presented. It was a ridiculously hot and humid evening in Almeria so we didn’t want a heavy meal to weigh us down so sharing tapas was the perfect solution.

Joseba Anorga Taberna is a contemporary restaurant rated as one of the top ten in Almeria, what luck we had finding it! These are just a few of the tapas we enjoyed our first night in Spain. Buen Apetito.

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Just before we left for Europe, I found the last of the Ontario strawberries at my local grocer and they weren’t even overpriced! I bought a few pints and decided to make strawberry jam out of them to enjoy over the winter. I used a pectin-free recipe using a 3:1 ratio, three parts fruit to one part sugar. The jelling will take longer than a full-sugar version but it’s worth it. It’s not a sickly sweet jam, which is just fine by me!

strawberryjam_3

The jam is rich with strawberry flavour, just like Mom’s!

Strawberry Jam

Yield: 500 mL or 2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 936 g strawberries, washed and hulled
  • 309 g sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice, about 1 good size lemon
  • zest of 1 lemon

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of your 10-cup food processor. Plus until desired consistency is achieved (see notes).
  2. Pour content into a non-reactive, heavy bottom pan (I used my Le Creuset). Slowly heat until the sugar is dissolved and bring very slowly to a boil. Remove foam as it appears (see notes).
  3. Boil until the jam reaches 105° C (220° F) and has thickened up and reached the jellied stage (test a small amount on an ice cold plate and if you can wrinkle the jam, it’s done!)
strawberryjam_2

We like this jam a lot.

Notes:

  • I reduced the sugar according to this website (see last paragraph). To get to the jelly stage will take a little longer than the full sugar version, but it’s worth it.
  • I do not have a potato masher, instead of pulsing you may mash the berries with said masher, add the remaining ingredients and mix well.
  • Apparently, foam contains a lot more air than the actual jam so leaving it may reduce the shelf-life of your jam (source here).

gf-tejas-dulces_first

Last week I shared with you a traditional Sevillian Cookie, the Tejas Dulces and I was so smitten with it that I had to develop a gluten-free version. There are some recipes that are not worth converting to gluten free, they simply would not work, but some, like this particular recipe, shines brighter than its glutenated counterpart! I absolutely love this recipe, to the point that I’ll probably make this one my standard.

The original tuiles we brought back from Sevilla.

The original tuiles we brought back from Sevilla.

Gluten Free Almond Tuiles of Sevilla (Tejas Dulces de Sevilla)

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 25 cm x 30 cm (10″ x 12″) sheet, cut to make cookies or various sizes

Ingredients:

  • 30 g (2 tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 75 g (3/4 cup) almonds, thinly sliced and toasted
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 80 g (~1/3 cup) sugar
  • 1 tsp almond flavour
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla
  • 50 g Gluten Free flour (I used this mix)
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Toast the almonds until golden. Set aside to cool.
  2. Melt the butter and set aside to cool.
  3. Beat the egg with the sugar until it reaches the ribbon stage, about 5 minutes. Beat in the flavourings and cooled butter.
  4. Sift the flour with the salt and fold into the egg mixture, cover and allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 265° F (130° C).
  6. Pour the entire batter onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and spread out until it is quite thin (about 3-4 mm (about 1/8-3/16 inch) works out to about 25 cm x 30 cm (10″ x 12″). Evenly sprinkle the toasted almonds onto the batter and gently push into the batter.
  7. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until evenly golden, turn the pan once about halfway.
  8. While still warm, move parchment onto a cutting board and cut into uneven shapes with a pizza cutter. Transfer parchment to a cooling rack and allow to cool. Cookies will firm up as they cool.
  9. Once cooled, store in an airtight container for about a week, but they won’t last that long!

Notes:

  • I increased the flavourings to one teaspoon each because I am not a fan of the taste of gluten-free flour mix.
  • You may use a commercially prepared gluten free flour but I tested the recipe with my mix.
  • The gluten-free baked up about 10 minutes quicker because the batter spread a little further than the glutenated one!

tejas-dulces_first

Happy Halloween Everyone! Hope you all have a ghoulish night!!!

While in Europe this past September, we spent four extremely hot days in Sevilla. It’s no wonder they call Spain the “Frying pan of Europe”! It wasn’t as hot as it had been (near 50° C or 122° F) but it was hot enough for us! The sun was relentless and most locals only walk in the shade (you can tell who lives there because they hug the shadows directly beside the old buildings!). The city has covered some of its sunnier streets with canopy sails to shade the citizens and tourists, it’s that bad!

Many of the historic town streets have these sails in both Sevilla and Madrid.

Many of the historic town streets have installed these canopy sails to protect citizens and tourist from the unyielding sun, in both Sevilla and Madrid, though I did not see them in Granada.

During one of our last walks though the beautiful historic part of town, we stumbled into the area where the locals actually live. There were no tourist shops, a few restaurants, just butchers, bakers, children’s clothing stores, kitchen stores (yes, I did buy something), grocery stores and specialty shops. One such shop was a beautifully designed little cookie shop where they sold only one type of cookie in three flavours: La Tejas Dulces de Sevilla, in almond, pistachio and coconut. A young lady was handing out samples in front of the beautiful store and we couldn’t resist. In one taste, we were immediately hooked on the simple almond flavour and lovely crunchy texture and we had to buy some. Upon returning to Toronto, I hid the small package so that I could work on a recipe and perfect it for the blog. I told JT it was for the greater good, he wasn’t impressed.

The cookies are light, airy, crunchy and full of flavour; imagine a genoise batter spread paper-thin, topped with almonds and baked until golden. They are so GOOD! The recipe is relatively simple but follow the instructions to get the signature airy, crunchy texture. I think this could easily convert to a gluten free variety, stay tuned!

I must warn you, though, because these are not like the French Tuiles, these have a bit more body than a traditional French tuiles. They are really more cracker-like than a tuile or a cookie.

Scroll down to the end of this post to see pictures from this part of our trip.

tejas-dulces_2

Delicately sweet, these crispy, flavourful cookies hit the spot for an afternoon craving!


original

These are the originals we brought back from Sevilla, sadly only three left and a mess of crumbs but I’ve finessed the recipe so I can make more!

Almond Tuiles of Sevilla (Tejas Dulces de Sevilla)

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 25 cm x 30 cm (10″ x 12″) sheet, cut to make cookies or various sizes

Ingredients:

  • 30 g (2 tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 75 g (3/4 cup) almonds, thinly sliced and toasted
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 80 g (~1/3 cup) sugar
  • 1/2 tsp almond flavour
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla
  • 50 g cake and pastry flour
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Toast the almonds until golden. Set aside to cool.
  2. Melt* the butter and set aside to cool.
  3. Beat the egg with the sugar until it reaches the ribbon stage, about 5 minutes. Beat in the flavourings and cooled butter.
  4. Sift the flour with the salt and fold into the egg mixture, cover and allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 265° F (130° C).
  6. Pour the entire batter onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and spread out until it is quite thin (about 3-4 mm (about 1/8-3/16 inch) works out to about 30 cm x 30 cm (12″ x 12″). Evenly sprinkle the toasted almonds onto the batter and gently push into the batter**.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until evenly golden, turn the pan once about halfway.
  8. While still warm, move parchment onto a cutting board and cut into uneven shapes with a pizza cutter. Transfer parchment to a cooling rack and allow to cool. Cookies will firm up as they cool.
  9. Once cooled, store in an airtight container for about a week, but they won’t last that long!

Spread batter out thinly (about 30 x 30 cm or 12 x 12 inches)

Spread batter out thinly (about 30 x 30 cm or 12 x 12 inches)


tejas-dulces_3

I made another batch but spread the batter out much thinner. They probably could have baked a little longer to get a little richer colour, but the flavour and texture is spot on.

Notes:

  • *for additional flavour, brown the butter in a frying pan until hazelnut in colour.
    ** to insure that all of the almonds are ‘stuck’ to the batter, I did a little toss of the pan quickly and that way I was able to move ‘unstuck’ almonds to a better place.
  • Add a teaspoon of lemon zest because lemon and almond go so wonderfully together!
  • Drizzle melted chocolate over the cookies once they are cool, refrigerate until set then store in an airtight container for about a week, but be warned, these won’t even last as long as the originals!

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pomegranatesyrup_firstRecently, JT and I spent three wonderful weeks touring through London, Almeria, San José, Granada, Sevilla, Madrid and finally Paris. It was awesome. I will recount some wonderful meals and memories in future posts but I wanted to share a quick and easy recipe to make pomegranate syrup because my dear friend Sissi (With A Glass) recently posted a beautiful salad which included pomegranate seeds and the dressing was created with pomegranate molasses, a slightly sweet and sour syrup.

Sissi’s post went live around the time we had just spent the day in Granada, a large, historical city in the south of Spain. We did a wonderful walking tour of the city with Panchotours with Registered Tour Guide, Veronica and at one point she mentioned that the word Granada in Spanish means pomegranate! What a coincidence! The name is appropriate because the streets are lined with gorgeous pomegranate trees. Yes, you could just reach up and grab a fresh pomegranate, how cool is that? Sadly, they were not quite ripe enough, otherwise, you know I would have!

granada-pomegranate

ourtourguide

Our lovely tour guide, Veronica.

Several weeks prior to our departure, we purchased something and for some unknown reason were given a 473 mL bottle of Pom Pomegranate Cherry Juice for free. We don’t normally drink juice as it is far better to eat your fruit than drink it so it sat in the refrigerator until now! Making the syrup is so easy, I won’t even list it as a recipe. Simply pour the entire content of the bottle into a non-reactive pan and boil it on medium-high for about 30 -40 minutes or until it reduces to about 100 mL. I didn’t want an overly thick syrup (the viscosity is about the same as maple syrup) so you could boil it down even more — but be very careful, after a very short time, it can burn very easily! Allow to cool and pour into a sterilized bottle. Store in a cool, dark location.

pomegranate-syrup

It’s a thick, sweet and slightly sour syrup. that is delicious on chunks of Parmesan.

alhambra

The view of the Alhambra.

granadaview_new

Panoramic View of Granada.

Cheese and Onion Scones

CheeseOnionSconeFirst

I celebrated a birthday a few months ago. It wasn’t a particularly special birthday other than the many wonderful birthday wishes that my many social media friends bestowed. JT took me to my favourite French restaurant, Le Select Bistro where we are treated like VIPs since we dined there with our good friends and neighbours Tom & Iona (Tom is an architect and designed the interior of the restaurant). 

Several months back, my trusty old food processor’s plastic top broke. It didn’t entirely break, just the little, wee bit broke off that clicks into the special spot to allow the thing to be turned on. I get that it’s a safety feature so that you can’t turn it on without the top clicking in, but honestly, such a crappy little piece of plastic breaks off and my food processor is rendered useless?! Well, kind of useless, because I figured out that I can jam a chopstick into the spot and I had it working for a few additional months. It was all fine and dandy until I had to take it to a photo shoot and we were all jamming the chopstick into the top to get it to work, how embarrassing was that?!?!? So when my birthday rolled along, I decided I wanted a real, grown-up food processor and JT got me the Cuisinart 12-cup!

The 12-Cup version had a little 4-cup insert so you can make small amounts of stuff. The 12-Cup version has a little 4-cup insert so you can make small amounts of stuff.

It’s been brutally hot and humid in Toronto so even though I had a brand new food processor, I just couldn’t bring myself to make anything, particularly something that required the oven! I broke down and baked these delightful cheese and onion scones for a little dinner we had; fortunately, the oven was only on for 15 minutes including the pre-heat time and I had the hood fan on full blast, sucking out the hot air so it didn’t heat up the kitchen too badly. The food processor worked like a dream, I can’t wait to use the little 4-cup bowl insert.

Cheese and Onion Scones

Original recipe from Jean Paré’s Company’s Coming Muffins and More cookbook

Makes 12-16 5 cm (2 inch) scones)

Ingredients:

  • 240 g All Purpose Flour
  • 12 g granulated sugar
  • 16 g baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 150 g grated cheese (we used Gouda)
  • 57 g cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 egg
  • 50 mL milk (and extra milk for brushing tops)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 220° C (425° F).
  2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, shallot and cheese in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add cubed butter and pulse until crumbly.
  3. Combine, milk and egg and whisk until frothy. Pour into food processor while pulsing to combine well. Turn dough out to a lightly floured surface and knead once or twice. Roll out to about 2.5 cm (1 inch) thick and cut into 5 cm (2 inch) circles. Brush tops with milk.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly golden. Serve warm with butter.
CheeseOnionScone_2 Perfect for a light snack or with soup.

CrispyMacNCheeseWaffleBites_First

Occasionally, I click on a Facebook sponsored post, these waffle bites were one of them. But the photo was not for a recipe, it was just a photo and when I googled the bites the results were quite disturbing (like a train wreck of Mac ‘n Cheese, a total mess), nothing like the image that was sponsored on Facebook! So I put on my thinking cap and came up with this recipe. I basically mixed a serving of waffle batter with 1 serving of macaroni and cheese and sprinkled both top and bottom with more shredded cheese. These are bites so I did not fill the waffle pan, I wanted them small. You need to cook these slightly longer than a normal waffle because you want the cheese to crisp up, it’s the only way they will come away from the pan without leaving a cheesy mess.

CrispyMacNCheeseWaffleBites_4

Delicious Cheesy Morsels

Mac ‘n Cheese Waffle Bites

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 4 small waffles, cut into fourths, about 16 crackers

Ingredients:

  • 1 leftover serving* of your favourite Mac ‘n Cheese (any packaged or homemade will do).
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup of shredded good quality old cheddar (or any good melting cheese)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Directions:

  1. Make sure your leftover Mac ‘n Cheese is at room temperature (not cold out of the fridge)
  2. Combine egg and milk and beat well.
  3. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into egg mixture and beat until well combined and thick.
  4. Pour over leftover Mac ‘n Cheese and mix well.
  5. Preheat your waffle iron. Brush both sides generously with olive oil. Add a couple of tablespoons of shredded cheddar to the base, spoon in about 1/2 cup of the Mac ‘n Cheese waffle batter onto the centre and add a couple more tablespoons of the shredded cheddar on top and close the pan.
  6. Waffles need to cook a little longer than normal so that cheese crisps up.
  7. Waffles are cooked when the top of the waffle pan easily peels away from the waffle, although you may need a little nudge to release if cheese is sticking to the iron.
  8. Cut into quarters with a pizza cutter.
CrispyMacNCheeseWaffleBites_2

If you like crispy cheese, you will LOVE these.

Notes:

  • *A leftover serving is basically a 1/2 cup of uncooked noodles and cheese sauce.
  • To make more, simply multiply the waffle ingredients by the number of servings of Mac ‘n Cheese (for example, KD has 4 servings per box, so ingredients would be 4 eggs, 2 cups milk, 2 cups flour, 2 tsp baking powder etc…).
  • I, intentionally did not make these bites the full-size of the waffle pan, I wanted them irregular and smallish.
  • Waffle bites are crispy and not creamy, they are like a giant Mac ‘n Cheese chip.
  • Add chopped green onions for extra flavour.
  • Serve with salsa, a bruschetta topping or greek yogurt or sour cream for dipping.
CrispyMacNCheeseWaffleBites_3

A view of the lake.

I didn't cook the first one long enough and it literally split in half. Perfectly edible but not pretty!

I didn’t cook the first one long enough and it literally split in half. Perfectly edible but not pretty!

OatmealBreakfastCake_first

Many of you are shaking your heads right about now. Breakfast Cake? Has she gone completely mad? How can it be? A cake for breakfast? This is actually a recipe I tested some time back and I loved it so much, I’ve continued to make it on a regular basis, particularly for the cottage.

This one was baked at home on the BBQ because it was way too hot to be turning on the oven, even if it is for such a lovely breakfast cake. JT developed a wonderful contraption inside our Weber gas grill: he inverted a vegetable grill basket and set it in the centre, this allows the ‘cake’ to be lifted off the grill so that the I can keep the middle burner on low and the two outside burners on medium, maintaining the inside ‘oven’ an even 350° F! So next time you want to bake something and it’s too hot, try this nifty idea!

OatmealBreakfastCake

Would you care for some maple syrup with that?

Blueberry and Peach Oatmeal Breakfast Cake

Please click here for the original recipe. This recipe serves 8 or one 9″ x 9″ cake.

Ingredients:

  • 500 mL (2 cups) 2% milk
  • 250 mL (1 cup) egg whites
  • 250 mL (1 cup) applesauce*
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 270 g (3 cups) large flake oats
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1 peach, cubed evenly
  • A mix of strawberries, blueberries and raspberries
  • maple syrup

Directions:

  1. Combine wet ingredients and mix well. Add the cinnamon, salt and large flake oats and mix well. Allow to sit for several hours in the refrigerator or overnight (mixture will become very thick as oats absorb the liquid).
  2. Preheat the BBQ to 350° F.
  3. Add 1/2 cup blueberries and cubed peaches and mix well. Pour contents into a parchment lined pan and bake for about 50 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean from the centre. Serve warm with berries and maple syrup.

Oatmeal NutFacts

Serving size is based on 1/8 of the cake.

OatmealBreakfastCake2

Notes:

  • This recipe works particularly well with any type of fruit, so allow your imagination go wild!
  • I’ve also been known to serve this with whipped cream.
  • Kids may only want half a serving because it is very filling.
  • For truly Gluten Free, please choose oats that claim Gluten Free on the packaging as most oats are processed in non-gluten free factories and may be contaminated.
  • * the apple sauce was the leftover apple pulp from when I made this apple jelly.
  • This is not a sweet breakfast cake.
  • Replace milk with orange juice for another flavour.
  • Surprisingly, when I tested the original recipe, it also was very cake-like even though the picture on the original site shows more porridge than cake!
  • Nuts are also a wonderful addition but I wanted a nut free version due to an allergy.

Beghrir_First

These tasty treats resemble English crumpets in both flavour and texture. Please click here to see my attempt at making the English treats.

Six years ago, we visited Morocco  My how time flies. During our visit, JT and I took two cooking classes, one at our Riad and the other at a very famous restaurant, Maison MK with Chef, Omar El Ouahssoussi. Both lessons had us making popular Moroccan main courses which we have made several times since our return. All of the food in Morocco is exceptional, a wonderful contrast of savory and sweet, carefully paired. Even breakfast in Morocco was something special. Breakfast always had a bit of a continental leaning but with Moroccan specialties, like this pancake. I’ll never forget the first time I tried Beghrir, on the rooftop patio of our Riad. It came with a little pitcher of syrup that tasted like honey and melted butter, you drizzle this syrup on the little cakes and the holes soak up all of the wonderfulness. I was instantly delighted with the unique texture and flavour of these interesting yeast-based pancakes and loudly declared that I would make them as soon as we returned. Yes, that was SIX years ago. We’ve made most of the dishes we learned how to make in our cooking classes but I let this one fall off my list. Better late than never, eh?

Part of my hesitation to make this wonderful pancake was the prep and rest time, some recipes rest for one and half hours! I just didn’t have the time for that, so when I found My Moroccan Food blog’s Baghrir recipe, with only 30 minute resting time, I knew it was for me! As luck would have it, I only had about half of the required semolina in my pantry so I had to improvise. I also rather liked an ingredient I saw in the New Moroccan cookbook (please see notes below) so I altered the proportions of the original recipe to include almond flour. I am going to give this a try making it gluten free and hopefully, I won’t drag it out another six years.

Beghrir, THE Moroccan Pancake

Makes about 42 little pancakes about 5-6 cm (3-3.5″) diameter.  For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 120 gr of fine semolina
  • 120 g AP unbleached flour
  • 50 g almond flour
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp yeast
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 500 mL (2 cups) warm water
  • 2 tsp baking powder

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and blend well with a stick/immersion blender. Allow to stand in a warm place for 30 minutes.
  2. After 30 minutes you should see the yeast taking action. Give the batter another blending and prepare your pan by spraying well with non-stick spray.
  3. Preheat the pan (see notes below). Using a 4.5 cm (2.75″) ice cream scoop, scoop a scant helping of batter and pour from the centre out on the hot pan. The Beghrir will cook from the bottom up, you do not flip this pancake. Cook until the batter is no longer wet. Repeat until all of the batter is gone.
Beghrir_2

These tasty Moroccan breakfast cakes are very similar in texture and flavour to English Crumpets.

Beghrir_3

The honey butter syrup makes this breakfast a treat and extremely moreish.

Notes:

  • The pan must be very hot for the batter to bubble, but not hot enough that the batter burns before it cooks, it’s a bit of a balancing act.
  • I used a well-seasoned cast iron pan (the one I use to make crêpes) so I had to keep turning the heat down so the beghrir doesn’t burn.
  • Beghrir will stick together while hot, so cool them laying out in a single layer.
  • Beghrir freezes very well. I plan to repurpose them with a little cream cheese, smoked salmon and fresh dill during the holiday season, although JT really loved them with the syrup.
  • To reheat Beghrir, steam them for a few minutes. Steaming maintains the crumpet-like texture. (updated October 15, 2016)
  • The original recipe is a synthesis of Chef Mourad Lahlou’s 2011 cookbook, New Moroccan, (page 196) and this blog. I found Chef Mourad’s recipe a tad complicated for first thing in the morning so I simply borrowed the almond flour he adds, I figured it would add texture and flavour. Next time I may try his recipe for contrast.
  • Chef Mourad used a flat indented silver dollar pancake pan (like this one) but I did not have one and I do not think it is needed, the pancakes turn out beautifully round on their own.
  • The syrup is an equal combination of butter, honey and about half the volume of water, heat gently to melt butter and whisk to combine, serve warm.

  • Beghrir can be topped with anything, try some jam, or even maple syrup, but I’ll stick to the traditional honey and butter, it’s so good!
  • Beghrir can be spelled Baghrir or Beghrir, or so says the internet.

I can’t believe I didn’t post a pic of the new table yet! This is the newly improved table, havent decided to paint the legs yet!

Banana Bread

BananaBread_First

Summer has been very warm and humid in Toronto. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining because February comes all too quickly and the -25° C (-13° F) is still too fresh in my mind but I really don’t like to turn the oven on (particularly for a recipe that calls for one hour!) when it’s that hot outside (it makes the A/C work even harder). So I modified this recipe to be baked on the Barbie with ingredients I had on hand.

BananaBread_2

The top is swirled with cinnamon, but not too much to be overpowering.

Give this a light toasting to get even more flavour out of the loaf.

We’ve been spending a lot of time at the cottage this year, JT has some council meetings and we like to avoid the traditional weekend traffic so we go up Thursday and come back Tuesday or even go up Sunday and come back Friday. It’s been great, neither of us stresses about weekend traffic anymore! But having so much time at the cottage can be a bit boring, so I prefer to have projects lined up so I can amuse myself without spending a lot of time on the computer. I had been looking for a small cocktail table to set between two chairs in our living area but it had to be rustic and small and sadly I couldn’t find anything.

IMG_0028

A small table for two glasses between the chairs would be perfect.

I was inspired by rustic tables made of a cross section of a log with sticks as legs like this one:

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 3.32.43 PM

Inspiration table

But I was stuck on how to slice a log so that it’s perfectly even on both sides because we have limited tools. And then I found this log tea light at Winners (TJ Max) in the right diametre for a reasonable price and my little table was born.

Underside

Tea light spots will help anchor legs in place.

TableTop

Table top has just the right amount of petina.

JT and I sourced the legs in the forest, we had to make sure they were not too new or too old or had bugs in them (you know how I feel about that). I cut the legs to size in the city (I have a table saw) and then I assembled the table at the cottage while JT was at a meeting, just in time to receive our good friends for a weekend.

RusticTable_phase I

TabI hadn’t decided to paint the legs at this point.

Unfortunately, I turned around for a split second and my friend pulled the new table up to the movies on the shelf hoping to find something she hadn’t seen before and…yep…you guessed it…she thought it was a stool and sat on it! #notastool was the hashtag for the weekend. I ended up disassembling it and starting from scratch. Fortunately the table top was in tact so all I did was rebuild the legs.

BrokenTable

It’s an honest mistake.

When I perused the net for banana bread recipes, I noticed that many of them had a lot of sugar. A LOT! I was hoping for something less sweet so that it’s a bit healthier when I found Cookie and Kate’s recipe. I would have made it verbatim but then I realized that I was short of a few ingredients so I improvised. I liked the idea of whole wheat flour but I didn’t want 100% of it, so I divided the flour into 1:3/4 so the texture is a little smoother (plus I didn’t have white whole wheat flour on hand — what is that anyway?).  The bread is wonderful when it is lightly toasted and smothered with butter with a cup of tea. It will sooth away any bruises caused by using a table as a stool, that was not meant as a stool. #notastool.

BananaBread_3

Banana Bread

Original recipe, please click here. This recipe makes one generous 10 cm x 23 cm (4″x 9″) loaf

Ingredients:

  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) melted coconut oil
  • 60 mL (1/4 cup) honey
  • 60 mL (1/4 cup) milk
  • 60 mL (1/4 cup) water
  • 5 mL (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) roughly mashed ripe bananas (about 2 smallish bananas)
  • 60 mL (1/4 cup) dates
  • 128 g (1 cup) whole wheat flour
  • 94 g (3/4 cup) AP flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2.5 mL (½ teaspoon) ground cinnamon, plus more to swirl on top
  • 2.5 mL (½ teaspoon)salt
  • 70 g (½ cup) chopped almonds

Directions:

  1. Preheat the BBQ to 177 ° C (350° F) using only the front and back burners. Prepare a 10 cm x 23 cm (4″ x 9″) loaf pan by generously spraying with non-stick baking spray.
  2. In the large bowl of a food processor, add melted coconut oil, honey, milk, water, vanilla extract, eggs, bananas and dates and pulse until dates and bananas have been well incorporated into the liquid.
  3. Sift the flours, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Add all at once to the liquid and pulse a few times to incorporate. Stir in chopped almonds.
  4. Pour into prepared pan and set into a larger pan. Place pan into the centre of the BBQ so that the elements that are on are not below the loaf pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean (mine was perfect in 50 minutes).
BananaBread_4 It’s a dense bread that is perfect for breakfast or a small snack.

PeaKaffirLime_First

A few months ago, one of my Chef FB peeps posted about a product she received called Mycryo®. I was intrigued, I had never heard of such a product so off I went to research it. The product is powdered cocoa butter and their website touts that it seals in flavour with fewer calories than pan firing in oil! How exciting is that?! I immediately thought of a few applications that release fluids quickly making it difficult to sear: Scallops, mushrooms, potatoes, and the list goes on! I HAD to HAVE it! So off I went to their website to see where I might purchase this unique product, and to my delight, there were quite a few stores. I made the mistake of not calling ahead to see if they had it in stock and I shuffled off to several stores (sigh, you know how I hate going to specialty grocery stores!) to track it down but was sadly disappointed, although I did make some other purchases so my trips were not entirely useless. I returned home, with a sunken heart and proceeded to call and email around but, I was not able to find it. What to do? My desire for this product had not waned, so I tweeted the Canadian company and they immediately responded and the next thing I knew, they sent me a full-size sample! Isn’t that lovely?

Mycryo

I’ve been using Mycryo® in my everyday cooking (I even transferred some to a small bottle to take to the cottage), although I haven’t had a blog worthy recipe before this one, it works just as they claim. I’ve tried Mycryo® with mushrooms, scallops, shrimp, pork shoulder (for pulled pork) and pork tenderloin (roast), oven roasted potatoes and sweet potatoes. It doesn’t splatter as much as oil does and that makes me happy because I don’t need to clean up a mess! Although, I must tell you that I haven’t had as much success with potatoes or sweet potatoes, but that may be due to the fact that I only have a small convection oven at the cottage, where I tried it. This recipe, however, works out perfectly with this unique product, the shrimp did not release any liquid, making a wonderfully crisp coating, just like deep frying but without the excessive calories.

PeaKaffirLime3

That shrimp is either enormous or that’s a very small bowl 😉!

Chilled Pea Soup with Kaffir Lime Coconut Milk garnished with Toasted Coconut Shrimp

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1.25 L (5.5 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 25 g coconut milk powder (around 4 heaping tbsp)
  • 1 cup milk (I used 2%)
  • 1 cup water
  • 750 g frozen peas (about 1 lb)
  • 10 g dried Kaffir Lime Leaves (a good handful, use less if fresh)
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 10 g grated frozen ginger (about 1 tsp)
  • 2 cups vegetable stock or water
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • pinch of sea salt

Directions:

  1. Combine coconut milk powder with milk and water and blend with an immersion blender until well blended.
  2. Add the defrosted peas, dried kaffir lime leaves, cilantro, ginger and 2 cups vegetable stock (or water) to the coconut milk. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve and add the lime juice, blend again briefly (see notes below).
PeaKaffirLime2

The soup tastes like summer!

Serving Suggestion, per person:

Ingredients, per person:

  • 1 large shrimp, entirely peeled (I hate to have to fish the shrimp out with my fingers to pull off the tail)
  • 1/2 tbsp AP unbleached flour
  • 1/2 tbsp egg white with a pinch of sugar or honey, whisked
  • 1 tbsp toasted coconut
  • 1/2 tsp Mycryo®*

Directions:

  1. To toast the coconut, Toss with 1/2 tsp Mycryo® and toast lightly in a small frying pan set aside to cool,.
  2. Dredge the shrimp in the flour and coat well. Next coat the shrimp with the egg white mixture. Then back into the flour and dip back into the egg white mixture (see notes). Then lastly,  coat the shrimp well with the toasted coconut, set aside. Continue until you have all of the shrimp prepared.
  3. Preheat the oven to 190° C (375° F). Lay shrimp on their sides onto a baking sheet. Gently sprinkle Mycryo® on side one, then flip the shrimp and sprinkle on side two. Bake for 3-5 minutes or until entirely opaque.
  4. Pour the chilled soup into a soup bowl, gently add the shrimp so that it remains visible (I may have propped said shrimp on an inverted bowl in the soup, food styling trick for photography ONLY!). Serve immediately.

Notes:

  • Obviously, to be vegetarian and vegan, omit the shrimp!
  • Substitute 1 cup coconut milk plus 1 cup water for the coconut milk powder and milk. To reduce calories, reduce the proportion of coconut milk to 1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 cup milk and 1 cup water.
  • To get more out of your soup, blend the remaining pulp from the sieve a few times adding only a little water or vegetable stock, press through a fine sieve each time and add to the main soup. I usually do this 2 or 3 times and the pulp is reduced about 1/2 to 1/4 each time!
  • Pulp broth: do yourself a favour and boil some water (I did about 500 mL or 2 cups) and pour it over the pulp, allow to sit until cooled and then strain it through a fine sieve (like a metal coffee filter) and reserve the liquid for your next soup. It packs a bunch of flavour and now you have stock from something that would have been compost! Compost the remaining pulp.
  • Refrain from adding additional sweetness to the soup until you have tasted the final product, I feel the peas should be sweet enough.
  • Other garnish options are:
    • Whipped coconut milk with toasted coconut.
    • 1 or 2 grilled shrimp per serving (just dust the dry shrimp in Mycryo® on both sides and put on a hot grill)
    • Toast some coconut and chiffonade some mint, dress each bowl.
    • a dollop of crème fraîche with some toasted coconut.

Disclosure:

Eva Taylor/Kitcheninspirations received 550 g container of Mycryo® by Mycryo® Canada free of charge; this recipe was developed by Eva Taylor for Kitcheninspirations, and the opinions expressed in this post are that of Eva Taylor/Kitcheninspirations.

nutrition

Nutritional facts based on 250 mL soup with 1 shrimp, approximately 26 g.

WWnutrition

WW tables based on 250 mL soup with 1 shrimp, approximately 26 g.

UnfriedGarbonzoBeans_First

This recipe nothing new. You’ve seen it posted a million times on a million blogs (OK, maybe I exaggerate!). And I wasn’t going to post about it, but it turned out SO WELL so I kinda felt like I had to. I’ve made the oven roasted garbanzo beans (chickpeas) before and although they were pretty good, they didn’t have the crispy crunch that I had been lead to believe they would. Sure they were crisp on the exterior but the interior was rather pasty. These beans are crunchy through and through! In fact, if I hadn’t “unfried” them, I would not, could not, have believed that they were not deep fried. Yes, you read that correctly, my dear friend: they are UNFRIED.

Some time back, I cooked for a short testimonial-piece for the T-Fal ActiFry Express XL appliance (not published yet) where I had to cook twelve dishes in advance for an on-location motion shoot with a local celebrity. The great folks at T-fal gave me an ActiFry Express XL for the job. I started cooking at 5am so that food would look fresher than cooking it the night before and left just in the nick of time to get there (far end of town). We got the house at 12:30 and had to be out at 3:30! It was challenging, to say the least, particularly because the kitchen was the commercial set! I had to prep on the floor in the hall, and at one point, in the garage so that I could have access to an electrical outlet! That profession kitchen truck would have come in very handy!

JT and I are not big on fried foods, so this cool appliance is perfect for us and recently I needed a cocktail snack for the cottage and I wanted something healthy with protein and crispy garbanzo beans (chick peas) popped into my head. I thought the beans would be perfect for the ActiFry (see notes). So I purchased two 540 mL (19 oz) cans of low sodium chick peas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and dried them on a clean towel and popped them into the non-stick coated ActiFry. The result was magical, it did not dehydrate the beans (which sometimes makes them a bit leathery), it actually fried them in 1 tbsp oil! They are crunchy through and through! And the next best part? I didn’t have to turn on the oven because it was 30° C (86° F) outside and humid! And cleanup was a cinch (I vacuumed it and wiped it out with a soft cloth).

I know that this recipe will be a repeat for all parties from now on!

UnfriedGarbonzoBeanSnack

“Unfried” Garbonzo Beans (or chick peas)

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes ~250 g or 2 cups unfried garbanzo beans (chick peas)

Ingredients:

  • 540 mL (19 oz) cans of low sodium chick peas
  • 1 tbsp dehydrated onion powder (see notes)
  • 1 tbsp granulated garlic (see notes)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • dash of sesame oil

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the spices and salt and mix well.
  2. Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans (chick peas) and lay out on a clean towel to dry for 30 minutes).
  3. Add the dried beans to the ActiFry bowl and drizzle in the oils. Set the timer to 45 minutes and close the lid. Start, allow the paddle to rotate a full circle and open the lid and sprinkle about 1/3 of the spice blend onto the beans. Close the lid and allow the paddle to go around twice. Repeat until all of the spice blend is used up. Close the lid and wait for the magic to happen.
  4. Test the beans around 35 minutes and then about 5-minute increments. You want a crunch, much like the crunch you get when you eat potato chips. Keep it going until you achieve a great, crunchy bean.
  5. Pour the beans out onto a clean cookie sheet (with sides) and allow to cool. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge until needed (it was too humid to store in the pantry).

Notes:

  • I keep a container of Kirkland Signatur Chopped Onion and I combine it with Kirkland Signatur Granulated Garlic (not garlic powder) and blitz it in a coffee come spice grinder for this purpose (great on popcorn too!).
  • Be creative and come up with your own blend of spices, like garlic, ginger and sea salt.
  • I did not have time to use dried beans but feel free to soak, dry and ActiFry dried beans, I’m sure the result would be the same.
  • Although the ActiFry paddle moves around at a very slow pace, I find larger things get a bit beat up without the stationery tray but it’s perfect for these beans.

Disclosure:

Eva Taylor/Kitcheninspirations received T-fal ActiFry Express XL from Group SEB, Toronto; this recipe was developed by Eva Taylor for Kitcheninspirations, and the opinions expressed in this post are that of Eva Taylor/Kitcheninspirations.

CHilledAppleSoup_First

Recently, I assisted on a motion shoot (defined as a video/film shoot) on location at someone’s very lovely home. These shoots can be challenging particularly when the kitchen is part of the set that they are shooting. In the past, I’ve had to prepare everything in advance and simply plate on location (on the floor, no less) but this was a much bigger production and we were provided a specially designed portable, professional kitchen! This portable kitchen was such a luxury because we were off on our own (no one bugging us) with 2 ovens, 1 upright freezer, 2 refrigerators a bakers rack and lots of counter space! And best of all, we had Air Conditioning because with two full-sized ovens running at 218° C (425° F), it can get pretty toasty inside!

This is an example of a prep area that is less than perfect!

This is an example of a prep area that is less than perfect because the kitchen was part of the set!

The story of this professional kitchen is rather interesting. The creator noticed that Food Stylists were usually provided less than satisfactory circumstances even though the food they were preparing was the hero of the shoot, so this guy took it upon himself to purchase a cube truck and convert it to a professional kitchen, he has two now and is as busy as ever! To be honest, we cannot thank him enough, it is such a luxury (compared to prepping on portable burners in the garage or on the lawn!)

These shoots take many people to run smoothly, there are the usual suspects: director, camera people, prop stylists, food stylist and all the support staff! It’s a pretty amazing thing to be a part of. We even had our own on-site caterers (called Craft Truck) who provided delicious food throughout the day; for example, shortly after 7am, there was a BLT sandwich, then a granola berry parfait, then smoked salmon on toast smeared with cream cheese and capers (that one, I couldn’t resist, the rest of the snacks, I passed on), followed by a hot lunch of grilled salmon, grilled whole chicken legs, pork tenderloin, several salads, steamed veg, potatoes, rice and beans and a variety of desserts, then around 5pm, snack sandwiches were passed around. We were definitely well fed! Coffee, juice and water were available all day long.

KitchenTruck

This is the exterior of our mobile professional kitchen. Fortunately, we were parked at the end of the driveway so we only had a short run to the set.


KitchenTruck_2


Our portable kitchen is ready for action. Sebastion was setting up the kitchen, complete with stand alone freezer, 2 glass door refrigerators, 2 full-sized ovens, 2 sinks, a bakers’ rack and A/C!


KitchenTruck_3

There were 3 food stylists for this shoot (one lead and two assistants). We were non-stop from 7am until after 5 all day!

The food on site was plentiful and we were never hungry or in need but this chilled soup would have been a lovely addition considering how sweltering hot it was that day. Let’s just say I had a lovely glow on all day, if you know what I mean!!!

This is a refreshing, chilled soup served on a hot, muggy day in the city and it’s very easy to prepare.

Chilled Apple, Cucumber and Coconut Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 600 mL Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium shallot (about 30 g), finely chopped
  • 1 Granny Smith apple (about 175 g), cubed (reserve 1/4 for garnish, as pictured)
  • 2 stalks celery (about 60 g), roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 1 cup vegetable stock (I used pea broth*)
  • 1/3 English cucumber (about 65 g), roughly chopped.
  • 2 tbsp coconut milk powder (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Sauté chopped shallots until translucent. Add celery, apple and vegetable stock, cook until softened (about 10 minutes), . Remove from heat and add the cucumber.
  2. Using an immersion blender, blend several minutes until smooth.
  3. Chill for several hours or make a day or two in advance.
  4. Serve cold and garnish with very thinly sliced apples. For other garnishes, please see notes.
Apple Soup

A tasty and refreshing soup that is only lightly sweetened with apple flavour.

Notes:

  • The pea broth was the result of the liquid used to blanch freshly shelled peas and then I cooked the shells again, then strained the broth through a fine sieve.
  • I chose not to strain this soup through a fine sieve because after I blended it for several minutes, I didn’t mind the final texture (some apple skin and cucumber skin, you can see how minute they are in the photos).
  • The cucumber adds a piquant note, omit if you are adverse to such flavours.
  • The apple flavour is very subtle but adds a lovely sweetness and tartness to the soup. I did not add sugar, but if you like a sweeter soup, consider using a sweet apple (like Gala) or adding coconut sugar in addition to the coconut milk powder.
  • Consider garnishing with some crispy cooked bacon.
  • This soup would be elevated if you garnished it with one large scallop caramelised in butter and drizzle with the scallop butter.

Apple Jelly

AppleJelly_First

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. But I didn’t get lemons. I got apples. 907 g (2.2 lbs) to be exact!

I made JT an apple pie with two, and then made apply jelly with the remainder. I was at the cottage, so I had limited ingredients but apparently apples have a lot of natural pectin in the skin and core so I wasn’t worried. The trick is to cook the apples with skin, core and seeds until very soft and that coaxes the pectin out. I made a clear apple jelly, or as clear as one can get without using this nifty Mehu-Liisa.

Apple Jelly

Makes 236 mL (8 ounces)

Ingredients:

  • 900 g (2 lb) apples (I used Granny Smith and Gala), wash and cut into small cubes
  • 600 mL (20 fluid ounces) water
  • 300 g (1.5 cups) granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Add all of the ingredients to a non-reactive Dutch oven and stir well.
  2. On medium-high heat, bring to a boil, then simmer until apples are very soft.
  3. Strain through cheese cloth and then through a very fine sieve.
  4. Pour into a smaller pot and bring to a boil. Boil for about 20 minutes to at least 104° C (220° F) or when it begins to gel (test frequently on an ice-cold plate).
  5. Pour into sterilized mason jars (I used two 118 mL (4 ounce) jars and continue the canning process, or use immediately.
AppleJelly_2

I was surprised at how relatively clear the jelly was.

Notes:

  • Save the soft apples (not the core or seeds) and purée until entirely emulsified, push through a fine sieve for a delicious apple sauce. Freeze in a zip lock bag if not using right away. Makes about 125 mL (1/2 cup) applesauce.
AppleJellyCalories

Apple Jelly serving is based on 10 mL (2 tsp) serving size.

WW Points

CheeseBall_First

My parents entertained a lot, it’s probably where I get my love for entertaining (read, feeding) friends and family. Mom would make canapés (tiny little sandwiches) and often have a cheese plate for nibblies. Mom’s canapé repertoire was whatever we had on hand, sometimes leftover roast beef, hard boiled egg or even some pickled herring with a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of fresh dill.

Although this post is about a cheese ball, my dear Mom did not make cheese balls for entertaining purposes, they were for late night snacks*! Mom’s cheese mixtures usually consisted of whatever cheese was left over, grated and mixed together with butter (or margarine, in those days). Each cheese mixture was different because she never had the same proportions of cheese leftover.

I believe, I was the first to make an actual cheese ball in my family, the recipe was likely from a one of my beloved Recipes Only Magazines, a quarterly food magazine that premiered in April 1983. It was delivered free to 2,000,o00 Canadian homes in predetermined areas. The inaugural magazine touted “To celebrate the joys of Food and Cooking…Our goal at Recipes Only will be simply to bring you excellence; excellence of recipes based on the plentiful ingredients from Canadian stores and gardens; excellence of presentation based on the best photographs and illustrations our award-winning team…can design…” Well, they did their best considering the timeframe. Dark, moody photos with some but not many relevant props, not like the odd 70’s food photos with weird fabrics (or were they all shower curtains?) thrown in! I’m certain my first cheese ball came from one of the Recipe Only Magazines but I no longer have them all so I cannot be sure (makes for a good story, though).

RecipesOnly

Sadly, I have only saved up to and including Issue 7, November/December 1984,  I also saved Issue 11, from 1985 (which has the index for the first 10 issues) and for some bizarre reason, Issue 24 from October 1987 (by which time, they were charging $1.00 for them). I even saved labels from Bick’s Pickles to send away for a tidy binder to hold my cherished Recipes Only Magazines.

 

We’ve thoroughly enjoyed the more contemporary Potted Cheese at the beautiful Harbour House Hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake (we often go down during the Christmas Holidays) during a sampling of Local Vintages from 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm each day in the Library Lobby. My cheese ball is not nearly as highbrow as the Potted Cheese but it is very tasty. I would encourage you to create your own with your own blend of cheese, it’s a perfect accompaniment to cocktails on the dock on a lazy summer’s day.

CheeseBall_2

I served the cheese ball with home made toasted sourdough baguette, Mary’s Crackers, cucumbers and celery sticks.

A Tasty Cheese Ball

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 2 8-10 cm (3-4 inch) Cheese Ball

Ingredients:

  • 250 g Cream Cheese
  • 55 g Danish Blue Cheese
  • 50 g Gruyère Cheese
  • 1 green onion, finely chopped
  • 100 g of chopped, toasted nuts, cooled (I used 50 g each of pecans and cashews because it’s what I had on hand).

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients with the exception of the nuts, in the bowl of a food processor, process until smooth.
  2. Scrape out all of the cheese mixture and divide into two balls. Roll in the nuts to cover completely. Refrigerate or freeze until required.
  3. It’s best to allow the cheese ball to come to room temperature before serving.
CheeseBall_3

*Back in the 1970’s and early 80’s, we would often have a small snack of cheese, bread or popcorn while watching TV. We called it our “Late Night Snack”.

StrawberryBlueberryGalette

A  few weeks back, I assisted a fellow food stylist for a well-known retailer on their magazine’s Christmas edition. I had to track down two FRESH 10-12 lb turkeys in July! Can you imagine? Not many butchers carry fresh turkeys at the beginning of July but I was lucky because one in particular supplies many food stylists in Toronto and I was able to get the two 11 lb birds on short notice! Note to self, this butcher ROCKS! The quality is exceptional and when I asked for 10-12 lb turkeys, he gave me 11 lb not 14 lb like my butcher does!

OntarioStrawberries

Ontario Strawberries are generally small, sweet, little heart-shaped berries.

During this shoot, we made pies and while the pies we made were beautiful, the stylist mentioned she would make a galette for the crew using the leftover fruit, so galette stuck in my head. Fast forward to the Sunday, JT and I were driving up to the cottage (he had a councillor meeting first thing on Monday morning) and I was able to purchase fresh, Ontario Strawberries from a road-side farm vendor (I think the kids were selling them!), the strawberries were picked that very morning. Ontario strawberries are usually the small, heart-shaped berries that taste like strawberries, totally unlike the gargantuan berries we usually have all year round from California (sorry guys, but California must send us the most tasteless, most gigantic strawberries ever and keep all the good stuff for themselves!) I put this quick galette together using my brand new cottage immersion blender, with the mini food processor attachment. I adore the rustic look of a galette, perfect for the cottage!

StrawberryBlueberryGalette3

Ontario Strawberry and Blueberry Galette

The original recipe for the pastry is from Dori Greenspan’s beautiful book, Baking with Julia, but you can find the recipe on-line, here, here and here to name a few!

Makes 1 galette about 20 cm or 10 inches in diameter

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 tbsp ice-cold water
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp AP unbleached flour
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 egg yolk with a splash of water
  • 2 cups small strawberries
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 3 tbsp AP unbleached flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar, plus more for dusting the pastry

Directions:

  1. Combine flour, sugar, salt and butter in the bowl of a small food processor. Pulse quickly until the butter is totally incorporated and the dough resembles a coarse meal. Pour all of the water in at once and process again until the dough, more or less, comes together. Pour out the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and working quickly, press the dough into a single disk. Cover with the wrap and refrigerate 1 hour or in the freezer for 15 minutes, like I did.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 °F (176 °C) (I have convection (fan) at the cottage).
  3. Wash and dry strawberries and blueberries. Toss with the 3 tbsp flour and  2 tbsp sugar until well coated. Set into the refrigerator while you work on the pastry.
  4. Roll out the pastry dough into a 30 cm or 12 inch round. Pile the berries into the centre and fold up the edges, pinching to contain the excess pastry. Brush the pastry with the egg yolk (and a splash of water) and sprinkle with additional sugar (sanding sugar would have been great, but I was at the cottage so I didn’t have any).
  5. Bake on a piece of parchment for 20-30 minutes (I have a small convection oven, so it baked very quickly). Serve warm with basil ice yogurt (see notes below).

StrawberryBlueberryGalette2

StrawberryBlueberryGalette4

StrawberryBlueberryGalette5

Notes:

  • JT said that my fruit to pastry ratio was off, so I adjusted the above recipe and doubled the fruit.
  • Basil Ice Yogurt is simple to make: combine 1 cup Greek yogurt, 1/4 cup honey (or to taste), chiffonade of 8-10 basil leaves and mix well. Freeze for 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t freeze solid.
  • Basil and strawberries are a lovely combo.

WholeWheatFajitaShells_first

Happy Civic Holiday to my Ontario readers! It’s the second last long weekend of the summer! I can’t believe summer is almost over! I don’t even want to think of The Ex (Canadian National Exhibition). So let’s not!

How many times have you heard or experienced: Necessity is the Mother of Invention? Some of my best cooking experiences come from exactly that expression, either I’ve forgotten to purchase something or what I was counting on was no longer viable. Case in point: we were at the Upper Deck a couple of weeks back and I had intended on making Waldorf Tuna Wraps for our car lunch for the way home but the fajita shells were old and too dry to make a decent wrap that wouldn’t fall apart, so I decided to make some fajita shells from scratch! They worked out so well, JT proclaimed he liked them better because they had flavour and did not feel dry and crumbly when he bit into it, in fact, they reminded me of a very thin Naan because they are slightly chewy. My wraps held together perfectly. So one afternoon in the city, I decided to experiment and create a recipe that was blog worthy and this post was developed.

I had no idea making these fajita shells was so easy, 4 ingredients, mixed together and knead a little, rest a little (both the dough and the cook), roll out, cook on stove-top in a skillet and they are done! See? So damn simple. I doubt I’ll buy ready made fajita shells ever again. This recipe makes 7 wraps that are about 25 cm or 10 inches in diameter, if you make smaller ones you’ll get more of them! I was being lazy and didn’t want to have to wash a whole bunch of measuring tools so I simply put my bowl on my scale, tared it to zero and kept adding ingredients, each time, tarring to measure from zero. One bowl makes it even easier.

FajitaShells

Easy Whole Wheat Fajita Shells

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

This recipe makes 7 shells that are about 25 cm or 10 inches in diameter

Ingredients:

  • 275 g (scant 2 cups) AP unbleached white flour
  • 75 g (2/3 cup) whole wheat flour
  • 20 g (2 tbsp) EVOO
  • 5 g (3/4 tsp) sea salt
  • ~200-220 g (2/3-1 cup) water
  • non-stick cooking spray or a light vegetable oil

Directions:

  1. Measure all of the ingredients into the large bowl of your stand mixer. Insert dough hook and slowly knead the ingredients together until a smooth ball forms (I made this dough while it was rather humid so you may need to adjust the water). Set aside for 10 minutes and allow to rest.
  2. Divide the dough into 7 equal portions (about 83 g each). Dust your work surface with a little flour, and roll out each ball into a 25 cm or 10-inch circle. It’s best not to stack them because they will stick together.
  3. Heat to medium, a cast iron skillet that is at least 10 inches in diameter. Spray or oil the skillet lightly. Cook each fajita shell about 2 to 2.5 minutes each side or until slightly browned.
  4. Allow the shells to cool ever so slightly and bag them immediately with parchment separators in a zip-lock bag, use as needed. These will stay fresh for 4 days but they have no preservatives so if you are not using them right away, store parchment separated shells in the freezer. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight to use. If they have hardened, heat very gently prior to use to make them more supple.
  5. You won’t regret this.

Notes:

  • I cooked my fajitas on a well-seasoned cast iron crêpe pan, you may use a non-stick pan or a large skillet.
  • Purée spinach or basil with some water and use it instead of just plain water.
  • Use tomato juice instead of plain water.
  • Flavour with herbs or spices for a change.
  • I updated the ingredients with imperial volume measures August 3.
GreekWrap2

The shells have excellent texture, unlike that sticky white-bread quality the store-bought kind have. The Greek-Style chicken with goats cheese and black olives were absolutely delicious and they did not fall apart or get too soggy even after having been made in the morning for a later lunch.

FajitaShellsCalories

Based on 7 Servings but I would make them smaller next time.

FajitaShellsWW

Based on 7 servings. Make 10 servings out of this recipe to have more manageable points.

Gazpacho Revisited

Gazpacho_First

Recently, my long-time blogger friend Liz, of That Skinny Chick Can Bake posted a delightful Gazpacho recipe which made me immediately crave this summer sensation! Liz’s recipe took her back to her childhood when her dear Mom recreated the recipe on a summer car vacation to Aspen after having it at a favourite restaurant. My recipe isn’t quite as romantic, in fact, it has no history nor does it conjure up childhood memories because cold soup in a Hungarian household is Sour Cherry Soup, a delicious soup made from European Sour Cherries in a lightly sweetened syrup, yogurt and cinnamon — it is delicious but it does not come anywhere near the complex flavours a Gazpacho has. Each vegetable contributes a certain aspect and my proportions are intentional. Some gazpachos are onion heavy so I used a very small French shallot, and I didn’t use garlic this time, I wanted a mellow flavoured soup with depth. Liz chose tomato juice or V-8 which adds a lot of flavour, I went with plain ordinary vine-rippened tomatoes and water — you could use a veg stock instead. I like a smooth soup so I press it through a fine sieve several times, I find the tomato seeds and the red pepper skin adds a little too much texture, and I do blend for several minutes a few times to get as much out of the pulp as possible. I loved Liz’s crouton garnish, because it adds such texture and interest but we’re going light this week and omitted it. Thank you Liz, your inspiration was perfect timing as we’ve been having 35° C (95° F) with high humidity.

To see more chilled soups that I created in the past, please click below:

Gazpacho

A full flavoured soup, perfect for hot and muggy summer days.

Gazpacho

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1.5 L strained soup (about 4 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 300 g Red Pepper (Capsicum)
  • 125 g celery
  • 140 g zucchini
  • 100 g radish
  • 120 g cucumber
  • 15 g shallot
  • 25 g avocado
  • 430 g vine ripened tomatoes
  • 500 mL water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • mint
  • basil
  • parsley

Corn Salsa

  • 40 g sweet corn
  • 40 g cucumber, finely cubed
  • 40 g celery, finely cubed
  • 5 g cilantro, chiffonade
  • zest of one fresh lime
  • splash of lime juice
  • sea salt

Directions:

  1. Chop everything roughly and add to a large 4 L bowl. Blend with a stick blender (immersion blender) until smooth.
  2. Press through a fine sieve and blend the remaining pulp with about 500 mL of the strained soup, press through a fine sieve again. I usually repeat twice to get the most out of the pulp. Discard pulp (or compost) and refrigerate strained soup for a couple of hours.
  3. Combine sweet corn, cucumber, cilantro, lime juice and salt, stir well. Top each bowl with 1 tbsp of the salsa just prior to serving.

Note:

  • I used about 2 large mint leaves, 20 basil leaves and 4 parsley sprigs.
  • Avocado would be an excellent addition to the salsa garnish.

GazpachoWW

Based on 4 servings without the garnish.

GazpachoCalories

Based on 4 servings without the garnish.

AdultGrilledCheese_First

Cooking at the cottage means simple recipes using fresh ingredients. I don’t want to be in the kitchen any longer than I have to. Don’t get me wrong, I adore cooking but I also adore this view:

CottageView

This is the view looking out into the lake from our little bay.

Several years ago, our dear friend Barb (Profiteroles and Pony Tails) and her then beau (now hubby) came up to our cottage, The Upper Deck. We traded off days for cooking and for one lunch Barb made this excellent grilled cheese sandwich (Toastie)! We’re not talking about a processed cheese slice slapped between two slices of Mungie-cake white bread. No, this is a serious blend of cheeses with a splash of whiskey or cognac and some delicious green onion thrown in for good measure. Believe me, when I say: once you have this grilled cheese, you will NEVER want any other.

I posted this recipe originally in March 2009 and it was a bit of a sore spot because a named magazine asked to use my photo in a grilled cheese story but since I was relatively new to blogging, I wasn’t paying attention to the comments, so I missed out! Sigh. The flavour of the whiskey or cognac is essential, the cheese blend is entirely up to you, but I suggest hard cheese and not soft like goats cheese.

Adult Grilled Cheese

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 125-150 g shredded cheese, in total
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 slices sourdough bread, use this recipe
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp cognac or whiskey

Directions:

  1. Combine shredded cheeses, green onion and cognac and mix well.
  2. Butter one side of each bread, lay one slice buttered side down and top with the cheese mixture. Lay the other side of the bread on top, buttered side up.
  3. Heat a grill pan and place sandwich on top, lay a weight over it (I used 3 cast iron pans but I put a piece of parchment on top of the sandwich first).
  4. Grill until cheese has melted. Cut sandwich in half and serve with celery sticks and homemade salsa.

Notes:

  • For this sandwich, we used Applewood Smoked Cheddar, Extra Old Cheddar and Mozzarella.
  • We have also used Mozzarella, Gruyère and white Cheddar, the combinations are endless. It is nice to use a stringy cheese for this type of sandwich.
  • You could also put additional cheese on the exterior (omit butter) and instead of grill, lay a piece of parchment down in a cast iron frying pan and cook, repeat for other side. See instructions from my dear friend Lorraine, here.

Sourdough_First

After the huge job I recently had, I needed a little R&R so we retreated to our cottage (cabin/lake house) for a couple of days up north. It was nice to be there because it was during the week and the lake was pretty deserted. Mother nature could have cooperated a bit more as we had some pretty chilly weather at the beginning but at least there was sunshine. And what better way to heat things up than baking some homemade sourdough bread? I am using the offspring of Celia’s Priscilla (of Fig, Jam and Lime Cordial), we call him SoB (Son of Bob). Please recall that poor old Bob had an early demise as he was unfortunately baked as I was trying to dry him out (someone, who shall remain unnamed, but lives in the same house that I do turned the oven on). Celia read of the unfortunate incident on my blog and kindly sent me another dried starter. Thank you, Celia!. SoB has developed a gorgeous texture and aroma that made this bread absolutely wonderful. I chose a no knead recipe because I don’t have a stand mixer at the cottage and I’m lazy.

CottageSourdough1

No Knead Sourdough Bread

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1 boule about 20 cm (8 inches) in diameter

Ingredients:

  • 100 g sourdough starter, fed (I usually feed it 30 g water and 30 g flour)
  • 200 g water
  • 8 g quick rising yeast
  • 4 g sugar
  • 300 g AP flour (unbleached)
  • 6 g salt
  • Olive oil to coat

Directions:

  1. Combine water, sugar and yeast and allow to proof for about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the sourdough starter to a medium sized bowl, add the yeast mixture and stir until well combined. Add the flour in batches and stir until the result is a slightly shaggy dough. Drizzle a little olive oil into the bowl and coat the dough thoroughly. Set aside in a warm area to rise until double in size (about 2 hours).
  3. Preheat oven and cast iron Dutch pot with lid (mine is about 20 cm or 8″ in diameter) to 400° F (200° C).
  4. Tip dough out onto a lightly floured surface and using a flat spatula, fold sides over a few times. Cover with a clean dry cloth and allow to rest for 30 minutes. I’m experimenting with some creative cuts into the boule, but it was far too shaggy to work properly.
  5. Tip the rested dough into the preheated pot and cover, bake for 30 minutes and then remove the lid and continue to bake for an additional 10 minutes or until golden brown.
  6. Allow to cool for about 30 minutes and then dig in!

CottageSourDough

CottageBoatRide We went for a little boat ride picnic. There was a loon family just by the shore and we did not want to disturb them.
AdultGrilledCheese copy I made the most delicious adult grilled cheese panini for lunch at the cottage (recipe to come).
AvocadoTomatoCucumberCheese I also made an avocado, tomato, cucumber and swiss cheeese sandwich for the drive home because food on the road just sucks.

ChoppedLogoLast summer I received a most welcome email from my dear blogger friend, Lorraine Elliot of the famed Not Quite Nigella blog. She was coming to Canada as a guest of the Canadian Tourism Commission and Tourism Yukon and she wondered would I be available to meet if she could arrange a slight diversion to Toronto! I was absolutely thrilled! Of course, I wrote back, who wouldn’t want to meet with one of their blogger heroes? I kept having to pinch myself! No, really!

I suspect that there were many arrangements to make/and subsequently change with the Canadian Tourism Commission so that Lorraine could be in TO for a couple of days. They booked her solid so it was a bit whirl-wind, but Lorraine made sure we had at least a half a day and it was awesome! (You can read about Lorraine’s Toronto experience here, here, here, here, and here). I had asked Lorraine to email me her Toronto schedule so that I could a) make the most of her time, and b) choose something to do that wasn’t on the Tourism Commission’s itinerary. I wanted to show her something unique.

Lorraine_Eva

I’m not too good at taking selfies.

I am very fortunate to know or be acquainted personally with many culinary giants in Toronto, mostly through my past life as a Client Service Rep for a design firm that specializes in Food Packaging, but some because of my current vocation, so I got out my address book. I called Claudia Bianchi, a very close friend of a friend, and an accomplished chef, food stylist and producer of several Food Network Canada shows. I knew Claudia was in the midst of the taping of Season 3 of Chopped Canada and I wondered if there might be an opportunity for us to visit the set and even stay a bit to check out the taping. Claudia very generously put me in touch with Cary Mignault, the PR guy for Chopped Canada, Season 3. It was such an amazing experience, Cary was open and more than happy to make the set visit happen. And such perfect timing too, because as it turned out, the day we visited the set was the LAST DAY of taping the show! Can you believe our fortuitousness? Had Lorraine made arrangements for the day after, it simply could not have happened and I would have been up the creek without a paddle!

I picked Lorraine up at the hotel at 7:30 am and we drove across town to Leslieville where they were taping Chopped Canada, Season 3. As soon as she stepped into the car, we talked and talked and talked, it was as if we were long lost friends! I can attest that Lorraine is as lovely, kind and sweet in person as she is on Social Media. Cary met us in the parking lot and we entered the building. To say this is a huge production is an understatement, there is even an enormous refrigerator/prep room filled with full-size refrigerators! And the set is outstanding, sparkly and new, filled with the latest gadgets and appliances, it is a cook’s dream!

FridgeRoom

The Fridge and Prep room

Fridge_PrepRoom

The off set Prep area.

Claudia met us on set and took us for a little tour, this little slide show includes some of the photos sent to me by Cary. Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to chat with Claudia about the show, so here are some insights:

There are a total of ten judges who participate on the show, but there are only 3 seats actually on the show, the judges alternate depending on availability (read about the judges here). The judges are not just there to assess and evaluate the participants but their interaction also provide mentorship to each culinary participant. I enquired how the secret basket of ingredients are determined and Claudia said that she gets her inspiration from many places…it could be a trip to the market, a weekend at their cottage or perhaps her husband’s restaurant (Actinolite) or even some of the judges! And the ingredients need not be Canadian! I asked what ingredient was sourced from the furthest place, sadly she could not mention it as the show had not aired! As you can see from the slide show below, the on stage pantry is exceptionally stocked (here is a link to some great pantry photos (BTW, my friend the designer Kim Sewell, designed most of the labels because they were not permitted to have branded product on set!)).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

CoconutCauliFriedRice
A Chicken Mole Enchilada is not a low calorie dish, it’s about balance so I decided that I wanted a lighter side, hence the Coconut Cauliflower “Fried Rice”. It’s really easy to prepare and goes well with Mexican and Thai dishes. The coconut flour absorbs moisture and helps the cauliflower “fry” instead of steam.

Coconut Cauliflower “Fried Rice”

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 1 L or 8 cups coconut cauliflower “fried rice”

Ingredients:

  • 2 heads cauliflower, washed and chopped roughly
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp EVOO

Directions:

  1. Add cauliflower to the bowl of your food processor (blender or emersion blender will not work), plus a few times until cauliflower resembles rice. Add the coconut flour and pulse to combine.
  2. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat the EVOO in a large Dutch oven, add the cauliflower rice in batches (we don’t want to steam it, just heat it and give it a rough fry, like fried rice). Continue until all of the “rice” has been fried. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Notes:

  • Coconut flour absorbs moisture so the coconut cauliflower rice actually retains a similar texture to rice.
  • Coconut flavour may not work with all dishes but it was absolutely wonderful with the Chicken Mole Enchiladas.
  • You may also add some spices to this dish, like cumin or coriander but the mole was flavourful enough, I did not want to confuse the palette.

 

CoconutCauliflowerRice NutFacts

Based on 15 servings.

CauliflowerCoconutRice

 

My Father in Law passed recently. He made his 92nd birthday two-weeks earlier. It was very sad to lose him but to be honest, the last few years have not been kind to him, he simply existed, partly by choice and partly by nature (use it or lose it). That’s all of our parents now and I must tell you that it feels weird being an orphan at my age, both JT and I were very close to each other’s parents. Since Dad lived in Toronto, we made arrangements close to home and our home was the hub, which proved to be a lovely distraction. Our dearest friends Paul and T drove up from Wisconsin to help us and console us. Paul had known JT’s Dad through business so there was a strong connection with him. My newly married nephew and his bride also stayed with us because they live about two and half hours from the city. The house was alive with action! My FIL would have LOVED it!

Everyone came to the city to be at his bedside—I know he would have loved that too, although he didn’t love attention, he loved the buzz of activity. He passed very peacefully during the early hours of the morning of May 28, he didn’t suffer long. That evening, everyone gathered at our home and we had a wonderful family dinner telling stories and being there for each other. We ate rotisserie chicken, a variety of store bought salads and some homemade cookies I had in the freezer (I didn’t have time to throw anything together). We had the visitation on June 2 and the service on the 3rd. At 12pm on the 2nd, I discovered that everyone was coming for dinner just prior to the service the very next day so I sprung into action and made a huge batch of chicken mole out of the leftover rotisserie chicken. Fortunately, I had tried this recipe before and got the thumbs up from JT, so it was an easy decision to make it again.

ChickenMole_2 We had a couple of leftovers that JT and I had for dinner later that week.

The mole sauce can be made in a slow cooker but I did it stove-top this time—I found it therapeutic to be involved in the dish, chopping, stirring and cooking. Like any saucy dish, this definitely tastes better the next day. The rotisserie chicken is an easy addition to the mole, just shred it and stir it into the cooled mole sauce, fill the corn tortillas, refrigerate overnight so the flavours can meld. It was a huge success! Everyone loved it.

JT usually orders a mole when we dine at a Mexican restaurant and I’ve always wanted to try my hand at it. Although there are many recipes handed down generations that take two to three days to make, this one can be made in about an hour. It developes the depth of flavour as it sits overnight. I would not rush it, make it a day or two ahead.

Bucket List

Chicken Mole Enchiladas

Makes 24 Enchiladas (15 cm or 6 inch corn tortillas)

For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 750 mL (3 cups) sodium-free chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
  • 500 mL (2 cups) freshly squeezed orange juice (about 3 good sized oranges)
  • 30 mL (2 tbsp) EVOO
  • 570 g (1 1/4 lb) sweet onions, sliced
  • 55 g (about 1/2 cup) sliced almonds
  • 6 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 8 g (4 tsp) cumin seeds
  • 8 g (4 tsp) coriander seeds
  • 4 g dried pasilla chiles, stemmed, seeded, torn into 1-inch pieces, rinsed*
  • 4 g dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded, torn into 1-inch pieces, rinsed*
  • 40 g (about 1/4 cup) raisins
  • 4 8 cm x 1 cm (1/2-inch) strips orange peel (orange part only)
  • 1.5 g (1 1/2 tsp) dried oregano
  • 45 g semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 4 g ground cinnamon (omit if using Mexican chocolate)
  • Chopped fresh cilantro or green onions
  • 24 corn tortillas
  • 1 rotisserie chicken (or 3 left over), shredded (replace with firm tofu or beans if vegetarian)
  • 200 g (2 cups) Queso de Oaxaca or Mozzarella Cheese, grated
  • Crème fraîche, sour cream or yogurt as garnish
  • Sriracha sauce/or chipotle mayo as garnish

Directions:

  1. Heat the EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) a large Dutch oven, add the sliced onions and sweat them out.
  2. Add the almonds and toast slightly. Add the garlic and cook until they release aroma, then add the cumin, coriander, two types of chilies (*replace with 15 mL (1 tbsp) smoked paprika if you prefer less spicy food) and cook until you can smell the spices.
  3. Add the raisins, orange peel, oregano, chicken stock and orange juice. Mix well. Simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. If using the dry chilis, remove them and discard.
  4. Add the chocolate and cinnamon (or Mexican chocolate) and stir until chocolate has completely melted. Using an emersion blender, blitz the sauce until very smooth. Cool completely. Set aside 2 cups of sauce. Stir in the cold shredded rotisserie chicken.
  5. Fill each corn tortilla with some chicken mole and a little cheese, tuck the rolls into an oven proof pan with the rolled end secured. Repeat until there is no more mole. Pour reserved sauce over the enchiladas, sprinkle with grated cheese. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.
  6. 1 hour prior to sitting down to eat, preheat oven to 350° F (177° C). Bake enchiladas for 30-40 minutes or until totally heated through (inside temperature should be around 150° F (66° C) and cheese should be melted and bubbling.
  7. To serve, drizzle with Crème fraîche, sour cream or yogurt and Sriracha sauce or chipotle mayo. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and/or green onions. Serve over Coconut Cauliflower Rice (recipe to come).
ChickenMole_3 We had these at the cottage a week or so ago. I added a little guacamole for fun. I don’t have many food style tools at the cottage so the garnish is quite rough.

Notes:

  • The enchiladas freeze well. You may wish to slip a piece of parchment between each enchiladas so you can easily separate them.
  • *If you are concerned about the dish being too spicy, omit the dried chilis and replace them with 15 mL (1 tbsp) smoked paprika.

ChocScoreMacarons_First

I had the good fortune to be called to work a continuous 9-day job recently. It was a crazy schedule that had us styling and shooting 10-20 shots per day; I was first assistant and we even had a second assistant to help with cleanup and be our runner (running things to set when needed).  Even when everything goes right, it’s a crazy ambitious schedule and at the end of each day, I was so beat, I could barely talk — most days were 11 hours but the last day went 13! I even got to style some of my own work as we had two sets going on a couple of days. We did get one day reprieve in the middle of the hectic schedule and being the crazy woman that I am, I made Chocolate-Skor* Macarons for the team!

To be honest, this flavour combo came by, by error; I had made a batch for our anniversary party and the tops cracked (I beat the egg whites too long), so to hide my error, I coated the cracks with melted chocolate and skor* bits! No one was the wiser and they were by far, the most talked about during the party!

The team LOVED them, so I thought I’d record the recipe for posterity! I’ll be making them again for sure!

Macarons These are the one’s I served at the party, the bottom tray macarons are the cracked ones I hid with chocolate and skor* bits!

Bucket List

Chocolate-Skor* Macarons

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 18-22 macarons (depending on how large your cookies are)

Ingredients:

  • 70 g blanched almond meal or flour (finely ground)
  • 116 g icing sugar
  • 2 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 50 g granulated sugar
  • 15 g cocoa powder

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350° F (177° C). Prepare your macaron template using your computer to draw 2.5 cm or 1″ circles about 2.5 cm or 1″ apart. Print two sheets. Put the two sheets under your UNSTICK™ baking sheet liner to use as your circle templates.
    MacaronTemplate
  2. Add finely ground almonds, cocoa powder and icing sugar into a food processor and pulse a few times to completely combine.
  3. Press the almond/sugar/cocoa mixture through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the larger bits. You should have no more than 2 tbsps left (discard or save larger almond bits for something else).
  4. In the bowl of your stand mixer, whisk egg whites and granulated sugar by hand to combine. Beat until you have very stiff and glossy peaks when you lift the whisk out of the bowl. DO NOT OVER WHIP or you will get cracked tops.
  5. Add the almond/sugar/cocoa mixture ALL at ONCE to the stiffly beaten egg whites and fold with a silicone spatula starting from 12 o’clock all the way back to 12 o’clock in a clockwise motion, then drag the spatula directly down the middle, pressing firmly against the bowl. Repeat this process until all of the almond/sugar/cocoa mixture has been incorporated and the ‘batter’ flows like lava (I counted about 35 complete strokes). Too few folds will result in cracked tops and too many folds will not permit the feet to form while baking.
  6. Prepare a pastry bag fitted with a 1 cm or 3/8″ round tip. Transfer the batter to the pastry bag.
  7. Begin piping the batter onto the prepared UNSTICK™ baking sheet liner directly over the circles you’ve previously prepared. I found starting directly in the middle and piping a quantity of batter until it reaches the circle edge and lifting the pastry bag up and giving it a little twist to release from the pan, is the best way to do it. However you do the piping, you must be consistent to keep the batter size even. Gently slide out the template paper from beneath the UNSTICK™ baking sheet liner.
  8. Allow the pan to rest for 5 minutes, by doing this you give the peaks time to even out so your Macarons are beautiful and flat on top. Some suggest that you gently bang the pan a few time to remove air bubbles, I found I didn’t have many bubbles.
  9. Bake each sheet separately for 11-13 minutes, rotating halfway through if your oven doesn’t bake evenly. Gently slide the non-stick liner off the baking sheet and allow to cool for a couple of minutes. The UNSTICK™ baking sheet liner allows you to  pry off each macaron half easily onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. You may freeze the Macaron halves at this point in a well sealed, air-tight container.
  10. Prepare your buttercream, I loved this recipe from Lorraine Elliot of Not Quite Nigella Blog but I did find that I did not need the entire 75 mL of water, I used only about 35 mL.

Chocolate-Score topping

Ingredients:

  • About 65 g Belgian chocolate
  • About 1/3 cup skor* bits

Directions:

  1. Melt Belgian chocolate in a double boiler until smooth and shiny.

Macaron Assembly:

  1. I prefer to work with at least 1-day old macarons which have sat in the fridge or freezer in an airtight container.
  2. Pipe buttercream onto 1/2 of the macaron cookies. Complete the macaron by choosing a similar-sized bottom and press gently onto the buttercream.
  3. Smear a bit of melted chocolate over the top and bottom of each macaron and dip into the skor* bits.
  4. Place macarons in an airtight container and refrigerate overnight. This is an important step to allow the macaron to develop the correct texture.

Notes:

  • I would not recommend freezing macarons which have already been filled with buttercream.
  • Freeze fully cooled macaron ‘cookies’ in an airtight container, they will last about 1 month (after then they dry out too much).
Macaron_1 They were so good!
This batch the tops did not crack, but I wanted the chocolate-score topping anyway! The tops did not crack with this batch, but I wanted the chocolate-skor* topping anyway!

*Skor was corrected from Score!

In My Kitchen

It’s been a wild and crazy couple of weeks. Some of you who are friends on Facebook have seen a little of what’s been going on at Kitchen Inspirations but for those who are not, here is a quick recap and a timely post for the In My Kitchen series.

JT and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. My, how time flies. (BTW,I was a child bride). We had about 50 people to our home and as luck would have it, it was rainy and cold all day, just like our wedding day so our garden party moved indoors. My cousin Lucy was a godsend as she helped fill glasses, replenish trays and clear out dirty dishes. I felt like a guest at my own party. Here are a few pics.

Macarons

I baked 146 macarons, some for the party and some for gift bags. The best ones were on the bottom t, they were coffee shells with coffee buttercream with chocolate dipped tops and bottoms with score bits (truth be told, the tops cracked so instead of tossing them, I dipped them in chocolate and score bits! BEST ONES EVER!)

Gifts

We packaged 2 macarons to go for each couple.

EvaJohnAnnivParty

I hacked an H&M dress by cutting off the sleeves and I added very expensive French lace to make a GOGO dress with bells sleeves! I also changed the neckline.

Desserts

There were more tasty desserts.

Thefood1

The food was cold and self-serve. I made pretzel buns

TheFood2

There was a lot of cheese too.

TheFood3

We had some fruit and veggies too.

We hardly had a crumb left, I felt like I didn’t have enough but JT thinks that it was just right. Do you generally feel better if you have too much food or just enough?

Last week, I was fortunate to have been recommended by a fellow food stylist for a television segment on our local City Line on City TV, a daily lifestyle talk show. I was cooking for Food Network, celebrity chef David Rocco. Because the segment was only 5 minutes long, I had to prepare the dish at various stages to allow the magic of TV to finish the dish in record time. Lifestyle talk shows are an interesting beast, so much prep for such short segments and what is even more surprising is the lack of space available for preparations on site. Fortunately, I had already done a segment on the Global Morning show so I was familiar with the limitations and extras that have to be done to make it a success, case in point, I had to bring props! That meant, shopping for props AND groceries. The recipe called for a cup of shelled sweets peas so I called on a group of friends and we sat and shelled peas the afternoon before. My call time was 9:15, I decided to get up early and make the dishes in the morning before I left so that they would be as fresh as possible. I made two batches of pasta, half cooked pancetta, fully cooked pancetta, chopped some shrimp and cooked some shrimp. I assembled the dish on set after the platter was chosen and garnished it close to shoot time. Even so, I still had to oil a few places as the lights dried it out. See the segment here.

DavidRoccoEva

Chef David Rocco and me. He was absolutely delightful.

CityLineSet2

Just prior to wheeling the kitchen on set, I still needed to ‘sauce’ the dish up a bit.

CityLineset1

The props, some I bought specifically for the show and some are mine from home or the cottage!

CityLine2

The go live to tape in front of a live studio audience. The host is Tracy Moore

CityLine

Tracy reviewing her lines before taping.

The marketing company that I work with from time to time recently moved into their new exciting office space and they invited me down for a look. I decided to bring them a baked treat (because that is how I roll) and created this new chewy chocolate peanut butter brownie recipe! I was inspired by your generous reaction to the Chocolate Peanut Butter Bark with Gold Sea Salt that I created, thank you. This is not an overly sweet brownie but it is richly flavoured with chocolate with the classic peanut butter combo. I used natural, chunky PB that isn’t sugared or salted, but feel free to use your traditional grocery store PB and omit the additional sugar and salt that I add in the later part of this recipe. The recipe is loosely based on my Go-To brownie recipe that my dear Mom cut out of the Toronto Star about 20 years ago (click here and here).

Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies 

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 25 brownies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 5 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 45 g (1 1/2 oz) semi-sweet dark chocolate chips
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup natural, chunky peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Sift flour, icing sugar, cocoa powder and baking powder.
  2. Melt butter  with chocolate chips, add vanilla and water and stir well.
  3. Beat in the egg whites (if the liquid is still hot, temper them so you don’t get scrambled eggs!)
  4. Add dry ingredients and stir well.
  5. Pour into a prepared 9″ x 9″ pan and line the pan with parchment paper, then spray with non-stick baking spray. Bake for 25-40 minutes until firm and cake tester comes out clean.
  6. Option to frost with a butter icing, but not necessary as this brownie is very moist and flavourful.

I’ve been thinking about zucchini noodles a lot lately. Both JT and I love them because they maintain a similar texture to traditional flour noodles, yet they are considerably lower in carbohydrates and that, my friends is something I am always on the lookout for! I’ve created this recipe lower in calories than traditional lasagna and it’s absolutely delicious if I do say so myself. I won’t kid you, it does take some planning and some playing in the kitchen but as far as I know, you guys are excellent at both so I urge you to give it a try. Double or triple the recipe and make a large casserole-size version, freeze for a few hours and cut into single serves and bag individually and presto, you have instant lunch or a quick casual dinner. I know I will try the vegetarian version over the summer because I am always on the lookout for interesting vegetarian recipes for our vegetarian friends when they come up to the cottage.

ZucchiniLasagna

Allow this dish to sit for about 15 minutes so that the excess liquid can be reabsorbed. It would be much too hot to eat anyway!

ZucchiniLasagna_plated

Like most things, this is much tastier the second day, if you have any leftovers, that is!

Zucchini Lasagna (Gluten Free and Easy to Convert to Vegetarian or Vegan!)

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1 cast iron enamel terrine 30 cm long x 11 cm wide x 8 cm high, 6 servings.

Ingredients for noodles and cheese:

  • 2 zucchini, sliced to about 3 mm (1/8″) (leave the ends, first and last slice and any leftovers for your compost broth)
  • 2 roasted red peppers, seeded and peeled, cut into 1 cm (1/2″ slices) (see notes)
  • 180 g (1 cup) mozzarella cheese (omit for vegan)
  • 300 mL ‘Béchamel’ (recipe below)
  • 500 mL (2 cups) Meat Sauce (recipe below, for vegan see notes below)

Ingredients for the ‘Béchamel’:

Makes 300 mL or 1 1/3 cups ‘béchamel’

  • 90 g (a heaping 1/3 cup) red lentils
  • 250 mL (1 cup) vegetable stock or water, plus a bit more to loosen the cooled sauce
  • 50 g (1/2 cup or so) gruyère cheese, shredded (omit for vegan, see notes below)
  • 250 mL (1 cup) milk, plus a little to loosen if required (vegan use vegetable stock or rice milk, see notes below)
  • Pinch of smoked paprika
  • Pinch of sea salt (to taste)

Directions for the Béchamel:

  1. Cook the lentils in water or stock until very soft. Remove from heat and purée until smooth. Add the liquid of choice slowly as you purée until it is extremely smooth and creamy. If you’re making this vegan, stir in the smoked paprika and salt, set aside.
  2. Return to low heat and stir in the cheese all at once and whisk until melted, smooth and thickened (about 2-5 minutes, don’t worry, this WILL thicken as it cools). Remove from heat and stir in the smoked paprika and salt. If the sauce has become grainy (as lentils sometimes do), just blitz it again with the immersion blender. Set aside.

Ingredients for the ‘Meat’ Sauce:

Makes 500 mL (2 cups) Sauce

  • 5 mL (1 tsp) olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
  • 15 g (about 3 cloves) garlic, finely minced
  • 300 g of lean ground pork (vegans, use your favourite cooked beans or ground tofu)
  • 300 g fresh tomatoes, puréed (or 1 1/2 cups passata)
  • Pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • pinch of baking soda
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 piece of parmesan end (omit if vegan)

Directions for the Meat Sauce:

  1. Blitz the fresh tomatoes with an immersion blender until you can no longer feel the seeds and skin (no need to pass through a fine sieve, once incorporated into the lasagna you will not feel any tomato seed or skin texture).
  2. Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized Dutch oven and sauté the onions until soft. Add the minced garlic and stir until fragrant.
  3. Add the ground pork (beans or ground tofu) stirring occasionally, breaking up the larger bits of meat. Add the tomato sauce, baking soda, oregano, basil, nutmeg and Parmesan end and simmer for 15-20 minutes until thickened and not overly liquid.
  4. Remove the parmesan end (chef’s treat!) and transfer the ‘meat sauce’ to another bowl to cool.

Assembly:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350° F (177 ° C).
  2. Lightly grease a cast iron enamel terrine pan 30 cm long x 11 cm wide x 8 cm high (12 in long x 4 1/2 in wide x 3 in high).
  3. Lay strips of the thinly sliced zucchini on the bottom of the pan. Add 125 mL (~1/2 cup) of the meat sauce and spread out evenly. Lay strips of the red pepper on top of the meat. Spread 75 mL (~1/3 cup) of the ‘béchamel’ sauce evenly over the pepper layer (if ‘béchamel’ becomes too thick, loosen it by whisking in a little vegetable stock or ‘milk’). Sprinkle with 63 mL (1/4 cup) grated mozzarella cheese (omit if vegan), repeat until the pan is filled or you’ve used everything up. End with the béchamel sauce on top and sprinkle the top with the remainder of the shredded mozzarella (omit if vegan).
  4. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and the zucchinis still have a bit of a bite to them (al dente). The internal temperature should be about 140° F. Broil the cheese version for about 10 minutes to caramelise the top.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 10 minutes. Cut into 6 portions and serve with a light salad.

Do NOT omit the roasted red peppers, they ad incredible flavour.

Do NOT omit the roasted red peppers, they add incredible flavour.

ZucchiniLasagna_Unbaked

Just before I popped it into the oven.

Notes to make this a Vegan Lasagna:

  • Béchamel:
    • substitute vegetable stock or rice milk for the “milk” component.
    • leave out the “cheese” component altogether, the lentils make a delightfully flavoured béchamel even without cheese (plus I am skeptical about vegan cheese, what is that?)
  • Almond milk and coconut milk are too strongly flavoured, that is why I didn’t recommend it. On top of everything, I would avoid coconut milk because we are making this an Italian flavoured dish.
  • Want to omit the ‘béchamel’? Add slices of Chinese eggplant, it will add the creaminess mouthfeel we crave with lasagna.
  • Meat Sauce: substitute your favourite cooked beans or ground tofu in similar measures for the ground meat.
  • Want to add even more flavour? BBQ the veg for a few minutes before you assemble, the smokiness adds a lot of flavour.

Notes:

  • I had pork from a previous meal that I ground up fresh for this recipe, use whatever meat or beans you wish.
  • The lentil béchamel will thicken as it cools, just whisk in a bit more milk, rice milk or vegetable stock to loosen.
  • I like the stringiness of mozzarella in lasagna but if you are lactose intolerant, feel free to substitute goats cheese, the tang will be incredible in this dish.
  • Whenever I see beautiful red peppers, particularly if there is a sale, I buy a bunch, roast them on the BBQ and save the slices in the freezer for future pizza’s or in this case, lasagna (freeze on a parchment lined cookie sheet and when frozen, place in a plastic bag. Leave in whole pieces to give you more options in usage). Omitting the roasted red peppers is a mistake because they add incredible flavour and sweetness.

This is the nutritional facts for the meat version of my recipe above, based on 6 servings.

This is the nutritional facts for the meat version of my recipe above, based on 6 servings.

This is the vegan version using navy beans and omitted all cheese.

This is my vegan version using navy beans and omitted all cheese.

This is an epicurious recipe based on 6 servings.

This is a Food Network recipe based on 6 servings.

GreenPea&BasilSoup_First

In my line of work, sometimes I acquire excess food from time to time — it’s just stuff that’s left over. The protocol is to offer it first to the client, then the photography staff, art director and lastly the food stylist (me). Recently, we were shooting a video ad for a popular small appliance on location in someone’s home, I had to shop and prepare about 12 recipes in advance and arrive only to do last minute plating and garnishes. It’s not the best situation for food because the food can look wilted and old very quickly, but it had to be done, so I persevered and it was done. It was an extremely professional group and the video team was equally as lovely (everyone came over to hug me after the job was done). Because the location was a private house, we had to vacate very quickly, packing up in warp speed — no time to wash anything, everything was put into bags to be washed at home. The leftover food was repackaged and everyone helped and carry everything to my car. Many of the items (everything on set) was garbage because we didn’t have proper refrigeration (like chicken wings and drumsticks that sat out at room temperature for about 4 hours) but some of the vegetables were entirely usable, including the ingredients in this recipe. The bag of frozen petite pois (small peas) had defrosted but were still very cold so they were fine and the basil was in tip top shape and so this soup was born. Peas and basil are a lovely combination and I urge you to give it a try, it really is so refreshing and moreish plus it is an absolutely gorgeous colour. You can serve this simple soup hot or cold, we had it hot for dinner with a nice dollop of goats cheese melting into the soup. Bon Appetite!

Green Pea and Basil Soup, chaud ou froid

Makes about 1 L of soup

Ingredients:

  • 750 g bag frozen petite pois (sweet peas), defrosted
  • 500 mL vegetable stock (preferably homemade like this easy, economical recipe)
  • 10-20 large basil leaves, to taste
  • 4 basil leaves, chiffonade
  • Sea salt, to taste

Directions:

  1. In a large glass container, combine the petite pois and vegetable stock with 10-20 basil leaves. Blend with an immersion blender until very smooth, taste and season accordingly.
  2. Press this liquid through a fine sieve (the pea skins are not a great texture in this soup). Serve hot or cold with a chiffonade of basil or a dollop of goats cheese.
GreenPea&BasilSoupNew

This simple yet versatile soup may be served hot or cold. Think about garnishing it with a caramelized scallop!

Notes:

  • This is a light soup, if you would like it to have more body, consider blending an avocado into it, starting with half and blend until smooth and taste for richness, blend in the second half if necessary.
  • If you are not fond of basil, try mint, it also pairs beautifully with sweet peas.
  • The beauty of this soup is its simplicity, no cooking, few ingredients.

TrioThaiDesserts_First

Last month we had another progressive dinner (number 11 to be exact) and we decided to make up some new rules. In general, we alternate clockwise for the courses and this time it was neighbours John and Nancy’s turn to make the main course. The first new rule is that the couple who has the main course chooses the theme. The second new rule, is that the main course couple may also invite a “guest couple” to participate in the eating but not in the making; having four courses has put the main course much too late in the evening (around 10:30-11) because we inevitably stay too long at each house! For this progressive dinner, John and Nancy chose Thai food because Nancy was recently in Thailand and had a marvellous time. It was our turn for dessert.

There aren’t too many desserts in Thailand and I recently learned that they generally don’t serve a sweet after dinner, desserts are usually saved for celebrations, like weddings. Thai desserts are often not sweet and sometimes even savoury (don’t you worry, I didn’t choose savoury (you know who you are!)). I did have a rather difficult time landing on three desserts that would WOW our party because I wanted to choose something obviously Thai and put my own spin on it. I finally chose a baked Coconut Custard Slice (from my Easy Thai-Style Cookery from the Australian Woman’s Weekly, published in 1996), also from the same cookbook, a Sticky Rice Pudding infused with Kafir Lime Leaves with a Coconut and Lime Custard and lastly a Mango Mousse garnished with a Mango Rose (from Epicurious). All three desserts were served in small portions, as above. I made all three in advance and portioned them out so that on the evening I needed only to plate them. These dinners always get out of control with the volume of food so small portions is all anyone ever wants, but I had made enough for leftovers in case someone wanted more. I really like coconut so both the custard cake and the rice pudding were high on my favourite list, but I have to say the mango mousse was also refreshing and delicious. Which one would you choose as your favourite?

A very nicely textured coconut lemon custard.

A very nicely textured coconut lemon custard.

Baked Coconut Custard Cake

Makes one 24 cm (9.5 inch) tart, about 1 cm (0.5 inch) deep.

For original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) coconut cream
  • 1 cup 18% cream
  • eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened coconut, toasted
  • Lemon or Lime zest for garnish

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350° F. Prepare an 24 cm (9.5 inch) removable bottom scalloped tart pan by lightly greasing and lining the exterior bottom in foil making sure it comes up more than half way on the sides and is waterproof. Set aside.
  2. Combine coconut cream, cream, eggs and brown sugar in a heavy bottomed pan and stir over medium-low heat until warm; do not boil (the coconut cream will separate).
  3. Pour mixture into the prepared pan. Place the tart pan into larger pan that can accommodate enough boiling water to come halfway up the side of the tart pan.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes or until the centre of custard is just set. Cool custard for 30 minutes and then refrigerate custard 1 hour or 1-2 days before serving.
  5. Cut into wedges and sprinkle with extra coconut and lemon or lime zest, if desired.
RicePuddingCustard

A delicious rice pudding scented with kaffir lime leaves and a baked custard topping.

Kaffir Lime Sticky Rice Pudding

Serves 4 individual portions or 9 mini portions.

For original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients for the rice pudding:

  • 1/2 cup (100 g) short grain rice
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 cup (250 mL) coconut milk (including the cream)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) water
  • 10-20 dried kafir lime leaves (depending on how much you like kafir limes)
  • 2 tbsp white sesame seeds, toasted

Ingredients for the custard:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup (250ml) coconut milk, including the cream
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • juice from 1/2 a lime

Directions:

  1. Lightly grease nine 125 mL (1/2 cup) capacity ovenproof mason jars with coconut oil. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Combine rice, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, coconut milk and water in a thick bottom pan, and slowly bring to a boil while stirring. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally until rice is tender and liquid has been absorbed (about 30 minutes). Cool slightly. Remove Kafir lime leaves, discard.
  3. To make the custard, combine the milk with the eggs, sugar and lime juice and whisk together. Set aside.
  4. To each prepared mason jar, add 2 slightly heaping tablespoons of the rice pudding and press into the bottom of the jar. Pour the prepared custard evenly into each of the nine jars.
  5. Place jars into a large rimmed pan and fill the pan with warm water to about 1/2 way up the mason jars. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 30 minutes or until custard has set.
  6. Remove jars and allow to cool. Refrigerate until 2 hours before serving, then remove from fridge and serve at room temperature garnished with the toasted sesame seeds.
MangoMousse

A lightly set mousse (not heavy on the gelatin) with a good punch of mango and a dash of lime.

Mango Mousse

Makes one 23 cm x 23 cm (9″ x 9″) pan of mousse.

For original recipe please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 1 envelope (1 tablespoon) unflavored gelatin
  • 500 mL (2 cups) fresh mango purée (about 4 small mangos)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (I used Greek)
  • 3 egg whites, beaten until stiff but not dry (you may substitute whipped cream for the egg whites, about 1 cup whipped)
  • 1 mango for rose garnises and lime zest

Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan sprinkle the gelatin over 1/4 cup cold water, let it soften for 1 minute, then heat the mixture over low heat, stirring until the gelatin is dissolved.
  2. In a blender or using an emersion blender, blend together the mango purée, sugar, vanilla, and yoghurt and add the gelatin mixture and blend the mixture well.
  3. Beat the egg whites (or whipping cream) until they hold stiff peaks, fold it into the mango mixture gently but thoroughly.
  4. Pour into a plastic-lined 23 cm x 23 cm (9″ x 9″) pan.
  5. Chill the mousse for at least 4 hours or overnight. Freeze for 30 minutes before serving (improves both the flavour and texture, and makes it much easier to handle).
  6. Cut 9 servings using a flower cookie cutter and place carefully on a plate, garnish with mango roses. To make mango roses, I simply used my vegetable peeler and peeled slices about 30 cm (12 inches) long from each mango and then rolled into a rose. I prepared the roses in advance to make serving easier.

 

GarlicCheeseRopeBread_First

I was about 33 when JT and I first vacationed in Florida. JT and I rented a friend’s house in Daytona Beach and used it as a base to travel around, taking a couple of days to visit friends in Sarasota and to explore that side of the state. While travelling, there were several roadside eateries that would come up that were rather new to us Canadians: Cracker Barrel, Denny’s and Waffle House to name a few. As you know by now, I am not so fond of fast food, so we avoided them but one morning we got up early to explore and decided that waffles were in order and we thought, what better place than Waffle House? Boy were we wrong, what a joke (I apologise to those who love the place), the waffles were thin and dry and they didn’t even have real maple syrup or even real butter! Maybe I’m a waffle snob, but real maple syrup and butter are necessities for a good waffle experience. Our waitress was surly and unapproachable, great qualities for a waitress. We begrudgingly ate the sad excuse for waffles and left. In the car, I couldn’t stop thinking about how bad an experience it was and immediately renamed the place Awful House! Needless to say, we did not stop at Awful House ever again!

When you’re looking for a delicious bread recipe, you need not look further than this recipe for Cheddar Garlic Rope Bread, plus there is nothing like it on the menu at Awful House! It’s not that difficult to make and it bakes up beautifully. I made this loaf for my Cousin Lucy’s Easter Dinner.

GarlicCheeseRopeBread The bread is laced with delicious cheddar and garlic butter. Make sure you serve this warm.

Cheddar Garlic Rope Bread

This recipe makes one 40 cm x 15 cm (15″ x 6″) rope.

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp powdered milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 1 tbsp yeast
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 3/4 cup warm water (it should feel slightly warm to the touch not hot)
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/4 tsp white vinegar

Ingredients for the cheddar, garlic butter spread:

  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (or to taste)
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Combine the yeast, sugar and warm water, stir gently and allow to proof.
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer add the flour, salt, powdered milk, eggs and vinegar. Using the KitchenAid® Flex Edge Beater attachment, mix until the eggs have totally become incorporated into the flour. Change to the dough hook.
  3. Add the yeast water mixture and knead the dough for 10 minutes until you get a smooth slightly sticky dough.
  4. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover it and allow it to rise in a warm place till it doubles in size (this only takes about 45 minutes).
  5. Pre-heat your oven to 400°F (I used the fan setting).
  6. In the bowl of a small food processor, combine the cheese, butter, garlic and salt and pulse until completely combined, set aside.
  7. Once the dough has doubled in size, roll out the dough into a 0.5 cm (1/4 inch) thick rectangle (mine worked out to 40 cm x 30 cm (16″ x 12″). Spread all of the cheese butter mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 1 cm (1/2 inch) border on three sides (spread right to the long side that you will begin to roll). Starting at the long end, roll up the dough tightly to form a roll. Seal all of the edges well by pinching them closed (wet fingers with water if necessary). Slice the roll in half lengthwise, leaving the last 5 cm (2 inches) connected.
  8. Turn each half cut-side up and carefully wrap the halves together like a rope, maintaining the cut-sides up to expose the filling. Carefully place on a baking tray with sides, lined with parchment paper and allow to rest, covered in a warm location for 1 hour. Check out Angie’s blog for detailed photos on how-to roll, cut and form into a rope.
  9. Coat with the vinegar, egg wash.
  10. Bake for 5-7 minutes on the high heat, then reduce to 350°F and bake for another 7-10 minutes or until the bottom is golden and it sounds hollow when tapped.
  11. Serve warm.

SrirachaSauce_First

Recently, I was given a small basket of a variety of chili peppers. I don’t know about you, but these days I don’t like to tempt fate with overly hot things so incorporating them into a dish was out of the question. In the bunch were scotch bonnets, serranos, poblanos, jalopeños and Thai chilies so it was a basket of epic heat! Since I’ve already made Sweet Chili Sauce with Dried Apricots and Hot Sauce I decided to make a version of the very popular Sriracha Sauce because it is a staple in my pantry.

I love hot sauce, but sadly my innards, not so much so I wanted to  tame the heat without compromising flavour. The solution was grilling the peppers to a blistery/blackened stage, peeling and cleaning the seeds and veins out to temper the heat, the smoke flavour was a bonus! This recipe is roughly based on the link below.

Hot sauce.

Hot sauce.

Homemade Sriracha Sauce

Makes roughly 225 mL sauce.

Adapted from Leite’s Culinaria

Ingredients:

  • 400 g variety of hot peppers
  • 10 g garlic, minced
  • 25 g granulated sugar
  • 5 g sea salt
  • 125 mL white vinegar or to taste

Directions:

  1. Grill the hot peppers until their skin is blistered and black. Set hot chili peppers into a glass bowl and top with a plate to further steam the peppers (this makes peeling much easier, but if you have issues, just microwave them on high for 10-20 seconds). Peel, remove seeds and veins (the sauce will be hot enough even with this step) using gloves to protect your fingers (these are extremely hot peppers).
  2. Combine all ingredients except the white vinegar in a food processor and pulse until you have a paste. Scrape into a glass jar and tightly seal. Allow to sit on the kitchen counter (bench) for 1 week, stirring once daily. The mixture will ferment so if you see bubbling action, it is par for the course.
  3. After one week, transfer the chili mixture to a saucepan over medium heat and add the vinegar and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer 5 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool slightly and then purée it again using an immersion blender. Push through a fine sieve, taste and season with sugar, salt and vinegar as desired.
  4. Store in the refrigerator in a glass jar with a tight lid. The original recipe indicates that this sauce is good for six months.
SrirachaSauce_8696

Perfect timing because I’m going to need a small bottle for the cottage!

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