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Roasted Garlic Dip

Just prior to Christmas, I did a couple of jobs which had me buying a lot of garlic. When I say a lot, I mean literally dozens of heads! Of course, I gave away as much as I could but the majority came home with me. I am not one to toss perfectly good food in the bin, so I decided to roast the heads and freeze them for quick additions to sauces and soups. Now, I must say that this idea is genius because roasted garlic is so tasty and having some quick at hand makes it easy to add another level of flavour without the harshness of raw garlic. Over the holidays, we got together with our wonderful neighbours and I made this delicious roasted garlic dip.

Now there is that cold winter light!

Roasted Garlic Dip

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 6-8, makes about 300 mL

To print recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 200 g roasted garlic (about 4 heads)
  • 125 g cream cheese, room temperature
  • 50 g Greek Yogurt
  • Sea salt to taste

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl large enough to accommodate a stick blender, combine all of the ingredients and purée until smooth and silky.
  2. Serve at room temperature.

Notes:

  • I roast garlic by cutting off the bottom of the head (the root end) and setting it in about 30 mL of olive oil. I like to cover the garlic I roast so it steams and roasts at the same time. I roast the garlic in a 350° F oven for about 45 minutes or until they are very soft.
  • To extract the garlic, simply squeeze each clove into a container.
  • Some people add freshly grated Parmesan to this dip but I find it rich enough without it.
  • Save the cut ends of the garlic for soup stock.

This dip would also be a tasty cream sauce for pasta.

Happy New Year!

Southwestern Bean Soup

I wish you all the Merriest Christmas and the Happiest New Year! Thank you for your continued support, you have all made this blogging experience so much richer than I ever could have imagined, thank you.

Our neighbourhood progressive dinner party was scheduled for the Saturday after we returned home from Arizona; I didn’t think it would be a problem since we were responsible for hors d’œuvres and appetizers. Had I read more than the heading of the email from the organizers (the main course couple), I would have realized that things were to get a bit more complicated since one person decided to go vegetarian and dairy free (for health reasons). I love a challenge but I would have liked to experiment a bit more, notwithstanding, it turned out delicious so I documented the recipe for the future. Like most recipes, this tastes better the day after it is made!

South Western Bean Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 6-8 depending on serving size

To print recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 40 g black beans, soaked overnight
  • 160 g navy beans, soaked overnight
  • 100 g kidney beans, soaked overnight
  • 200 g sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 15 mL olive oil
  • 5 g toasted cumin
  • 2 g toasted coriander
  • pinch of chili powder, or to taste
  • 5 g smoked paprika, or to taste
  • 7 g cocoa powder
  • 10 g garlic, finely minced
  • 40 g tomato paste
  • 2 g puréed chipotle peppers
  • 750 mL vegetable stock
  • 250 mL passata
  • 165 g grilled corn, removed from cob
  • cilantro to garnish
  • sour cream or Greek yogurt to garnish
  • grated cheese to garnish
  • 125 mL creamed lentils (see notes)
  • 1 large avocado, cubed to garnish

Directions:

  1. Caramelize chopped onions in the olive oil. In the meantime, add the vegetable stock, passata, beans to the warm crock pot and put on high for 5 hours.
  2. Add the onions, all of the spices, tomato paste, and enchilada sauce and stir well. Cover and cook for 5 hours.
  3. When the beans are soft, add the creamed lentils and stir into the soup so it is consistent and creamy. Add the grilled corn kernels, and cook for an additional 30 minutes on high, stirring occasionally.
  4. Serve in warmed bowls and top with avocado, a spoonful of Greek yogurt, cilantro, and cheese. Serve immediately with Cornbread.

Notes:

  • I use lentils as a thickener particularly when I make gluten-free recipes. Simply cook lentils until soft and purée with a stick blender until smooth. Freeze the excess in an ice-cube tray and when frozen, pop into a zip lock bag.
  • I buy chipotle peppers in a can, purée and freeze the excess in an ice-cube tray and when frozen, pop into a zip lock bag, same goes for tomato paste.

Our neighbourly South-Western- themed progressive dinner party was scheduled two days after we returned home from Arizona, I didn’t think it would be a problem because we were only responsible for hors d’œuvres and appetizers, easy-peasy! HA! Had I read more than the heading of the organizer’s email, I would have realized that things would get a bit more complicated since one person decided to go vegetarian, gluten and dairy free (for health reasons). But, you know me, I do love a challenge and as luck would have it, my experiments turned out even better than I expected! So much so, that JT has asked for it several times since, so I documented the recipe for the future use.

This recipe originated from Emeril Lagasse but I tweaked it a little bit. What attracted me to this recipe was, of course, that it was baked an not deep fried, and although deep fried would be awesome, it’s always nice to lower calories whenever possible particularly if you need not sacrifice flavour or texture! I think you will be very happy with the baked version (our group could not get enough of them)! I’ll speak to the vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy- free version in my notes below (no pics, sorry).

You can see how crispy these turned out.

Baked Jalapeño Poppers

Makes about 24 jalapeño poppers

For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 12 fresh jalapeno peppers, halved lengthwise, stems, seeds and membranes removed
  • 170 g (6 oz) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 140 g (1 1/2 cups) grated sharp or old cheddar
  • 3 g (1/2 tsp) ground cumin
  • pinch of cayenne, or less, to taste
  • 2 large eggs
  • 30 mL (2 tbsp) milk
  • 8 tsp Essence, divided
  • 1 cup panko crumbs
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • non-stick spray

Directions:

  1. In a small mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and grated cheddar and mix well.
  2. Toast the cumin until you can smell the aroma, allow to cool and add to the cream cheese mixture and stir well. Set aside.
  3. Prepare your breading station by whisking 2 large eggs with 2 tsp of the Essence and the milk in a shallow bowl. In a second shallow bowl, mix 4 tsp of the Essence with the coconut flour. In the third shallow bowl, add 2 tsp of the Essence to the panko and mix well. Reserve remaining essence for the next time (and believe me, there will be a next time!)
  4. Fill each jalapeño densely with the cream cheese mixture, being careful not to mound it too high; continue filling until you have filled all of the jalapeño halves.
  5. Dredge each jalapeño half in the coconut flour, then dip into the egg mixture and repeat once more. Finally, dip each pepper into the panko and press panko into the jalapeño to coat well. Repeat until all are coated.
  6. Pre-heat the oven to  375° F. Place jalapeño cut side up on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Give each jalapeño a light coating with the non-stick spray. Bake for 30 minutes or until panko is golden and crisp.
  7. Serve warm with sour cream and salsa.

Notes:

  • For the vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free version, I simply replaced the cheeses with creamed lentils (about 1/4 cup cooked in vegetable broth and puréed with a stick blender) and the panko with shredded unsweetened coconut. Even the non-vegetarians loved them! (Sorry, no pics).
  • I use coconut flour for baked “fried” foods because the coconut has an unbelievable absorption property which makes the batter so much crispier than all-purpose flour.
  • I used gloves to protect my hands from the jalapeños as I cleaned them, you might consider doing this too.
  • Leftovers? Freeze unbaked jalapeños on a parchment-lined baking sheet and when frozen, pop them into a ziplock bag.To bake frozen jalapeños, no need to defrost, just bake for a little longer to crisp up.

During the month we spent in Arizona, we had the pleasure of celebrating American Thanksgiving with our dear friends down there. Our dear friends who live there offered to make the turkey (thank goodness, as I did not have any of my special kitchen tools!) so I offered to make a few different sides. We had dear friends visiting from Toronto and they are vegetarian and I wanted to make something special for them for Thanksgiving, so I made this Mushroom, Chestnut and Bean Wellington. I purchased the puff pastry to make it easier but I made everything else. I was surprised to find roasted Italian chestnuts (in the Kosher section, no less!) but sadly the mushrooms were just plain cremini and white mushrooms, not much variety. It’s always a bit of a challenge to cook in a strange kitchen and shop in a different part of the world, but I think this one turned out wonderful and with a variety of mushrooms, it would be amazing! Please excuse the photos, this is the one and only blog post I managed to eak out during our stay in Arizona, I was THAT busy!

Scroll down to the end of this post to see the house we rented. It took us some time to find one that was decorated in light airy colours, most of the rentals are dark and dowdy, filled with ‘granny’s furniture’ and I just couldn’t bear to live in that for a month! Although I might have chosen a slightly lighter tone for the walls, this house made me happy.

Fresh out of the oven.

Mushroom, Chestnut and Bean Wellington

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1 Wellington about 30 cm x 15 cm (12 inches x 6 inches)

To print recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp EVOO
  • 2 cups variety of mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup carrots, finely cubed
  • 1/2 cup celery, finely cubed
  • 1/2 cup zucchini, finely cubed
  • 1/2 cup roasted chestnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/2-1 tsp fresh rosemary, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup navy beans, soaked
  • 4 cups vegetable stock, divided
  • 1/2 cup port
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 puff pastry sheet
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly whisked with a little water.

Directions:

  1. Cook the navy beans in 3 cups veggie stock or water, cool.
  2. In a heavy bottom pan, caramelize the onions in the melted butter and olive oil on medium heat (about 20 minutes). Add mushrooms and cook until the mushroom liquid has evaporated. Turn the heat up and caramelize the mushrooms add the port to deglaze the pan.
  3. Add the garlic, carrots, celery, zucchini and roasted chestnuts and sauté until carrots are slightly softened.
  4. Add the rosemary, panko, cooked navy beans, and veggie stock. Season to taste. Remove from heat and cool completely.
  5. On a cold surface, roll out the puff pastry sheet to about 30 cm x 40 cm (12 inches x 16 inches). Brush the Dijon mustard on the pastry and mound the cooled mushroom filling in the centre of the pastry. Turn up each side until they meet in the middle and pinch closed. Pinch the ends closed and trim off excess pastry.
  6. Turn the log onto a parchment lined baking sheet seamed sized down, and brush with the egg yolk. Decorate with leaves from the leftover end pastry and brush with egg wash. Bake in a hot 400° F oven for 35-40 minutes or until golden.
  7. Serve sliced hot out of the oven, or reheat to serve.

A tasty treat wrapped in delicious buttery pastry.

Click on any photo for the slideshow.

I will reveal our latest adventure now! Drumroll please: We spent the month of November in Arizona. We have dear friends who live there during the winter and when we were visiting during February, we tossed around the idea to buy a second house there. But before we make the plunge, we wanted to be certain we liked it so we rented an awesome house in the same community that our friends live.

Now who were we kidding? It was -5° C (23° F) (but it felt like -10° C (14° F)) in Toronto while we were enjoying 28° C (82° F) with sunshine. Every. Single. Day. What’s not to like? The community is tagged as resort-style living with a gorgeous golf course and 4 swimming pools, a spa, workout facilities and a couple of restaurants. Yep, I could get used to it!

The community is located in Queen’s Creek. Queen’s Creek is situated in the San Tan Valley, south-east of Phoenix, Arizona. As another friend said, “it’s not quite the end of the world, but you can see the end of the world from there!”

It is also a mere 4.5-hour drive to the Grand Canyon and that is where we did our EPIC hike! We hiked 7.5 hours to Indian Grove and back. Going down was relatively easy, we bought good hiking boots and sticks, but going up was significantly more challenging because of the altitude and lack of oxygen. We stopped and rested a lot. Listening to your body is essential as is allowing your muscles to recover as you’re ascending. It took us 3 hours to hike down and 3.5 hours to hike back up (which isn’t bad for a couple of old folks!), the rest of the time we spent at Indian Grove eating a delicious lunch I packed. The worst part was the day and day two later, my calves ached like a demon. But it was worth it! I’ve put together s little slide show of our hike at the end of this post, if you are interested. And by the way, my stupid FitBit died sometime during our hike so I don’t even know how many steps we did, but if the last time we hiked only 1.5 hours down and back was any indication, we did 22,000 steps! This is my third FitBit Zip and when I called them that it was eating the batteries like crazy (one every 2-3 weeks) they said it was a known issue and they are working on fixing it but would do NOTHING ELSE. So I am done with FitBit, they let me down in one of the most epic hikes of my life and had nothing but “oh, sorry” to say about it. I am going to get a Garmin which I hear are much more reliable.

This cookie has nothing to do with the hike or our trip, it’s a cookie I made for Canadian Thanksgiving at my sweet cousin Lucy’s place. My dear blogging friend Liz (of That Skinny Chick Can Bake, blog) was the inspiration, I saw the recipe on her site a while back. These cookies were all the rave in the 90’s on restaurant menus but I haven’t seen one in ages. Liz’s recipe will change that for sure.

Skillet Chocolate Chunk Cookie

Makes 1 12″ Cookie

Please click here for the original recipe.

Click here to print this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 195 g butter
  • 100 g granulated sugar
  • 150 g brown sugar
  • 15 mL vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 350 g AP Flour
  • 3 g baking powder
  • 5 g salt
  • 100 g chocolate chips (I used Belgian milk and semi-sweet chocolate)

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375° F (I used the convection setting). Prepare a 30 cm cast iron skillet with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Melt the butter and sugars in a heatproof bowl in the microwave, stir until sugars have melted. Cool slightly and then stir in the vanilla. Combine the egg and whites and whisk. Whisk into the butter-sugar mixture.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt, add it to the butter-sugar mixture and mix until well combined.
  4. Fold in 3/4 the chocolate, reserving about 1/4 to dot the top of the cookie for garnish.
  5. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
  6. Cool to room temperature. Serve slicing fractions of the circle.

Notes:

  • I like to buy Belgian chocolate disks (not molding chocolate) and melt them, spread them on a cookie sheet and chill until set. Then I break up the sheets by hand, making different sized pieces with a variety of thicknesses.

It’s a cross between cookie and blondie that is quite difficult to resist.

Click on the first photo to see the slideshow.

Apple and Cheese Strudel

JT and I have been on a huge adventure. I’ll let you in on it next week. But just before, a dear friend’s daughter flew in from Vancouver and we invited the family over for tea and strudel and this is what I made.

Apple & Cheese Strudel

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Make 3 medium-sized strudels (about 30 cm or 12″ long)

To print recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 260 g ricotta
  • 100 g Icelandic or Greek yogurt
  • 35 g raisins
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 25 g icing sugar
  • 5 mL vanilla
  • 1 egg, gently whisked
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 (~550 g) apples, peeled, cored and finely diced
  • zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 20 g brown sugar
  • 5 g cinnamon
  • 50 g almond flour, divided
  • 9 sheets of phyllo pastry
  • 45 g butter, melted
  • Icing sugar for garnish

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F (177° C).
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Combine the ricotta, yogurt, raisins, lemon zest, sugar, vanilla, egg and salt and mix well. Set into the refrigerator whilst preparing the apples.
  4. Combine the apples, lemon zest and juice, brown sugar, cinnamon, 15 g almond flour and mix well.
  5. Prepare 3 sheets of phyllo pastry by brushing each sheet with the melted butter and sprinkling with almond flour, set aside. Continue with remaining 6, making stacks of three sheets.
  6. Pour 1/3 the ricotta mixture into the centre of each stack of prepared phyllo and top with 1/3 of the apple mixture. Turn in the ends and roll tightly.
  7. Brush each roll with the remaining melted butter and bake until golden, about 30-40 minutes.
  8. Serve warm sprinkled with icing sugar.

Zucchini Crêpes

JT and I have been training for an upcoming epic 15 km hike. We do a gruelling route for 7-8 km through High Park on its steepest terrain, circling through a 98-step staircase and a 120 metre hill. Sometimes we drive to a Provincial park and hike unchartered territory to mix it up. But I’m a bit concerned as we can’t replicate the altitude we will ultimately face, I’ve never worked out at 6,800 feet before!

The best we can do is prepare ourselves. Eating healthy is part of that preparation so I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to change a recipe to make it healthier. Adding my favourite veggy, zucchini (or courgette) to a slightly modified crêpe batter does the trick!

These “crêpes” have an incredibly similar bite to them as their authentic French cousins, but they are less calorie laden. The small amount of whole wheat flour gives them the perfect amount of texture and volume. They cook up like a super thin omelette but results in a thin crêpe.

Definitely a keeper recipe.

Zucchini Crêpes

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1 large crêpe, for multiple crêpes, simply multiply the ingredients below by the quantity you wish to make.

Please click here to print this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 50 g (1/4 cup) zucchini, grated
  • 45 mL egg whites (6 tbsp egg whites or 3 large whole eggs)
  • 10 g (1 tbsp) whole wheat flour
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Directions :

  1. Combine the flour, egg whites and salt and mix well.
  2. Heat a nonstick pan and spray lightly with nonstick spray.
  3. Spread the grated zucchini around in an even layer, predominantly in the centre of the pan and cook for a minute.
  4. Pour the egg mixture over the zucchini and spread thinly over the pan as evenly as possible, making a large filled circle. Gently coax the egg mixture into gaps or holes.
  5. Cook until side has browned a little, carefully flip crêpe when cooked and repeat for other side.
  6. Serve warm filled with your favourite savoury filling.

Caramelized onions and sautéed mushrooms made a wonderful filling with a lentil-based béchamel.

Notes:

  • These are as close to a real crêpe texture as I have gotten using low-calorie ingredients.
  • Make them as large or as small as you wish, they have good structure and will hold up for hand held fillings like soft tacos.

Nutritional Facts for 1 crêpe, no filling.

Weight Watchers Points for 1 crêpe, no filling.

Our dear friends gave me a beautiful cookbook from their last cruise, it is a celebration of courses through the journies of their fleet: Culinary Courses Journeys. Although most of the recipes are quite fancy, the book is amazing inspiration and a week doesn’t go by that I don’t check it for reference!

It was such an occasion that I was leafing through the book that I found a gorgeous representation of a Minestrone Soup and I knew I had to make it for dinner. And then I realized that I did not have a Minestrone on the blog. Gads!

The soup is packed with fresh vegetables in a light tomato and basil scented broth. The protein is navy bean to keep it healthy. You could add a parmesan rind or two to the broth while cooking.

The tuile melts into the soup for a beautiful flavour and textural addition.

Rustic Vegetable Minestrone

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 1.5 L (6.25 cups) soup.

Please click here to print this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp EVOO
  • 125 g (~1 cup) sweet onion, diced
  • 10 g (2 – 3 cloves) garlic, finely minced
  • 150 g (~1 cup) zucchini, diced
  • 115 g (~1 cup) celery, diced
  • 120 g (~1 cup) red pepper, diced
  • 75 g (~1 cup) king mushrooms, diced
  • 140 mL (4 oz) puréed tomatoes, juice or sauce
  • 15 mL (1 tbsp) tomato paste
  • 350 mL (1 2/3 cups) chicken stock
  • 2 stems of basil
  • 4 stems of lemon thyme
  • 100 g (1/2 cup) dried beans
  • 35 g (~1 cup) baby spinach
  • 5-8 fresh basil leaves, roughly torn

Directions:

  1. Cook the dried beans according to directions.
  2. Heat Olive Oil in a large pot and sauté onions until translucent, you may need to add a little stock or water. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
  3. Add all of the vegetables and cook for about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Combine the puréed tomatoes, tomato paste, and chicken stock. Pour over the vegetables and add the basil and thyme stems and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove stems.
  5. Add the cooked beans and baby spinach, stir and heat through.
  6. Serve garnished with a Parmesan tuile (recipe below) and roughly torn basil leaves.

Basil Cheese Tuile

Makes 1 tuile

Ingredients:

  • 7 g (1/4 oz) hard fatty cheese (like Parmesan or Cheddar), finely grated
  • 1 large basil leaf, chiffonade
  • pinch of granulated garlic

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven on high broil.
  2. Mix cheese, basil and granulated garlic well.
  3. On a parchment lined baking sheet, shape the tuile as desired (I made a tear drop).
  4. Broil until evenly browned (mine took about 4 minutes but it depends on how thick you make your tuile); to prevent burning, you may need to cover part of it with bits of parchment as it bakes.

Notes:

  • I like a little crunch left in my vegetables, so I generally under cook rather than over cook.
  • If you make this in advance, keep the beans separately so they don’t turn to mush.
  • I used Ivanhoe Horseradish Cheddar because I thought it would be a nice zing to the soup.
  • Make as many tuile as you need, just multiply the ingredients by the servings required.

Recently, we were dining at our favourite French restaurant in our hood. We were sitting at the bar chatting with the staff and another patron when, for no apparent reason, a wine glass slid off the top shelf and plummeted to the ground, shattering!

Well, that was interesting! No one was near it, and the manager said that they put rubber mats on the shelves to prevent this type of thing. Yet, it slid off the shelf entirely on its own. Later, someone mentioned that the location had been a funeral home when it was first built in 1923 (we’ve been here 17 years and have only known the location to be restaurants!). You decide what happened, but my bet is on a sneaky ghost giving us a fright!

Smoked Garlic and Roasted Cauliflower Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Please click here to print the recipe.

Makes 1.5 L (6 cups) soup

Ingredients:

  • 25 g smoked garlic (about 5 cloves)
  • 560 g cauliflower (about 1/2 a large head), cut into smallish florets
  • 1 L (4 cups) chicken stock (or vegetable)
  • 90 g (1/2 cup) red lentils
  • non-stick spray
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • sea salt

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400° F (200° C).
  2. Add the unpeeled garlic cloves to a small ramekin, sprinkle with a little sea salt. Pour about 1 cm (1/2 inch) stock over cloves and cover with either foil or ramekin lid.
  3. Spray a large baking sheet with non-stick spray and add the cauliflower, sprinkle with a little sea salt. Add the ramekin with garlic to a corner of the baking sheet. Bake cauliflower and garlic for 30-40 minutes or until quite soft, turning frequently to avoid burning. I like to add a little stock to the bottom of the roasting pan to make sure I get all the little bits from the pan.
  4. Pour the cauliflower into a large pot. Peel the garlic and add it to the cauliflower, add some of the stock and purée until smooth. Add the red lentils and cook until lentils are soft. Purée again until smooth, adding stock until you achieve the desired consistency. You may wish to run this through a fine sieve to make it even more luxurious.
  5. Serve hot.

The cloves are cold smoked and are still raw.

Perfect timing as it’s getting pretty darn cold!

Notes:

  • A dear friend gave me a couple of heads of smoked garlic, she picked it up at a local farmers market. I had never seen or heard of it before but you can bet that I’ll be trying to make it soon!
  • The smoked garlic is raw and therefore needs some cooking when used in this quantity, I prefer roasting, usually with olive oil instead of stock, but we are trying to lose a few summer pounds.
  • The smoke in the garlic is very subtle, that is why I added the smoked paprika, but be careful, it can get overwhelming very quickly.
  • I added the lentils to get some protein into this meatless meal, and it also is an amazing thickener that becomes so velvety smooth when puréed.
  • Some topping suggestions:
    • Crumbled crispy bacon
    • Crispy onions
    • Grilled cheese croutons
    • Grated cheese (like gruyère or sharp cheddar)
    • a dollop of Crème Fraiche or sour cream

I am a fatalist, which means I believe in fate. There are too many things in this world that seem like coincidences but were totally intended by the universe. Case in point: on more than one occasion, I have decided to make something with the intent of searching for a recipe and before I can even open Google, up pops a recipe a blogging friend has posted on Facebook or Instagram! The very thing I had decided I would make! Coincidence? I think not, it’s fate!

That is my story of the English Muffins. I was walking back from getting a mani-pedi in our hood, thinking about the upcoming weekend visit with our dear friends from Wisconsin/Arizona (they have two homes) and I realized that I didn’t have a breakfast planned for one of the days and I remember wanting to try baking English Muffins, so on my walk home, I decided that I would bake English Muffins!

Upon my return, I sat down at my kitchen desk to catch up on Facebook and low and behold, dear Lorraine has reposted her recipe for…wait for it…English Muffins! That is fate! I was destined to bake English Muffins that afternoon.

Home Made English Muffins

Makes 6-8 English Muffins.

Please click here for the original recipe.

Please click here to print this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 200 mL (7 oz) milk
  • 5 g (1 tsp) sugar
  • 3 g (1 tsp) instant dry yeast
  • 20 g (1 oz) butter
  • 320 g (2  1/2 cups) AP unbleached flour
  • 2 g (1/2 tsp) salt
  • 2 g (1/2 tsp) baking powder
  • 1 small egg
  • cornmeal for dusting

Directions:

  1. Heat the milk to 37° C (100° F), sprinkle in the sugar and yeast and mix well. Allow to proof for 10 minutes or until frothy.
  2. Melt the butter and set aside to cool a bit. Add the butter to the milky yeast (once proofed) stir in the egg and mix well and set aside.
  3. Mix the flour, salt and baking powder together in the large bowl of your stand mixer, add the liquid all at once and beat/knead for about 10 minutes or until smooth and silky.
  4. Lightly cover with oil and set aside in a draft free spot for about 1 hour.
  5. Preheat the oven to 325° F (160° C).
  6. On a lightly floured board, turn out the dough and roll out to about 1 cm (1/2 inch) thickness. Cut 8-10 cm (3 1/4″ to 4″) rounds. Dust with cornmeal (brush off any excess) and cook over a low heat in a cast iron frying pan for about 3 minutes each side (do not oil). Finish baking in the preheated oven 20-25 minutes or until the internal temperature is 199° F (93° C). Allow to cool slightly, and then separate each into two using a fork to maximize the nooks and crannies!

The top one is perfect!

Notes:

  • If you cannot get small eggs, then take 1 large egg and whisk it to incorporate both yolk and whites, weigh it and divide by 2. Use half in this recipe and save the other half for something else.
  • In hindsight, my English Muffins pictured puffed up way too tall, so I have modified the instruction to roll out to half of the original thickness. Plus you should get a few more that way.

Like Lorraine, I like a little English Muffin with my butter.

In October I did some really cool TV jobs! I cooked for the lovely and talented Chef Anjum Anand from her I love India Cookbook for Your Morning (click here to see the segment (about 1 min of commercials)) and Mark Bittman, the original author of the infamous No-Knead Bread! recipe (click here to see the segment (only about 30 seconds of commercials)) and Ocean Wise Executive Chef, Ned Bell from his beautiful new cookbook, Lure!

Ned is awesome! It was indeed a pleasure to work with him. Yes, those are ‘sensible shoes’ as a fellow food stylist recently mentioned on instagram!

Mark was incredibly humble and amazing to work with (although, I wish the camera-man would have said something about the angle of the burgers!)

Mark released his Tenth Anniversary Edition of How to Cook Everything Vegetarian cookbook, simple meatless recipes for great food! The book is enormous, over 700 pages and it’s packed with great info, techniques, and wonderful recipes.  Although Mark is not vegetarian, he believes we should be enjoying a more plant-based diet. What I liked about his recipes is that they are truly vegetarian and not just cop-out vegetarian like spaghetti with tomato sauce that you see on some menus! I cooked tofu, tempeh, seitan and a really interesting beet burger. The recipes were easy to follow and came together quickly without special equipment. I will definitely make a few again and even others from the delicious cookbook.

Although this recipe isn’t from his cookbook, it is indeed vegetarian.

Basil and Sun-dried Tomato Gougières

Makes about 50 gourgières. To print the recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 250 mL (1 cup) water
  • 128 g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • Pinch salt
  • 128 g (1 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 40 g (~1/4 cup) sun-dried tomatoes (not in oil)
  • 15 g (~3 cloves) garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 7 g  (~10) basil leaves, chiffonade

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425° F (218° C). Line a baking sheet with wet parchment paper (crumple the parchment into a ball and saturate with cold water and wring out, flatten with your hand on the baking sheet).
  2. In a heavy bottom saucepan, combine the water, butter, salt and garlic and heat until melted. Remove from heat and add the flour all at once, stirring well. Return to heat and cook for a couple of minutes until it comes away from the sides of the pan.
  3. Remove from the heat and beat in one egg at a time until fully incorporated, being careful not to scramble the eggs. Fold in the herbs and chopped sun-dried tomatoes.
  4. Using a small ice cream scoop dipped in water with a splash of oil, scoop out single balls onto the baking sheet about 5 cm (2 inches) apart. Bake for 20 minutes or until tops are golden and the puffs have poofed about double in size.
  5. Cool on a wire rack. Continue to bake until you have exhausted your batter.

A light and delicious cocktail nibble.

In early September, our dear friends came for a visit and JT and I planned a full schedule of fun activities! We went hiking at a conservation area, saw King Lear in High Park (which turned out to be reimagined from a female perspective, Queen Lear), we traveled to Montreal for a few days with a stop in Kingston to visit the newly refurbished Kingston Penitentiary. The time went quickly and a much-needed fix with special friends. Our days were packed, so I made these Banana Bran Muffins for a breakfast on the morning we went hiking, as we were also having lunch at an adorable little cafe near the conservation area. Scroll down to see a few pics of Kingston Pen.

Banana Bran Muffins with Belgian Milk Chocolate Chunks

Original recipe from Company’s Coming, Muffins and More by Jean Paré.

Makes about 10-12 medium-sized muffins

Please click here to print this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 128 g (1 cup) flour
  • 60 g (1 cup) all bran cereal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips or chunks (I used Belgian milk chocolate chunks)
  • 60 g (1/4 cup) coconut oil
  • 75 g (1/2 cup) coconut sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 65 mL (1/4 cup) sour milk (milk with 1/4 tsp lemon juice)
  • 250 mL (3 medium or 1 cup) bananas, mashed

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400° F (200° C). Prepare muffin pans by spraying with non-stick spray.
  2. Combine flour, bran, baking powder and soda and salt in a bowl and mix.
  3. Cream coconut oil and sugar with 1 egg until well blended and add the other egg and beat well. Combine the soured milk and mashed bananas and mix well.
  4. Pour into the dry mixture and mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  5. Pour batter into prepared muffin cups to about 3/4 full.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.
  7. Cool slightly and serve.

These muffins have excellent texture from the moistness of the bananas and the bran cereal.

Notes:

  • These muffins are not nearly as sweet using coconut sugar as using regular white sugar.

In early September, we had our dear friends come to Toronto for a visit and then we all drove to Montréal for a few days to help celebrate Montréal’s 375th Birthday! We usually have a cocktail or ten when we see our dear friends and I never like to drink on an empty stomach so I make tasty, protein rich cocktail munchies. I have made parmesan crisps before (here) but I came across Ina Garten’s recipe and it was slightly different so I wanted to give it a try. They have a delicate, slightly grainy texture (from the flour) which is not off putting but definitely different than using just plain cheese. They are quite moreish, so if you have a crowd, you might want to make a few batches. These are not crackers, they are too delicate to hold a dip or sauce. These are meant to be eaten on their own with a cocktail. And we do cocktails!

One tablespoon works perfectly in my 5 cm (2 inch) form.

Crispy Cheese Tuiles

Makes 10-12 tuiles. Please click here to print this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 85 g (1 cup) parmesan cheese, grated
  • 10 g (1 tbsp) AP unbleached flour
  • 2 g (1 tsp) fresh herbs, finely chopped

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350° F (176° C). Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Combine the cheese, flour and rosemary and mix well.
  3. Bake for 6-8 minutes or until lightly golden, cheese will crisp up as they cool.

These will be perfect with our welcome back martinis!

Notes:

  • I used Parmesan and Rosemary for one and Gruyère and thyme for the other.
  • Any hard cheese will do, as long as they render and crisp up.
  • The grate is best short, longer strips will be difficult to form into the smallish circles.
  • Store in the refrigerator for 5 days in an air tight container.
  • These do not freeze well.
  • It was rather humid in early September so I had to crisp them up in the oven just prior to serving, a minute or two at 300F should do it.

The chef at our favourite French Bistro has left and his long-time sous chef has taken over. In general, the menu changes to suit the new chef but, because this is a traditional French Bistro, very few of the menu items changed. Sadly, one item that did change was the serving of the braised short rib, one of JT’s favourites. Instead of blue cheese risotto, the chef serves it with greens and pommes fourchette (literally, forked potatoes) and it’s not quite the same. When I mentioned that I was going to make short ribs, JT specifically asked me to make the blue cheese risotto. This dish is extremely rich, so I suggested that I make it with cauliflower rice instead of real rice and JT agreed. The meat is cooked on low for a long time but that is what makes it so delicious, so don’t fast forward and use high, low and slow is the way to go. Also, cut the carrots into good sized chunks so that they don’t disintegrate during the cooking process, my carrots still had great texture at the end.

Sherry Braised Short Rib with Cauliflower Blue Cheese Risotto

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Please click here to print this recipe.

Serves 2-3

Ingredients:

  • 500 mL beef short ribs
  • 200 g onions, finely chopped
  • 125 mL beef stock
  • 125 mL cooking sherry (or red wine)
  • 15 mL (1 tbsp) tomato paste
  • 200 g (1 medium) carrot, cut into one-bite chunks
  • 120 g (1 stalk) celery, finely chopped
  • 20 g (3 cloves) garlic, finely minced
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 10 g (1 tbsp) corn starch, dissolved in a small amount of cold water

 

Directions:

  1. Season short ribs with salt and pepper.
  2. Brown the short ribs in small batches in a cast iron pan, transfer to a pre-warmed slow cooker.
  3. Add onions to the hot cast iron pan and cook until translucent, add celery and garlic and cook until garlic becomes aromatic. Add the carrots and cook for about a minute. Transfer to the slow cooker.
  4. Combine the stock, sherry, tomato paste and mix well, use to deglaze the cast iron pan, turn the heat off. Add the cornstarch that has been dissolved in a small amount of water and stir well into the deglazing liquid. Pour the liquid over the meat and carrots in the slow cooker. Stir well.
  5. Lay the fresh thyme and bay leaf into the slow cooker and cover with braising liquid. Cook the ribs for 5-6 hours, covered on low or until meat comes cleanly off the bone. Remove thyme sprigs and bay leaf.
  6. Serve on top of a bed of cauliflower blue cheese risotto (I didn’t jot down the recipe, but this one would be delicious).

 

Notes:

  • Always brown meat in small batches, otherwise you’ll end up steaming them instead of browning.
  • I sprinkled the seasoned ribs with Mycryo and got a gorgeous sear.
  • My sauce turned out to be the perfect consistency, not soupy at all.

Cheese Crêpes

I am a crêpe fanatic, I just love them so much. I will choose a savoury crêpe over any sandwich, any day of the week. I particularly love it with béchamel sauce or just plain cheese (and some wonderful filling, of course).

The other day, I had my pans and ingredients all pulled out, ready to make a plain crêpe when it hit me, why not add cheese RIGHT INTO THE BATTER? The more flavourful, the better. It’s not low fat, but boy it is delicious. Imagine a combination of crêpe and grilled cheese, it is so good. It’s true that I’ve done crêpe paninis and delicious ordinary crêpes (like this and this beautiful savoury mushroom crêpe), but when this crept into my head, I just had to try it. I hope you like it too.

Cheese Crêpes

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Recipe is for 2 Crêpes.

Please click here to print this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 egg whites or 1 whole L egg
  • 65 mL (1/4 cup) soda water
  • 15 mL (1 tbsp) oil
  • 35 g (1/4 cup) flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 25 g (1/4 loose cup) sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Directions:

  1. Add all of the ingredients to the container of your immersion blender. Blend until entirely emulsified. Allow to sit for 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat your crêpe pan. Emulsify the crêpe batter one more time. Use half (about 100 mL) for the first crêpe and the remainder for the second.

Notes:

  • This is a delicate, cheesy crêpe.
  • I put sautéed mushrooms and caramelized onions with a lemon thyme scented béchamel with it for a simple lunch, it was delicious.
  • Use sharp flavoured, hard cheese (like cheddar, gruyère, Oka), don’t use anything that will render too easily (like brie or blue cheese).

Is it a cake, fruit custard or pie?

I was invited to a BBQ at the marketing firm I work with and, of course, I couldn’t go empty handed! I spotted Lorraine’s recipe for an apple cake she made for Mr. NQN’s birthday and was immediately intrigued. Everyone loves cake and everyone loves apples (I hope) so I dove in head first and made her lovely cake. I modified the recipe to be gluten free (I didn’t know everyone at the BBQ and wanted to be safe and inclusive) and I used coconut sugar instead of superfine white sugar and increased the apple volume because I bought 5!

Thanks Lorraine for this tasty inspiration.

One of those peeler gizmos would have come in handy.

It’s really more apples than cake.

I made JT a tester.

The Imposter Apple Cake with Salted Coconut Caramel Sauce

For the original recipe on Lorraine Elliot’s beautiful blog, please click here.

Makes 1 cake, 20 cm (8 inch) diametre. Serves 6-8.

Please click here to print this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 5 medium apples (about 750 g, I used Galas)
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 100 g (2/3 cup) super fine coconut sugar
  • 150 mL (5 oz) milk
  • 30 g (2 tbsp) butter, melted and cooled
  • 120 g (3/4 cup) gluten free flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 50 g (1/2 cup) slivered almonds, toasted (reserve until ready to serve).

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F (170° C).
  2. Line the bottom of a 20 cm (8 inch) round cake pan with parchment and spray generously with non-stick spray.
  3. Prepare a bowl with cold water and 2 tbsp lemon juice, set aside.
  4. Peel the apples and slice very thinly using a mandoline. Immerse the slices into the cold lemony water.
  5. Combine the eggs and sugar and beat until thick. Add the milk and melted butter and beat until well combined.
  6. Sift the flour, cinnamon and salt and add to the wet ingredients. Beat just until combined and lumps are gone.
  7. Drain the sliced apples and dry slightly. Fold the apple slices into the batter to coat well.
  8. Pour into the prepared pan and bake uncovered for 50-55 minutes or when a cake tester comes out clean.
  9. Cool completely before serving.
  10. Top with toasted almonds when serving.

Ingredients for Salted Caramel Sauce

Makes 200 mL (3/4 cup) caramel sauce

  • 90 g  (3/4 cup) coconut sugar
  • 1/4 tsp lemon juice
  • 5 mL (1 tsp) water
  • Good pinch of sea salt
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) 18% cream
  • 20 g (heaping tablespoon ) butter

Directions:

  1. Heat cream and salt in a microwave proof container until very hot but not boiling, set aside.
  2. Combine coconut sugar, lemon juice and water in a microwave safe container and mix well (I used a 250 mL (2 cup) glass measuring cup).
  3. Microwave sugar mixture for 1-3 minutes in 15-second intervals (45 seconds did it for me) until sugar bubbles up but does NOT BURN, sugar crystals should be completely dissolved and you should begin to see it turn to a darker amber colour.
  4. Remove and set on a dishcloth for 30 seconds or until it reaches the colour of dark caramel.
  5. Slowly pour in the hot milk, being VERY careful as this will bubble up, whisking to incorporate.
  6. Stir well and then add the butter and stir until completely dissolved. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The caramel sauce really makes this dessert.

Notes:

  • This is not a very sweet cake and therefore, the coconut sugar caramel sauce is perfect for it.
  • Want to jazz it up even more? Add a dollop of cream fraiche or whipped cream on top.
  • The original recipe put the almonds on top of the raw batter and bake it altogether, but I found that almonds went soggy after 1 day in the refrigerator so next time I make this tasty cake, I will not add the amonds until I am ready to serve (recipe has been amended with this change).

Korean Pork “Bulgogi”

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

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

Korean Pork “Bulgogi”

For the original recipe, please click here.

Print Korean “Bulgogi” Recipe

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

This is a richly flavoured Korean inspired dish.

Notes:

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

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

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

It was a hot, humid day.

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

The dog fountain, they are all dog statues

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

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

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

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

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

Tonka Bean Panna Cotta on Chocolate Crumble with Almond Tuile

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

Tonka Bean Panna Cotta Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Chocolate Crumble Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Almond Tuile Ingredients:

  • 50 g sugar
  • 25 g sliced almonds

Directions:

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

Assembly:

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

Notes:

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

Smoked Ketchup

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

You control the sugar.

Smoked Ketchup

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

This recipe makes a little more than 125 mL.

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Notes:

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

 

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

Close up of the lemon flower.

 

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

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

This was the first test recipe.

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

The first one looked a little rough.

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

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

Just about ready to be popped into the oven.

Tourtière

Please click here to print recipe
Serves 6, plus

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

 

This one turned out very well.

The Savoury Pastry Recipe

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

Please click here to print this recipe.

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

 

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

Assembly:

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Directions:

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

Notes:

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

Night photos always suck.

Zucchini Rösti

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

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

A tasty alternative to Rösti Potatoes.

Zucchini Rösti

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

High Protein “Bread”

Print High Protein Bread Recipe

For the Original Recipe, please click here.

Makes 1 loaf, about 10 slices.

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Notes:

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

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

Decadent Chocolate, Chestnut, Coffee Crunch Cake

Makes one 20 cm (8 inch) layered cake.

Original recipe may be found here.

The Cake

Ingredients for the light cake:

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

Directions:

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

Ingredients for the chocolate cake:

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

Directions:

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

Chestnut filling:

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Cake assembly:

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

Notes:

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