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Last May I decided I wanted to see Kinky Boots for our wedding anniversary, I knew it would be a treat but I honestly was not prepared for the sticker shock! The price equaled a nice weekend away in our own wine country at a four-star hotel (all be it, during off season)! So I passed. Then, last month I received an email from a local radio station that they were offering a discount to see the show (I don’t know why, because they seem to sell out) but I wanted to see it and so I checked out the deal.  We ended up getting two seats in the first level balcony for $90, all in (and by all in, there is 13% tax as well as ‘convenience’ fees, whatever they may be). It was a matinée on a Wednesday afternoon (freelancing allows that freedom) so we decided to check out Chef Rob Feenie’s Cactus Club before the show.

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Rob Feenie is a celebrated Vancouver Chef who presides over 18 Cactus Club restaurants in Canada and the Toronto restaurant is the only one east of Calgary! Located in First Canadian Place in the heart of the financial district, the place is poised for high-end business deals over delicious luncheons and the suit crowd for after work drinks.

The Cactus Club Toronto is on three levels, each level boasting a unique style but serving the same menu; I’ve heard that this location is their flagship. We dined on street level which has a casual bar-like décor and ambiance, sadly with a few TVs.

CactusClub

The patio was still decorated with beautifully lit Christmas trees and propane heaters, a little excessive to say the least, but beautiful!

They don’t take reservations, they do have a few tables set aside for reservations, but their preference is for walk-ins, whether it’s for lunch or dinner. The front of the restaurant is set back into the building allowing a large hall to accommodate stanchions with velvet ropes for the large queues that, no doubt form. Most of you who have known me for some time, know that I do not wait in line for a restaurant so, this set-up did not bode well for me. However, it was a Wednesday, noonish and we were shown directly to our table. Whew! But as a side note, we have tried to make reservations for dinner a few times and have been turned down which is too bad because I would have liked to return.

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Bar Interior from our booth. Too bad about the TVs.

The decor for this part of the restaurant is contemporary but warm. The perimeter is lined with large booths (but mostly sat only two people) around an enormous bar with stools all around. The window side had some little tables as well. What’s really interesting is the original art collection! On the upper levels you can enjoy your dish sitting alongside an original Warhol, Basquiat, or Mr.Brainwash!

Although we dined during the lunch hour, it wasn’t overly busy and they seemed to have a reasonable number of staff to ensure service was good. The kitchen is on the second or third floor which means the bus-boy is running up a flight of stairs with a basket of dirty dishes every 5 minutes or so, it also means that the food must be carted down the stairs alongside patrons walking up to the ladies or men’s rooms, which I found a little strange. Our server was attentive, friendly and considerate (asked if we were on a schedule).

We started with Szechuan Chicken Lettuce Wraps ($16.50) which turned out to be an extremely generous serving, in fact, JT and I said we could have been satisfied with just this course! It’s sweet and spicy Szechuan glazed chicken garnished with peanuts and crispy fried wontons with Korean chili sauce and spicy yogurt on the side. It was DELICIOUS! I would definitely order this dish again.

The serving was extremely generous and very tasty.

The serving was extremely generous and very tasty.

My main course was the Tuna Stack ($16.00) made with raw ocean wise™ albacore tuna and avocado tossed in a citrus tamari vinaigrette (ceviche-style) garnished with crispy tempura, nori, sesame and micro cilantro with a large stack of deep fried wonton chips on the side. This too was a very generous serve and could have easily fed two people for a light lunch.

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Again, the Tuna Stack was a very generous serving size.

JT ordered the Short Rib Sandwich ($17.50) with sweet potato fries (which were extra, but I can’t recall how much), this dish was the least impressive by sight, flavour and size of the three we had — it was still delicious but not “WOW!” The sandwich is two halves of toasted sourdough bread with caramelized onions and Emmental cheese on tender short rib meat served with beef jus and a mayo that was a little like tartare sauce! It was fine, but not memorable.

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Although visually the Short rib sandwich was the least exciting, it was very tasty.

CactusSelfie

The Ladies Room had this mirror with the hashtag #cactusselfie which I thought was cute.

We loved the Cactus Club and based on the food, service and ambiance would love to return but the potential queues at 7:30 in the evening for a table does not grab me…frankly there are too many really good restaurants in Toronto to waste time standing in line for another one!

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

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

Cactus Club

2279 Bloor St W
Toronto, ON
M6S 1P1

Tel: 647-347-6826

Sunday – Wednesday 11am – 1am
Thursday – Saturday 11am – 1:30am

End Note:

In case you are wondering what we thought of Kinky Boots: It was very entertaining and the music was catchy (not much sing-talking either, which I find annoying). The acting was captivating and the story played out very nicely.

The Royal Alexandra Theatre is an early-20th-century, Beaux-Arts-style theatre owned by Mirvish Productions. The theatre is gorgeous on the inside but the seats are incredibly small (the upholstery on the seats doesn’t look that old) so I will warn the ladies to wear slacks and taller patrons should only sit in the aisles seats.

RoyalAlex

That’s JT on the left and me on the right and I’m only 163 cm (5′ 4″) tall! 

PB ChocolateBark

This is a perfect recipe to show case the gorgeous gold sea salt that Barb (Profiteroles and Ponytales) so generously gave me at Christmas. Admittedly, this recipe is more appropriate for Christmas but what the hay…you get it now. On the plus side, it’ll give you enough time to source gold sea salt! Now this sea salt isn’t just brown made to look like gold, it actually looks like the real McCoy (probably not real gold, though but it’s just as pretty)! I would have liked to pry the top off and get the actual larger chunks but it seems it was glued on so I was out of luck. I can see this gorgeous sea salt on so much more so you’ll likely be reading about it again.

GoldSeaSalt copy

This is the gold sea salt that I sprinkled on the bark

Peanut Butter Chocolate Bark with Gold Sea Salt

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 285 g semisweet chocolate
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup chunky peanut butter (just peanuts, no salt, no sugar)
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • gold sea salt

Directions:

  1. Slowly melt the chocolate in a double boiler or bain marie, stir in the cinnamon and mix well. Meanwhile, mix the chunky peanut butter and icing sugar well.
  2. Spread the melted chocolate onto a silicon lined baking sheet to about 3-5 mm (just less than 1/4″). Dot the peanut butter onto the melted chocolate and swirl with the blade of a very thin knife. Sprinkle with gold sea salt. Refrigerate until hard and then break into bite-sized portions.
PB Bark

Mmmmm PB and chocolate, a match made in heaven!

Notes:

  • Melting chocolate should always be done very slowly and never over boiling water.
  • I used a natural peanut butter because that is what we have, if you use peanut butter with added sugar and salt, you will need to modify the recipe.
Cod_First
This is a recipe that we’ve been making since 2008 when it appeared in the LCBO’s Food & Drink, Early Summer Magazine. In fact, JT has often made it for my birthday! I’m not sure what initially drew me to this ingredient heavy recipe but I do know that I have absolutely loved it since day one! We often make it without the shrimp dumplings as an everyday dish, but I recently made it for a dinner party with dumplings so I thought I’d finally share it with you. Although it does look daunting, the steps are easy and the dish comes together beautifully with very little effort so you too can enjoy your dinner party. We haven’t made many changes, with the exception of a few minor ingredient modifications and doubling the broth, I just adore the flavour of the broth and always feel like it could have used just a bit more…so our version includes, just a bit more!
BroiledCodShrimpDumplings Did anyone else notice that the recipe clearly states 3 shrimp dumplings per serving but this one only has two?

Broiled Sake-Marinated Cod with Shrimp Dumplings in Shiso Broth

Serves 4 generously

Original recipe by Lucy Waverman, LCBO Early Summer 2008

Ingredients for Cod and Sake Marinade:

  • 400 g Cod
  • ¼ cup (50 mL) sodium reduced soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp (45 mL) honey
  • 2 tbsp (25 mL) mirin
  • 2 tbsp (25 mL) sake
  • ¼ tsp (1 mL) grated peeled fresh ginger
  • ¼ tsp (1 mL) grated garlic

Directions for the Cod and Sake Marinade:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients for the marinade and whisk well. Lay cod in a single layer in a shallow, non-reactive pan and pour the marinade over, making sure the cod is covered it it, wrap container in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Allow to sit in the refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight, turning Cod occasionally.

Ingredients for the Shrimp Dumplings: 

  • 175 g shrimp, deveined and cut into pieces
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) grated fresh ginger
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) grated fresh garlic
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) honey
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) mirin
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) toasted sesame oil
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • ¼ tsp (1 mL) water
  • 25-32 wonton wrappers or this recipe

Directions for the Shrimp Dumplings:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients but the egg yolk, water and wonton wrappers in the bowl of a small food processor and process until well puréed. Set aside. Lightly whisk the egg yolk and water together.
  2. Place one teaspoon of the shrimp mixture into the centre of a wonton wrapper, rub a bit of the egg yolk-water mixture on the edges and fold up the edges in a decorative pattern, squeezing out any air. Set finished dumplings on a piece of parchment on a cookie sheet and continue until you have used up all of the shrimp mixture (how many dumplings you get will depend on how much shrimp mixture).
  3. Freeze the dumplings until required, it only takes a minute longer to cook them from frozen and they are much easier to handle while frozen.

Ingredients for the Shiso Broth:

  • 4 cups (1 L) chicken stock or water
  • 4 tbsp (50 mL) sodium reduced soy sauce
  • 4 tsp (20 mL) mirin
  • 4 tsp (20 mL) rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) grated fresh garlic
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp (4 mL) honey
  • 1 tsp (4 mL) toasted sesame oil
  • 1 oz (30 g) shiitake mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed and thinly sliced
  • 20 thin slices peeled carrot
  • ¼ cup (50 mL) julienne leek (white part only)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) baby spinach leaves
  • 1½ tsp (7 mL) white sesame seeds, toasted

Shiso Broth and Serving:

  1. Pre-heat the oven on High broil. Remove the Cod from the marinade and lay onto a parchment lined shallow sided baking tray. Broil for 8-10 minute or until an internal temperature of 168° F is reached.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to a boil and boil 12 shrimp dumplings for about 3 minutes or until they float to the top. Remove dumpling with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. Combine all of the Shiso Broth ingredients but the spinach and sesame seeds in a large pot and slowly bring to a boil (adding the marinating liquid as a punch of flavour). Cook until the carrots are soft and then reduce to a simmer, adding the spinach and the shrimp dumplings to wilt and warm through.
  4. Warm 4 shallow, rimmed soup bowls. Add about 1 cup of broth, including mushrooms, spinach and carrots and top with the broiled Cod serving with 3 dumplings per plate. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds.

Notes:

  • I always use sodium reduced Soy sauce.
  • I have replaced sugar with honey.
  • No need to purchase drinking Sake, a good quality cooking Sake will do the trick.
  • The LCBO recipe makes far too many dumplings so just freeze what you don’t use for next time.
  • The LCBO recipe for the dumplings contain scallops but they are ridiculously expensive so I have omitted them, either way is tasty.
  • In a pinch, you can buy ready-made shrimp dumplings although I have not done this.
  • Purchased wonton wrappers tend to be a bit too thick, so I recommend to roll them to a thinner thickness so they don’t taste too heavy.

Compost Broth

CompostBroth_first

Warning, night photos with very bad lighting!

Many years ago, a woman from Florida started commenting regularly on my blog. Of course, I began reciprocating on her blog (which was the point, I guess) and I discovered that the more blogs I commented on, the more comments my blog would garner. That can get old really fast. I nick-named the task ‘comment whoring’. These days, I only comment on a select few blogs, many of them I have actually met the author in person and have a non-blog relationship. It’s not that I don’t like lots of comments (it makes me feel very popular, unlike real life), but I’d rather have a few of real value than a bunch of “yum!”. I’d love to hear what you think. I like to leave value comments too, you may have noticed that they can be a bit wordy! 😉

That woman from Florida was a Military wife and she knew how to make a dollar stretch. One of her posts was about a vegetable stock made entirely from vegetable trimmings. At first, I thought it was strange (OK, and a bit gross) but a really good friend recently mentioned she does the same thing, so I decided to give it a try. I am proud to say that I am now totally a convert. The stocks are always richly flavoured and a beautiful colour due to the onion skins. Onion skin broth is supposed to be a natural blood pressure remedy, although I have no idea how much you need to have for it to work! I keep a ziplock bag in my freezer and not one Veggy trim goes in the bin, it all goes into the freezer bag and once I have filled the bag, I take out my broth pot and fill it with water and simmer with all the trimmings for 3 hours, give or take. At the end, I turn the gas off and allow it to cool off. I strain the liquid 2-3 times, having the final strain through a metal, fine coffee filter (not the paper kind, they bung up too quickly). The straining allows you to capture any bits of dirt and gunge that may have gotten in the stock. The stock is delicious on its own or used in recipes. No two broths are alike. I encourage you to give this a go, there are no rules other than washing your trimmings well or just buy organic (although, I’d still wash well). And as usual, I don’t salt until I use it because everything requires different seasonings.

 

CompostBroth

This pot was comprised of some leftover shoot veggies and lettuces.

 

High Fibre Soup Dumplings

Dumplings_First

Fibre is always a good thing to add to your diet and as we age it becomes more and more important. With the weather being chilly (because it’s February and we live in Toronto, DUH!) I’ve been craving a lot of soup, and my favourite is a broth soup. Every week I make a large batch of compost stock (well-washed vegetable trimmings) and my dinner is usually the vegetable broth with chopped vegetables but sometimes I crave something more. Recently JT was away for some councillor meetings so I was able to experiment freely without judgement and I came up with these high fibre dumplings. The egg adds the protein and the dumplings add more than 3.5 times the fibre a regular dumpling would have. They remind me of matzo balls but a tad firmer, which I prefer anyway. So if you’re trying to add a bit more fibre to your diet, give these gems a go, I think they’re pretty tasty.

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The parsley adds delicious flavour so don’t skip it.

High Fibre Soup Dumplings

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup all bran cereal
  • 1/4 cup all purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 tbsp flax seeds
  • 2 tbsp water
  • a good fist of parsley leaves
  • 1 extra large egg

Directions:

  1. Add all the dry ingredients and parsley to the bowl of a small food processor and pulse until mostly powder.
  2. Add the egg and 2 tablespoons water and mix thoroughly and let sit 5 minutes to allow mixture to thicken.
  3. Drop by teaspoon-full into the boiling soup and cook thoroughly (usually when they rise to the top).
  4. Serve immediately.
DumplingNutValue

Based on 2 servings

Ameretti Cookies

AmarettiCookies_1

Ever since we recently had our Jura Espresso Machine serviced, we have been indulging in an espresso after lunch. We stock our coffee maker with decaffeinated espresso coffee beans so we’re not worried about being kept up at night with caffeine. Every time I have an espresso in the afternoon, I always feel like a little something to have with it, a biscotti (like this, this or this) or in most recent times, an amaretti cookie. Having just the right amount of ground almonds on hand, I decided to whip up these traditional but super easy cookies for our afternoon espresso.

Did you know that the first amaretti were made with crushed apricot kernels and almonds? You can read the story here.

They are deliciously almondy.

They are deliciously almondy.

Amaretti Cookies

Original recipe may be found here, I had to modify it because the cookies were flattening too much with the original proportions.

Makes about 44 cookies

Ingredients

  • 410 g ground almonds
  • 410 g granulated sugar
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 tsp almond flavouring
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 44 whole almonds, skin on

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 325° F  (163° C).
  2. In small portions, add the ground almonds, granulated sugar and lemon zest to the small container of your NutriBullet and using your milling blade, grind to a fine consistency. Run through a coarse sieve to avoid the almond bits sticking together.
  3. Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry, add the almond flavouring and mix well.
  4. Add the sugar and almond mixture to the beaten egg whites and gently combine. It should have the consistency of a thick paste.
  5. Spoon by generous teaspoons onto a parchment-lined baking sheet about 5 cm (2 inches) apart and top each cookie with a whole almond, pressed gently into it. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool slightly on the sheet and gently remove to a wire cooling rack. Store in an air-tight container separating rows with parchment paper. Or freeze.

Lemony Sandwich Cookies

 

LemonyCookies_First

Recently we travelled to Arizona to visit our very dear friends Paul and T at their new home where they plan to spend the winter every year. I always like to arrive with a little thoughtful, but useful gift. Of course, folks our age have everything we could ever want, and if we don’t, we simply go out and get it. So buying a gift for their new home is becoming increasingly more difficult so I usually default to baking. After all, who doesn’t love home baked goods?

Our national grocery chain Loblaws’ private label brand PC (President’s Choice) has many great products in their lineup (you may be familiar with PC Chocolate Chip Cookies — I know that particular product was distributed nationwide in the U.S. Did they capture the market in the UK, Europe and Australia too?) and one particularly wonderful product was a Lemon Sandwich Cookie. Sadly this cookie has not been available for some time now (years, really) and our dear friend Paul LOVES them. Like, he really, really LOVES them. What set this cookie apart was its strong lemony flavour, in both the sugar biscuit and the creamy butter icing, sandwiched in the middle.

My usual MO is to make a couple of baked goods that are favourites below the 49th, but just like my Christmas baking, this list can get out of control over time. Cue JT to roll his eyes.

Now this one came about quite innocently, at least, to me it did (but then again, I can justify virtually anything!). You see, I was at Dollarama, picking up a few little things (never food) and I spotted the Wilton Sandwich Cookie Pan. Oh dear.

  • I did not go over and touch it.
  • I did not stop to look at it.
  • I did not even spend more than a split second thinking about it.
  • I simply passed by it and went on my merry way.

Of course, the memory of this specialty cookie pan tucked itself into a far corner of my brain, only to exert itself in the wee hours of the night as I was desperately trying to sleep. By the morning, I had already decided to go back and purchase one. They were only $3 so I got two and that way I could bake in tandem, my logic is that it uses less electricity if I could have a tray ready to go in the oven when the other comes out. You see? That’s justification! Cue JT to roll his eyes, again. But in all honesty, $3 is really quite reasonable for a quality Wilton product, particularly when it’s on their website for $8.99!
I used the Wilton recipe for the cookie that is on the packaging because I figured it must be tried and true and, for the most part, it worked out well. The only thing I would suggest is to add a bit of lemon zest to the cookie dough and not spray the pan with non-stick spray because the pan is already non-stick and I had no issues with the cookies releasing easily.

 

Lemony Sandwich Cookies

Makes 24 sandwich cookies.

Lemon Sandwich Sugar biscuit ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp natural lemon extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/3 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • a very small bit of yellow gel food colouring (optional)

Lemon Butter Cream Ingredients:

  • 94 g butter, room temperature
  • 360 g icing sugar
  • 2 tsp natural lemon extract
  • 3 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 lemons, freshly grated zest
  • a very small bit of yellow gel food colouring (optional)

Lemon Cookie Batter Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the oil and egg and beat until combined.
  2. Add the extracts, sugar and salt and beat for 1 minute.
  3. Add the flour a bit at a time, beating well to incorporate.
  4. Add the colouring a bit at a time until the desired colour is achieved.
  5. Create little round balls about 8 grams or 1/2 teaspoon each and put into the centre of each form (no need to spray with non-stick spray), press down evenly (I used a press like this cookie stamp without the silicon bit, make sure you press the bottom into flour first! You could also use an espresso tamper).
  6. Bake for 9 minutes or until no longer soft in the centre but not beginning to brown. Allow cookies to cool in the pan for a few minutes then gently coax out. Cool cookies completely before filling.

Lemon Butter Cream Filling Directions:

  1. Beat the butter until fluffy. Add the icing sugar a little each time, beating well.
  2. About half-way through the sugar, add the flavouring and lemon zest.
  3. Continue to add the sugar and beat until a desired consistency is achieved.
  4. Freeze unused buttercream in an airtight container. To use, defrost in the refrigerator. When ready to use, whip for a few minutes to ensure it is consistent.

Assembly:

  1. Using a Wilton #12 tip, fill a piping bag with the creamy filling and pipe onto one cookie at a time about half-way to the edge. Place a similarly sized cookie on top and gently squeeze. Repeat until you have 24 sandwiched cookies. In the unlikely occurrence that they are not consumed in one sitting, store in an airtight container for a day or two, or freeze for longer periods of storage. Frozen cookies have been known to be consumed quite happily, we’re not picky!!!

Homemade Butter

HomemadeButter_first

My dear Mom encouraged us as children to participate in cooking. Sometimes it was as simple as cleaning green beans or popping sweet peas out of their pods, whatever the task, it always resulted in increasing our comfort level in the kitchen for which, to this day I am truly grateful. One such exercise was to make whipped cream for a dessert topping. I must have been quite young because Mom set-up a workstation on the kitchen table so I could see inside the bowl of our olive green Iona Stand Mixer!

I no longer have the stand for the mixer.

I no longer have the stand for the mixer.

We poured the ice cold cream into an ice cold glass bowl and I started the mixer. I learned that starting the mixer on high only resulted in cream splashing all over my face! The bowl sat on some sort of ball-bearing Lazy Susan which you had to gently hold so the bowl wouldn’t spin out of control (I was in charge of that). As you undoubtedly already know, whipping cream to stiff peaks doesn’t take long, but I didn’t know that back then! Dear Mom was distracted and before I knew it, the cream began separate and turn to butter, the fat congealing and separating from the buttermilk. These types of “mistakes” never resulted in a scolding, they turned into lessons and this one became Butter Making 101! In those days we ate a lot of butter so Mom knew this lesson wouldn’t go to waste! Fortunately, dear Mom always had extra whipping cream in the refrigerator and so I learned to make two things that day: butter and whipping cream.

This is a great exercise for children but be careful because today’s stand mixers can be very dangerous for small hands.

Homemade Butter

Ingredients:

  • 1 L (8 cups) whipping cream (35% fat)
  • Pinch of salt (optional)
  • Cheese cloth and a fine sieve.

Directions:

  1. Place your stand mixer mixing bowl and whisk into the freezer for 10-15 minutes or until very cold.
  2. When bowl and whisk have chilled through, secure bowl to stand and add the cream. Slowly begin beating cream, adding a pinch of salt if desired.
  3. At about 10 minutes, the cream should begin to thicken and separate from the whey, once you have distinct separation stop beating. Voilà, you have made butter!
  4. Strain through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. Reserve the buttermilk (I’ll use it to feed my sourdough starter), transfer butter to a resealable container and refrigerate. Or separate into smaller portion sizes and freeze. You will also need to squeeze excess buttermilk from the butter.
Butter_2

Deliciously creamy, homemade butter.

Notes:

  • You can make butter from any amount of whipping cream, I just had 1 litre left over from a gig.
  • I used my whisk attachment of my Kitchenaid stand mixer, but I’ve seen people do it in a blender too although I would find it too difficult to clean thoroughly.
  • Flavour butter with fresh herbs to make a compound butter and freeze in small portions to flavour fish, poultry or meats.
  • I chose not to salt my butter but you can add salt as you wish.
  • Butter freezes very well. Portion into 1/4 (125 mL) or 1/2 cup (250 mL) portions.
Portion size is 1 teaspoon.

Portion size is 1 teaspoon.

HungarianGreenBeanStew_first

Green bean stew (Zöldbab Főzelék) is one of those Hungarian dishes that is an aquired taste, it has a bit of a sour flavour and is usually rather heavy on the dill. I never liked it as a kid, but it is a Hungarian staple particularly as spring approaches. Recently, I found myself with a relatively large package of the lovely, extra-thin green beans and I wondered how I could make this roux-based dish a little healthier. I omitted the lard (I know, it’s flavour but we’re also trying to lose a few so we’re being good!) and I remade the roux with puréed lentils! Not so traditional, but it was rather tasty. With JT giving it a solid thumbs up, I’ll definitely be making this dish again!

Healthy Hungarian Green Bean Stew (Egészséges Zöldbab Főzelék)

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 300 g Green Beans, trimmed and cut i bite-size pieces
  • 90 g leeks, roughly chopped
  • 20 g garlic, roughly chopped
  • 30 g red lentils
  • 1 tsp Hungarian Paprika
  • Vegetable Stock
  • 1 tsp EVOO
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2-3 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped.

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven, sauté green beans until soft but still has a bit of a crunch adding a tablespoon of the vegetable stock as needed. Set aside.
  2. In the same pan, add leeks, garlic and lentils and sauté adding a bit of vegetable stock until lentils are soft, add the paprika near the end. Purée the lentil sauce until smooth add  vegetable stock until desired consistency is achieved (should be thick like a roux). Add the yogurt and purée again until smooth. Return the beans to the lentil sauce and add the chopped dill (to taste), heat through and serve immediately.

Notes:

  • For an authentic Hungarian Green Bean Stew, please visit my friend Zsuzsa for her recipe.
  • I wanted a fat-free and gluten-free roux and that is why I chose red lentils to thicken the sauce.
  • This is a slightly sour dish from the yogurt, if you don’t like that type of flavour, omit it.
  • I served a baked tilapia on the stew, the tilapia is just seasoned with salt and pepper.
This was the first time I made this stew and JT LOVED it!

This was the first time I made this stew and JT LOVED it!

Based on 2 servings per recipe.

The healthy version based on 2 servings per recipe.


This is the original Hungarian Recipe which uses lard, sour cream and flour.

This is the original Hungarian Recipe which uses lard, sour cream and flour.

Chicken á la King Soup

ChickenALaKingSoupDuring my childhood, we ate mostly Canadian-ized Hungarian food. And by Canadian-ized, I mean that Mom used yogurt instead of tejföl (sour cream), oil instead of lard etc. Every weekend we would have a roast of beef or pork (but mainly beef) and in the summer, Dad would BBQ steak and thick juicy bacon (szalonna). On weekdays Mom had her repertoire of chicken and fish dishes and I do recall the odd (when Dad wasn’t home for dinner) meatloaf, with the obligatory hard-boiled egg inside and various Hungarian stews like Lecsó and tok fózelék (a similar dish to creamed spinach but it’s on the sour side).

Around the timeI turned 14, I became interested in cooking recipes that I chose myself and my dear Mom encouraged me. One of my favourite resources very early on was the Milk Calendar, put out in full colour print for free by the Dairy Farmers of Canada. Every December, I eagerly awaited the Milk Calendar tucked away in the weekend edition of the Toronto Star. One of the first dishes I ever made on my own was Chicken á la King with leftover chicken (back in the day when a roast chicken fed a family of four AND had enough leftovers for another meal!)

I have to admit, I am unsure if the following inspiration came from the Milk Calendar (I’m leaning toward this) or my beloved Five Roses Cookbook (recipe page 233). What I can tell you with most certainty is that as I was making this soup, I instantly recognized the aroma and flavour of our beloved childhood Chicken á la King. The ingredients are quite unexpected and it’s pretty healthy to boot. If you love the flavours of a creamy Chicken á la King, you will LOVE this recipe.

When did you first begin cooking on your own and did you have a favourite recipe book that you used until it fell apart?

ChixALaKingSoup_7961

Chicken á la King Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes  3 or 4 servings 700-800 mL (3 1/2-4 cups),

Ingredients:

  • 180 g red lentils, rinsed and picked through
  • water to cover
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil, divided
  • 1/4 cooking onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 celery stalk, cubed
  • 1 carrot, cubed
  • 2 radishes, cubed
  • 2 tbsp frozen peas (optional garnish)
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 100 g chicken breast, skinless and boneless, cut into smallish strips
  • chicken stock
  • sea salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. In a medium, heavy bottomed pot, add 1 teaspoon vegetable oil and sauté the celery, carrot, and radish until soft. Add the chicken and cook through. Set aside in another bowl.
  2. In the same saucepan, add the remainding 1 teaspoon vegetable oil and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant. Add the lentils, stir and cover with water. Cook until lentils are very soft. Remove from heat and blitz with an immersion blender until very smooth, adding chicken stock until desired thickness is achieved (I left mine relative thick so it’s more stew-like). Add the apple cider vinegar and blitz until well blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Return the puréed lentils to the heat and slowly reheat, add the cooked vegetables and chicken and stir well. Serve pipping hot.
ChickenalaKingNF Healthy Chicken á la King Soup

WWPointChixalaKing 

Traditional Chicken á la King

 

TilapiawArugulaPaste

Last week we posted the Arugula Paste (or Arugula Pesto for those of us less traditional) and you might have guessed that I would do something tasty with it. The paste ended up on a tilapia fillet with some sautéed vegetables on a bed of spinach. The dish got rave reviews even if the lighting sucks.

Tilapia Crusted with Arugula Paste

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 60 g button mushrooms, cut in half
  • 60 g radishes, cut into triangles
  • 50 g yellow pepper, cut into cubes
  • 50 g red pepper, cut into cubes
  • 70 g eggplant, cut into cubes
  • 70 g onion, chopped
  • 60 g celery, cut into cubes
  • 200 g tilapia fillet
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup arugula paste

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350° F (176° C). Place fish in the centre of a heart-shaped sheet of parchment paper. Spread about half of the arugula paste on top and close and fold the parchment en papillote style (please see note below).
  2. In the meantime, add 1 tsp vegetable oil to a sautée pan and sautée all of the vegetables until just crunchy. Toss with the remaining arugula paste.
  3. When fish has reached an internal temperature of 158° F (70° C)
  4. Serve hot on a bed of baby spinach topped with the fish and the sautéed vegetables.

ArugulaPesto_onTilapia_7947

A delicious topping on a firm white fish.

I created this easy to follow video on how to fold en papillote. Please let me know what you think.

Arugula Paste

*First ArugulaPaste

So far, winter hasn’t been horrible (dare I say it out loud?). In the last week, we’ve only had a couple of super cold days (-23° C or -9.4° F) but we’ve only had one snow storm and although it was super wet, it wasn’t that bad (shovelling was awful!). The one thing I will complain about is the lack of sunshine November and December was…gloomy, gloomy, gloomy! Although January’s start has been chilly, it has been sunny! So if I have to give up warmth for sun, so be it.

Have you made a New Year’s Resolution? JT and I decided that we need to get back on track and eat more vegetables and limit eating out (oh dear, we do eat out a lot). So, I have determined that the next month or so I will dedicate the blog to super healthy, clean eating, roughly based on a ketogenic diet. I say roughly because I’m going to allow myself one day per week to ‘cheat’ (TBD)! I will comb through your lovely blog pages and get my inspiration there.

We’ve also decided to eat our main meal at noon instead our norm of 6 or 7 in the evening. We’re hoping that these changes will result in some shedding!

This condiment came about as I stared blankly in the refrigerator…so many vegetables but no inspiration! The bag of baby arugula called out to me…pesto, it whispered. Now I know many of you are pesto traditionalists and only basil, garlic, EVOO, pinenuts and parmesan will do…but what if you wish to limit calories? Yes, there is the argument that you should only use a little, but I wanted to start the week off right so I created this unique paste that resembles pesto (notice I didn’t call it pesto?). I received a solid thumbs up from JT, it has texture, a slight kick and it’s bright and beautiful green. A little sunshine on these gloomy winter days.

ArugualPaste_7953

The raw cauliflower gives makes a good substitute for the nuts, providing the slight crunch needed.

Arugula Paste

Makes a 125 mL (1/2 cup) sauce

A Kitchen Inspirations Original Recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 60 g raw cauliflower (either stems or florets or both)
  • 60 g baby arugula
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp vegetable stock (home made)
  • sea salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Add the raw cauliflower to a small processor bowl, process until it becomes a fine meal.
  2. Add the arugula (may need to be added in smaller portions), garlic, vinegar and stock and process until a desired consistency is achieved (I wanted it relatively fine).
  3. Season with sea salt and process until totally combined.
  4. See serving suggestions in notes.

Notes:

  • Serving suggestions: pasta, sautéed vegetables, zucchini noodles, drizzled on tomatoes, meat or fish.
  • Add a spoonful or two into a simple oil and vinegar salad dressing or greek yogurt for a dip.

ArugulaPasteNFScreen Shot 2016-01-05 at 4.31.47 PM

ChaiTiramisu_First

We had good friends over for dinner recently and I made an Indian extravaganza (all posted recipes but I’ll repeat them below). I wanted something a little different because I’d already made Chai Crème Brûlée and Gulab Jamun. I’ve always wanted to bake Lady Fingers and that’s how I landed on Chai Tiramisu. We feasted on the Indian food and then retired to the living room to enjoy the wood fire and dessert; our guests must have enjoyed the dessert because after they’d decided they had had enough and rested the half-eaten plates on the coffee table, they kept picking them up for ‘just one more bite’, eventually finishing off the entire plate. Now THAT makes me happy.

It’s not overly sweet and the chai comes through from the chai liquor soaked lady fingers. The ricotta and Greek yogurt combo makes it slightly less rich than the mascarpone version which was good considering the heaviness of the meal; I would definitely make it again even with the home-made ladyfingers, but if you’re tight for time, the store bought Italian ladyfingers would certainly do the trick.

Chai Tiramisu and Homemade Ladyfingers

Makes approx 1 loaf pan 23 cm x 13 cm  (9″ x 5″) tiramisu.

ChaiTiramisu_7636

Placing the tiramisu in the freezer for one hour before serving guarantees perfect slices.

Lady Fingers

Makes about 36 small lady fingers

Roughly based my recipe on this recipe, but I reduced volumes and I changed the method for egg whites

Ingredients Ladyfingers:

  • 2 eggs, room temperature, separated
  • 4 tbsp sugar, divided
  • 1/2 tsp bourbon vanilla extract
  • pinch of cream of tartar
  • 42 g cake and pastry flour, sifted

Directions Ladyfingers:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350° F (176° C). Generously butter and flour a lady finger molded tray or a cookie sheet.
  2. Beat egg whites with 2 tbsp sugar and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form, set aside.
  3. Beat egg yolks with remaining 2 tbsp sugar and vanilla extract until pale in colour but not ribbons.
  4. Gently fold in the egg whites being careful not to deflate. Carefully sift the flour into the egg mixture and fold even more carefully so as not to deflate but making sure all the flour is well incorporated.
  5. Using a lady finger molded baking tray, or piping the batter into long fingers
  6. Bake for 12 minutes, allow to cool completely in pan and gently coax out to remove.
LadyfingerPan_7618

Butter generously and then dust with flour. Don’t take the non-stick spray shortcut, it doesn’t work!

Ingredients for Chai liquor (see note):

  • 1/3 cup of milk
  • 2 short cinnamon sticks
  • 2 star anise
  • 3 green cardamom pods
  • 8-10 cloves
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 5 cm fresh vanilla bean
  • 1 black tea bag
  • 1 tsp Pastis (or any anise flavoured liquor such as Ouzo or Anisette)

Directions for Chai liquor:

  1. Add milk and all of the spices except the vanilla bean to a small saucepan and stir well.
  2. Scrape seeds out of the vanilla bean and add both bean and seeds to the saucepan. Heat slowly to infuse the milk with the chai flavours, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool, strain through a coarse sieve to allow vanilla seeds to remain in infused milk. Stir in Pastis. Set aside for assembly.

Ingredients for the Ricotta Cream and Chai Sugar:

  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese (See note)
  • 3/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp orange zest
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 tbsp icing sugar, divided
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/8 tsp cardamon
  • 1 tsp cocoa
  • 1/4 cup, roughly chopped pistachios, toasted

Directions for the Cream and Chai Sugar:

  1. Combine ricotta, yogurt, orange rind and 2 tbsp icing sugar and whip until fluffy.
  2. Combine 1 tbsp icing sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamon and cocoa and mix well.

Directions for Assembly:

  1. Line a small loaf pan with parchment paper.
  2. Dip each end of the ladyfingers into the chai liquor and line the loaf pan with them. Spread one third of the cream mixture over top, sprinkle with the chai sugar. Repeat 2 more times.
  3. Refrigerate overnight. About 90 minutes before serving, place in the freezer for so it’s easy to slice. Remove after 1 hour and slice into portions. Sprinkle some of the chai sugar on each plate, carefully place each slice in the centre of the plate, allow to sit for 30 minutes so it’s not overly cold. Serve with sprinkled pistachios.

Notes:

  • On using ricotta over mascarpone: I chose ricotta for two reasons, first is calories, this dessert made with ricotta is less than half the calories than using the richer mascarpone and two is budget, for some bizarre reason, mascarpone was $15 for about the same size of a $4 ricotta tub.
  • Feel free to use a chai tea bag to infuse the milk and omit all of the other spices, although I would still add the vanilla bean and seeds and the Anise liquor. Do not squeeze the tea bag otherwise you will have bitter chai liquor.
  • This dessert is best if it sits overnight in the fridge.
  • Although it is tempting to spray the ladyfinger pan with a non-stick spray, it will NOT WORK. Butter it generously and dust with flour. Each pan must be washed and rebuttered.

ChaiTiramisu_7635

The lady fingers soak up the Chai Liquor so they are pillowy soft.

Previous Posts about Indian Food:
Palek Paneer

Also known as Saag Paneer

Also known as Saag Paneer

Carrot Pickle and Mango Chutney

Lightly crunchy and packed full of flavour

Lightly crunchy and packed full of flavour

Sweet and tangy, just like a chutney should be

Sweet and tangy, just like a chutney should be

Best Naan Ever

Chewy and crispy at the same time

Chewy and crispy at the same time

Aloo Papri Chat

A quick shot of the actual serving dish at the dinner party

A quick shot of the actual serving dish at the dinner party

Beef Buhna

Tender beef cubes drenched in a mildly spicy, fragrant, flavourful gravy

Tender beef cubes drenched in a mildly spicy, fragrant, flavourful gravy

Paneer Makhani

A delicious, rich tasting tomato gravy with gently firm paneer

A delicious, rich tasting tomato gravy with gently firm paneer

Baked Onion Bahjis

Don't be fooled by their size, they pack a big punch of flavour

Don’t be fooled by their size, they pack a big punch of flavour

Jamie Olivers Chicken Tikka Masala (by far our favourite Indian Recipe)

ChickenTikkaMasala2_Blog

Chai Crème Brûlée

ChaiCremeBrulee_1925

Lemon Lentil Soup

Lemon Lentil Soup_1337

Tamarind Chutney

Tangy, sour and sweet all at once.

Tangy, sour and sweet all at once.

Enhanced Mulligatawny Soup

Enhanced Mulligatawny Soup

Enhanced Mulligatawny Soup

Gulab Jamun

Gulab Jamun

Gulab Jamun

Matar Paneer

matarpaneer

Christmas_First

Happy Holidays, my dear blog readers. I cannot begin to thank you for all of your lovely comments and your beautiful support throughout this year. In 2016, Kitcheninspirations is in her 8th year and it’s been quite a joyous ride. Originally this little blog was simply a repository of recipes, an on-line cookbook of some of my favourites over the years. But then someone commented and the rest is history. I cherish each and every one of you and hope to meet you in person soon. I hope you had a wonderful holiday with your family and cherished friends and JT and I wish you the very best for 2016.
MerryChristmasHNY

One of the things I’ve noticed as a child of immigrant parents is that my generation doesn’t hold as much to tradition as the previous generation did. Case in point, every Christmas my dear Mom would make Beigli, a traditional Hungarian Christmas treat; she would not make it any other time of the year, even though she loved it. I, on the other hand, will make anything as long as I can find the ingredients. Except Beigli. Beigli is an acquired taste; it’s not horrible or weird, it’s just not something Canadians are used to eating so, I generally only make it if we have other Hungarians around. This past Christmas was the second year we were invited to my cousin Lucy’s place for Angyal so I decided to make her Beigli. Beigli is a yeasted buttery dough rolled with a ground poppy seed mixture or a ground walnut mixture. My Mom put raisins in the poppy seed version but I don’t recall them in the walnut ones. This is only the second or third time I have made these treats, the two other times were well before this blog so it was more than eight years ago. Hungarian pastries are not sickly sweet and have only a little sugar in them, so if you are a sweet tooth, these are not for you. You may also wish to avoid the poppy seed Beigli if your work does any type of drug testing.

Beigli

Makes 1 30 cm (12 inch) each Poppy Seed (Mákos) and Walnut (Diós) Beigli

Original recipe from my dear Mom

Ingredients for the Dough:

  • 133 mL milk, warm
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 8 g instant yeast
  • 33 g icing sugar
  • 350-400 g AP flour
  • 167 g butter, room temperature
  • 3 eggs, divided
  • 1 egg white
  • pinch of salt

Directions for the Dough:

  1. Mix the warm milk, granulated sugar and yeast in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Using the scraper paddle of your stand mixer, rub the butter into 350 g of flour. Switch to the dough hook.
  3. Add 2 lightly beaten eggs, icing sugar and the salt to the yeast and mix well. Pour into the flour butter bowl and knead for a few minutes until the ingredients are combined and the dough becomes shiny and smooth (you may need to add a bit more flour so it’s not shaggy). Cover with a clean cloth and set aside for 2 hours in a warm, draft free spot.

Ingredients for the Poppy Seed Filling:

  • 200 mL milk
  • 200 g poppy seeds, ground
  • 33 g semolina
  • 133 g icing sugar
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 67 g raisins

Directions for the Poppy Seed Filling:

  1. Combine the ground poppy seeds, semolina, icing sugar and lemon zest and mix well.
  2. Bring the milk to a boil, remove from heat and stir into the poppy seed mixture. Add the raisins and mix well. Set aside to cool completely (don’t worry, it will thicken as it cools).

Ingredients for the Walnut Filling:

  • 100 g granulated sugar
  • 200 mL water
  • 200 g walnuts
  • 67 g panko
  • 30 mL water
  • 1 lemon, zested

Directions for the Walnut Filling:

  1. In the bowl of your food processor, process the walnuts, breadcrumbs and zest until finely ground. Set aside.
  2. Combine the water and sugar in a heavy bottom pan and bring to a boil without stirring. Continue to boil until it reaches 110 °C (230 °F). Remove from heat and immediately stir into the walnut mixture, adding the water and stir well.

Beigli Assembly and Baking

  1. Divide the dough into two equal portions. Roll each portion into 1/2 cm thick rectangles (about 11 1/4″ x 12″). Spread the entire amount of the filling evenly onto each rectangle, leaving about 1 cm wide border all around.
  2. Roll the dough from the long side and pinch the side to seal. Turn the ends into the roll.
  3. Place on a cookie sheet. Repeat for the other filling, brush both rolls with the remaining beaten egg. Allow to rest for one hour.
  4. Whisk the egg white and brush the rested rolls. Set aside for 30 more minutes. Pre heat the oven to 375° F (190° C).
  5. Once rested, lightly poke the sides of the rolls with a fork to avoid the dough breaking. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden and baked through.
  6. Serve the rolls sliced into 1-1.5 cm slices.
Diosbeigli_7888_

A delicious, not too sweet, Christmas treat.

makosbeigli_7884_

As a kid, I always preferred the walnut beigli, but I think I like the poppy seed better now!

Sourdough Buns

SourdoughBuns_First

Sourdough Buns

Original Recipe from King Arthur Flour, please click here.

This recipe makes 17 buns about 60 g each.

Ingredients:

  • 400 g Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 46 g milk powder
  • 1  1/2 tsp salt
  • 125 mL water
  • 1 tbsp instant yeast
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 egg
  • 276 g sourdough starter, fed
  • cornmeal (for dusting)

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, salt and milk powder and stir well to mix.
  2. In large glass measuring cup, combine water, yeast, sugar, oil and egg with the sourdough starter and mix thoroughly.
  3. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour the starter mixture into it. Mix with your dough hook attachment until the dough forms a ball and no longer sticks to the sides.
  4. Form into a smooth ball and oil exterior. Allow to rest for 1 hour.
  5. Press down and pinch about 60 g pieces and shape into even buns. Cut a small X on the top. Allow the buns to rest for 30 minutes.
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 375° F (190° C.
  7. Mist buns lightly with water and bake for 15-20 minutes or until internal temperature is 200° F).
  8. Allow to cool slightly. Serve warm.
SourdoughBuns_7643

A slightly eggy sourdough bread that is delicious with butter.

Tiropitakia

Tiropitakia_First

Our tenth progressive dinner was this past Friday and the theme we chose was Greece. We chose Greece for a couple of reasons: we figured we would be knee deep in snow and a tip of the hat to the warm climate and mediterranean cuisine would be just what the doctor ordered and the other reason is that two of our neighbours were just there this summer visiting family!

Fortunately, winter has been somewhat mild this year (shhhhhhh)…not overly cold and although we have had a few flakes, we certainly don’t have the (any) accumulation we have had in the past. Here is a little blast from the past (December 11, 2014) for good measure! Click on the images to see a larger version.

So you can see why the Mediterranean cuisine seemed appropriate. I didn’t want to make something predictable and when I was chatting with the neighbour who went to Greece this summer, she suggested the slightly lesser known phyllo triangle called Tiropitakia which is like Spanakopita but without the vegetables, it’s just cheese! You had me at cheese! I decided to splurge and use butter to coat the phyllo sheets (I usually skip it because of the calories) and it really made the pastry beautifully crispy and flaky. I read quite a few recipes on line, some ven used gruyère and ricotta so I made some changes and used Greek Feta, goats cheese and a little parmesan. The combination made a lovely cheesy filling. I used an actual imported Greek  feta (Alra Feta) which is pretty difficult to come by in Toronto (we have a very strong cheese board in Canada) made with sheep and goats milk, it is far tangier than Canadian feta (and more expensive).

This hors d’œuvres freezes very well but you have to be very careful as the pastry becomes very brittle over time in the freezer. With all the holiday cheer going on in the next few weeks, I’m sure I’ll be popping a few in the oven every weekend for visitors.

Tiropitakia_7695 It’s a deliciously crispy hors d’œuvres. Please help yourself to one (or two).

Tiropitakia

Makes 48 5 cm (2 inch) triangles

Ingredients:

  • 300 g Greek Feta cheese, crumbled
  • 160 g goats cheese, crumbled
  • 25 g Parmesan Cheese, finely grated
  • 2 eggs, beaten lightly
  • 1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 8 sheets phyllo pastry, cut into 5 cm (2 inch) strips, long side.
  • 150 g unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, add the two eggs and pulse to beat slightly. Add all of the cheese and pulse a few times to combine well (do not turn into a paste). Add the parsley, nutmeg and freshly ground pepper and pulse to incorporate. Set aside.
  2. Cut each phyllo sheet into six, 5 cm (2 inch) strips along the long side. Brush generously with the melted butter. Add one tablespoon of the filling to one side of the long strip and begin to fold into a triangle as the diagram below suggests. Continue until you have used up all of the filling. I was able to get 48 triangles.
  3. Bake in a pre-heated 400° F (200° C) oven for 13-15 minutes or until nicely browned. Freeze on a piece of parchment and then gently place into a ziplock bag for future. Reheat frozen triangles at 350° F (176° C) for 10-12 minutes or until warmed through.

Folding Tiropitakia

Tiropitakia_7698 I usually don’t put egg into my spanakopita so these ones puffed up quite a bit more than the spanakopita does.

Notes

  • This recipe can also be made into squares. Use 5 sheets of Phyllo, generously buttered, in a 9″ x 9″ square pan. Add the filling and top with 5 additional, generously buttered sheets. Fold in the edges to make a neat square, add 2 more sheets, generously buttered, cut to the exact size (to make it pretty). Butter. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until nicely browned on top.
  • If you wish to save calories, skip the butter on each strip, just butter the triangle, both sides.
  • Some recipes added dill, but it was not comment.

MagicalCustardCake_FIRST

Yesterday, December 6th was Hungarian Mikulásnap (Santa’s Day). This date was very important in our house because it was the date that Mikulás visited our home to pick up the letters we would write to him…the Christmas wish list! It was always our tradition to put the letters into freshly polished, shiny boots on the windowsill just before we went to bed. In the morning, we would find our boots filled with European chocolates (if we were good) or the dreaded virgács (thin branches that our parents could use to slap our bottoms with, if we were bad). To the best of my memory, we only received the virgács once; that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I am always nostalgic this time of year, particularly in my neighbourhood of European delis that stock the same delicious chocolates we used to receive as kids.

Although chocolate treats in the form of Santa (or Mikulás) would be a lovely dessert, recently I decided to make an unusual cake that has been making the rounds on the blog-o-sphere for some time. Surprisingly, there is nothing unusual about the ingredients and the recipe is pretty much like a jelly roll or genoise sponge, but what’s really unusual is that the cake separates into a custard portion and a cake portion during baking. I suspect this recipe came about as a mistake someone made a long time ago and it baked into this amazing and delicious surprise (like so many recipes out there). The history really doesn’t matter, it is a delicious cake that is a cross between a custard and a cake and I think you should try it.

Since I’m not much of Pinterest person, I only saw this cake on the blogs I follow and the very first one was Bizzy Lizzy, my Hungarian bogging friend down under and then Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella made a pumpkin version — I knew I had to make this unusual dessert. We loved the Hungarian Custard Squares (Krémes Szelet) so I suspected that this recipe would be a winner too. I used Liz’s recipe but I halved it because there were only four of us for brunch; I topped it with baked pears (I scored the pears at $1.96 for 10 because they were not perfect specimens!) and a drizzle of coconut sugar caramel sauce. The dessert received rave reviews and as a bonus, it stores well in the fridge for a couple of days (unassembled). It’s definitely going into my dessert repertoire…now to figure out a gluten free version!

What Christmas/holiday traditions do you have?

MagicalCustardCake_7587

Soft custard, baked pears, fluffy cake and sweet earthy caramel sauce garnished with a toasted walnut. May I cut you a slice?

Magical Custard Cake with Baked Pears and Coconut Caramel Sauce

Original Recipe from Bizzy Lizzy’s Good Things

Serves 4

Ingredients for the Magical Custard Cake:

  • 60 g unsalted butter
  • 240 mL low fat milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs, room temperature, separated
  • 60 g icing sugar, sifted
  • pinch, cream of tartar
  • 57 g unbleached AP flour, sifted
  • 4 walnut halves for garnish, toasted

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 330° F (165° C).
  2. Prepare a 21 cm x 11 cm(4″ x 8″) loaf pan by lining it with parchment paper.
  3. Melt the butter and cool to room temperature.
  4. Warm the milk combined with vanilla until lukewarm (should not be hot).
  5. Beat the egg whites with a pinch of cream of tartar until stiff but not dry, set aside.
  6. Beat the egg yolks with the icing sugar until light and fluffy (about 5 – 7 minutes). Set the mixer speed to the lowest and slowly drizzle in the melted butter until entirely combined.
  7. Slowly fold in the flour alternating with the warm milk until it is fully combined.
  8. Fold in the beaten egg whites a spoon at a time until fully incorporated but not deflated. This is quite a runny batter, so don’t worry.
  9. Bake for 40 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Allow to cool completely and then refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

Ingredients for the baked pears:

  • 10 small pears, peeled, cored and cut into cubes
  • 1 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt

Directions for the baked pears:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350° F (171° C).
  2. Toss cubed pears with sugar, cinnamon and salt and pour into a casserole dish. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until soft. Set aside.

Ingredients for Coconut Sugar Caramel Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup Grace coconut sugar (or regular granulated sugar)
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1/8 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup hot cream
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter

Directions for Coconut Sugar Caramel Sauce:

  1. Heat cream in a microwave proof container until very hot but not boiling, set aside.
  2. Mix sugar, water and lemon juice in a 2 cup pyrex measuring cup.
  3. Microwave for 15-60 seconds (note that in 2016 I doubled the recipe and it took 3 minutes 25 seconds of microwaving to get the amber colour I was looking for), until sugar bubbles up but does NOT BURN, sugar crystals should be completely dissolved and you should begin to see it turn to a light amber colour. Remove and set on a dishcloth for 30 seconds and slowly pour in the hot cream, being careful as this will bubble up.
  4. Stir well and then add the butter  and stir until completely incorporated. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Assembly Directions:

  1. Remove cold ‘cake’ from the fridge and set on a cutting board. Cut into 4 slices and set each slice on the centre of a plate.
  2. Reheat the baked pear cubes until steamy (microwave for a minute or so on high).
  3. Spoon equal amounts of the pears onto each slice, then drizzle with the coconut caramel. Garnish with a toasted walnut half.

FrenchOnionSoup_First

Recently we had some good friends for Brunch and my friend Angela told me how she makes the most delicious vegetable stock from vegetable trimmings. Of course, this isn’t the first time I’d heard of this frugal stock but to be honest, I was skeptical on how good it would be — stock from trimmings? That’s bunny food! I’ve been using roast chicken carcass for soups for a few years now but I’ve never jumped into the compost bin head first to make this vegetable stock before. Angela and her husband were quite convincing on how good this stock is, so I decided to give it a try.

My first attempt was a simple stock using vidalia onion skins, garlic skins, eggplant ends, zucchini ends, celery leaves, cilantro stems and green onion ends. I made sure to wash the skins very well and tossed them into a large stock pot with enough water to cover. I tossed in a tiny bit of salt and boiled, then I reduced to a simmer for about 4 hours. WOW! I can’t tell you how good this was! For a lunch, I simply sautéed more zucchini, eggplant, onions, garlic and celery and ladled the “Compost Stock” over it and drizzled it with parmesan cheese, boy was it GOOD!

When I saw how dark and rich the onion skins made the stock, I thought: why not make a French Onion Soup from it (we’ve made French Onion Soup here and here and here before)? And that is the way this recipe came about. It’s so easy and inexpensive that I urge you to try it. You can make it vegan by omitting the cheese or just use vegan cheese (not sure how good that could be!). And if you’re looking to save a few calories, omit the croutons and the cheese.

JT tried it and could not believe it was made with onion skins and caramelized onions, no stock at all — verdict, he loved it. For this version, we saved around $4 because I usually use an organic beef stock or sometimes I even roast some beef bones which would have saved us $6.00)!

Veg FrenchOnionSoup

Would you like a bowl?

A Vegetarian French Onion Soup

A Kitchen Inspirations Original Recipe.

Makes 1.5 L (6.25 cups) of soup

Ingredients:

  • 3 large organic Vidalia onions, including skins
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 4 L (roughly 4 quarts) water
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 100 g (3.5 oz) Gruyère cheese, grated (omit if vegan or vegetarian)
  • croutons, enough to fill 2 French Onion Soup bowls

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 250°F (121° F).
  2. Wash outer skin of the onions well. Peel onions, add skins with the bay leaves and salt to a large stock pot with 4L (4 quarts) water in it. Stir and bring to a boil then turn down and simmer for 2-3 hours.
  3. Slice onions very thinly on a mandoline (any larger bits that can’t be sliced, just add to the onion skin stock pot).
  4. Heat olive oil to a large Dutch oven and once hot (but not smoking) add onions; sweat onions until translucent and just beginning to caramelize (about 20 minutes). Add the white balsamic vinegar and stir well. Cover with a piece of parchment (as illustrated below) and bake for 2-3 hours at 250° F (121° C) or until golden and fully caramelized.
  5. When stock is a rich, dark colour strain through a fine sieve to remove skins and bits and finally through a very fine sieve to remove any fine particles (I use a reusable coffee filter). Combine stock with caramelized onions and heat through. Taste for seasonings and add salt and pepper as required.
  6. Plate in French onion soup bowls with croutons and mounds of Gruyère cheese, broil so it’s all melty and bubbly and serve hot!
  7. For a vegetarian or vegan version, omit the cheese or use vegan cheese.
parchment2

Parchment cover for the onions

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 1.45.35 PM

Based on 4 servings per batch without the Gruyère and croutons

Based on 4 serving per batch, without the Gruyère and crouton

Based on 4 serving per batch, without the Gruyère and crouton

SushiThai_first

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a restaurant review. It’s not that we haven’t been going out (not the case at all) but I’ve been relatively uninspired, not by the restaurants or meals, just kind of an overall humdrum feeling. Night falls far too early and the days seem to be full of grey, mostly. On the plus side, it hasn’t snowed…yet. Most of the leaves have plummeted to earth and the birds and squirrels are running around frantically looking for food. The bird feeder needs refilling almost every two days; those little sparrows eat quite a bit! Speaking of eating…

Last spring I purchased a couple of Groupons for Sushi Thai on Bloor, a restaurant in our hood so that my Hungarian relatives could experience Thai food. We’ve been to Sushi Thai several times but I wanted to get as many plates for them as possible to vary their experience, hence the Groupon. What I completely forgot was that you can only use ONE Groupon per table and we weren’t going to sit at separate tables, so I had an extra Groupon left over for a lunch JT and I had recently.

I’m always surprised that this little place isn’t busier, the décor is contemporary Asian with some tasteful Thai embellishments; it has flattering lighting and the service is good with authentic Japanese staff with a reasonable command of English. The Sushi is fresh, delicious and often creatively prepared (piped mayo, toasted sesame or rice puffs etc. and decoratively laid out on a white plate). Both Thai and Japanese foods are also very good. Complimentary tea is not offered.

A delicious bowl of soup and salad.

A delicious bowl of soup and salad.

We both ordered the lunch specials ($11 each) that came with a small bowl of miso soup and a typical Japanese-style salad made with iceberg lettuce, a few shavings of carrot and beet, thinly sliced cucumber and radish and a slice of tomato dressed with a thousand island-style vinaigrette (it has been my experience that almost all the Japanese restaurants in Toronto make a salad like this, some better than others). The miso was warm, with lots of dashi and small cubes of soft tofu garnished with green onion. Some misos can be salty but this one was not. We both commented that it could have been warmer, of course, the day was one of the first of the colder days so we were still stinging!

Sushi

Just the perfect amount for lunch.

I ordered the Sushi plate which came with 11 pieces of tasty sushi. There were 3 salmon rolls, 3 tuna rolls, and 5 pieces of Nigiri: Tuna, Hamachi, Salmon, Shrimp and Surimi. I could do without the Surimi but it seems to be prevalent on the more budget conscious restaurants. The fish was fresh with a lovely soft texture and the wasabi was pungent!

A decent lunch portion.

A decent lunch portion.

JT ordered the Chicken Teriyaki which came with a good amount of thigh meat in a light teriyaki sauce and a reasonably large mound of rice and a few broccoli florets, all garnished with some white sesame seeds. The chicken was tender and all of the fat had been properly trimmed off (you’d be surprised at how much fat and grissel JT leaves in some places). All in all we both really enjoyed our choice. We did not have dessert.

Overall rating of Sushi and Thai (in my opinion): Decor 3.5/5, service 3.5/5, food 4/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 5/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

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

Sushi Thai on Bloor

2279 Bloor St W
Toronto, ON
M6S 1P1

Tel: 647-347-6826

Monday to Thursday 11:30 am-10:00 pm

 

CreamedLentilSoup_First
Lunch in my new freelance reality is often something simple like cauliflower florets with a homemade bean dip but these last few weeks have made me crave soup like nothing else. Often I have something frozen that I can thaw on the range or in the microwave at a moment’s notice but because I had a head cold, I totally exhausted my stash. No canned soups here, homemade is way too easy!

We always have a pantry-full of dried beans and pulses, but as usual, I forgot to soak my beans so I used the next best thing and what I’d consider “instant” — the old standby, red lentil (they are Australian! Who knew?) The red lentil cooks up quickly and has a mild earthy flavour that takes to being flavoured with other vegetables and spices. I also noticed that I was very short in other ingredients so this soup was dictated by what was on hand, a few button mushrooms, onions, garlic and about 1 celery rib. JT loved it, as did I so I was very glad I had the forethought of jotting down the ingredients as I made up a batch. I netted about 600 mL which makes for a hearty meal for two but can be served as smaller portions for four as a starter. Definitely going to bookmark this one for the future, it’s a keeper!

Creamed Lentil Soup with Warm Goats Cheese & Mushroom Relish

A Kitchen Inspirations Original Recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried red lentils
  • 1 celery rib, chopped
  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp EVOO
  • 4 cups water or vegetable stock

Directions:

  1. Heat the EVOO in a small Dutch oven, add the celery, onion and garlic, sauté until soft and onions are transluscent.
  2. Add the lentils and sauté for a moment, add the water and stir well.
  3. Cook the lentils over medium heat until soft. Transfer to a glass bowl and purée until smooth and creamy with an immersion blender. Set aside while making the warm relish.
  4. Garnish with crumbled herbed goats cheese and warm csramelized mushrooms.

Ingredients for the Warm Relish:

  • Handful of button mushrooms, cubed very small
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 2 tbsp herbed goats cheese

Directions for the Warm Relish:

  1. Melt the butter in a small cast iron frying pan, add the mushrooms and sauté until caramelized. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Garnish soup as indicated above.
A comforting, smooth, filling soup with some great flavours.

A comforting, creamy, filling soup with some great flavours.

Notes:

  • The herbed goats cheese was something I had on hand from another dish, it is simply softened goats cheese, finely chopped parsley, thyme and sun dried tomatoes, sea salt combined.
  • Feel free to substitute plain goats cheese, crème fraîche, sour cream or Greek yogurt.
  • I usually press a soup like this through a fine sieve but did not feel it necessary this time, it was super creamy and smooth.
  • I would have loved to garnish with some finely chopped fresh herbs but sadly my herb garden was put to rest a few weeks ago.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 3.51.27 PM

Based on 4 servings, without mushroom & goats cheese relish.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 3.52.48 PM

Based on 4 servings, without mushroom & goats cheese relish.

Sourdough_First

I was over the top when Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial offered to send me a piece of Priscilla her sourdough starter. I was worried too…what if Canada Customs opens the small envelope to discover some weird flaky powder? Would I be arrested? Would it be confiscated? Yes, I was wringing my hands with worry for the entire 12 days poor old Bob travelled to us. 12 days for almost 16,000 kilometres! That’s amazing, isn’t it? It often takes Canada Post 12 days to get mail to me from downtown Toronto, a mere 9 km away! But that’s a whole other rant. 😉

This is Bob's chariot, carrying him 16,000 km.

This is Bob’s chariot, carrying him 16,000 km.

Yes, we named him Bob because we thought it was funny, Bob the starter! Good old Bob came back to life quite nicely and quickly, just as the lovely Celia’s instructions said he would. I chose a King Arthur Sourdough Bread Recipe because I was unable to find 00 bread flour so I needed an All Purpose Flour Recipe. Bob made a very nice first loaf and the remainder of Bob was dried and put into an airtight jar for safekeeping. I’m hoping Bob will provide many loaves for us in the future.

ItsAlive

Meet Bob, he’s ALIVE!

Now I have to come clean, I wasn’t feeling the greatest when I made this recipe, in fact it was my first time out of bed over the last two days (weekend days, no less; nothing serious, just a silly head cold, but they always get me in my sinuses and therefore affects my train of thought). For some reason, I completely skipped over the instant yeast, didn’t even see it! Can you believe it? I usually forget the salt!!!! Don’t you just hate it when that happens? I wondered if something was amiss when the bread didn’t rise as much as I thought it should…but I persevered and son of Bob went into the oven in a dutch oven (hedging my bets) and baked as per directions. Not bad for the mistake and first try. Thank you Celia, I am so grateful you sent me the son of Priscilla!

SonofBobBread

Bob the starter makes a nice, chewy, slightly tangy bread. Bob’s definitely a keeper, thank you Celia

King Arthur Sourdough Bread with a special starter from Australia

Makes 1 very large boulle

Ingredients:

  • 227 g “fed” sourdough starter
  • 340 g cups lukewarm water
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast (don’t forget this step, nudge nudge, wink wink)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 602 g Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients (including the instant yeast) and knead until you get a relatively smooth but loose dough.
  2. Place in a lightly greased bowl and allow to rise several hours (or until double in size). I did a few risings for obvious reasons! Shape the dough into a smooth boule.
  3. Slightly warm a cast iron dutch oven (make sure the handle can take the heat) and dust with fine cornmeal. Allow the boule to rise in the dutch oven for one hour.
  4. Pre heat the oven to 425° F (218° C). Bake the boule with the lid on for approximately 30-35 minutes, remove the top and bake a further 5-8 minutes or until the boule is golden in colour (internal temperature should be about 190° F (88° C).

Notes:

  • Sourdough bread dough is much looser than normal bread dough so expect a shaggy result after the first kneading.
  • We don’t eat that much bread (to keep the tonnage in check) so I didn’t think I would use Bob quickly, therefore I decided to dry Bob out in the oven with only the light on. He will wait for us whenever we need him in an air-tight container in a dark spot in my pantry.
  • I’ve read recipes on-line where they add butter to the dough but most implied it’s not for amateurs so I will try it next time (hopefully I don’t forget the yeast next time!).
  • Sadly, Bob came to an unfortunate end this morning when someone turned on the oven while Bob was drying out in it. RIP Bob.

Coconut Pumpkin Soup

CoconutPumpkinSoup_first

Sorry guys, I’m a day late with this post…it’s been a little busy!

It’s definitely fall up here in the big smoke; the weather went from 25°-30° C (77°-86° F) to 5°-10° C (41°-50° F). That’s chilly. Mind you, it would help if I started wearing socks in my shoes, I just can’t bear that claustrophobic feeling my tootsies get all confined in socks/shoes/boots. How about you, do you dread confining your dogs in socks and shoes?

This soup came about because I bought a couple of smallish pie pumpkins for social media; I actually carved a client’s logo into one of the pumpkins! It turned out really well and I had an entire pie pumpkin left over. Then I got two more social media clients (bittersweet, story to come) who sells Caribbean food and sauces so I was dying to try their organic coconut milk! I checked my dear friend Lorraine’s blog for an easy pumpkin roasting technique and a delicious starter was born for thanksgiving dinner. This soup would be lovely with butternut squash if pumpkins aren’t in season. I suggest smallish portions (125 mL or 1/2 c) because it’s quite rich.

Coconut Pumpkin Soup

Makes about 875 mL (3.5 cups) depending on how thick you wish to have it.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small pumpkin, oven roasted
  • 1/2 onion, oven roasted
  • 2 cloves garlic, oven roasted
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 3/4 c coconut milk
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • Pinch of nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Pre heat oven to 350° F (177° C). Prepare pumpkin as Lorraine does in this post. Lightly coat onions and garlic with the coconut oil. Roast until soft.
  2. When Pumpkin is cooked through, onions and garlic are soft, add pumpkin flesh, onions and garlic to a blender contain with the vegetable stock, coconut milk, banana, curry powder, ginger and a pinch of nutmeg. Pulse blender until completely smooth. Set aside.
  3. Minutes prior to serving, re heat soup and pulse in blender once more to ‘lighten’. Serve immediately.
CoconutPumpkinSoup_7011

The banana adds a very subtle flavour, try not to overdo it as it will overpower the soup.

Notes:

  • Sadly cottage season is over and we’ve closed it down.
  • The banana is an interesting undertone, omit if you don’t care for bananas.
  • To have a lighter soup, don’t use full fat coconut milk or reduce the amount and replace the difference with skim milk.
  • A seared scallop would be a wonderful garnish in this decadent soup.

garbonzo flour twigs,

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian readers!

I am my Mother’s daughter; case in point, Mom was famous for bringing unusual food items into our home. Often we would stand around whatever ‘it’ was wondering what on earth we were expected to do with ‘it’, definitely not eat it! But yes, we were obliged to try it and sometimes it worked out very well (kiwi in the early 70’s (see notes) for example became a fast favourite and sometimes it did not. Lychee fruit for example, or what we sarcastically named “Eyeball Fruit” did not have a happy ending. Mom was pretty sure you could eat this raw, right out of the peel but we made her try it first anyway. She didn’t die immediately and wasn’t offended by it but my brother and I (under 10) were skeptical and hesitant to try it. We did eventually try it but it wasn’t a favourite — although we had some good giggles with the name, Eyeball Fruit.

JT and I were out grocery shopping and I came across Chickpea Flour Twigs and true to form, I grabbed a pack and tossed it into the cart. By now (almost 30 years) JT has learned not to question, just accept it — more often than not, it will become something tasty for him, anyway. Upon my return to the house I did a little investigating and discovered that this unusual treat is a snack food; to be honest, I wouldn’t know how to eat it…it’s so tiny and crumbly (if any of my readers know how to eat this, please let me know in the comments). But it reminded me of an elusive Greek dough called kataifi (shredded Phyllo dough which I haven’t been able to find) so I thought breading shrimp with it would work out well. Also I got a new social media client and they dropped off a bunch of their product so I decided to use coconut flour in the breading instead of all purpose flour. It worked out very well. It turns out that the Chickpea Flour Twigs are deep fried so they are quite rich and rolling the shrimp in them made a nice crunchy textured batter with a mild chickpea flavour.

Shrimp Bundled in Chickpea Flour Twigs

A Kitchen Inspirations Original Recipe.

Makes 8 shrimp bundles

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1 egg whisked with a splash of water
  • about 1/2 cup of chickpea flour twigs
  • 8 shrimp, tails off, cleaned
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Pre heat an oven to 375°F and line a baking pan with a silicon mat.
  2. To three separate bowls, add the coconut flour, the egg whisked with water and the chickpea flour twigs.
  3. Lightly dredge the shrimp in the coconut flour and then soak in the egg wash, back to the coconut flour an again in the egg wash. Now roll lightly in the chickpea twigs. Lay onto the silicon mat. Repeat until the shrimp are all bundled nicely in the chickpea twigs.
  4. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the twigs are even more golden and the shrimp is cooked through.
  5. Serve with a tamarind dipping sauce (I combined store bought tamarind sauce with rice vinegar, green onions and chopped cilantro).
A tasty treat for cocktails.

A tasty treat for cocktails. Who drank my cocktail?

 

Notes

  • I usually repeat the flour dredging and the egg wash because it makes a nice crispy batter, particularly when baking in the oven instead of frying.
  • Toronto in the 70’s (I can only attest to this point forward) was fairly mungie-cake; exotic meant spaghetti and meatballs for most. Chinese takeout was pretty much the only asian food out there, fortunately, we have evolved and we can source any ethnic food on any day of the week and it’s likely to be quite authentic.
  • To be entirely honest, I don’t think I’ll make these again, the nutritional content of the chickpea twigs is not in my healthy realm but it was a fun treat.

Plum Butter

PlumButter_First

Small Italian plums would have been perfect for those delicious Plum Dumplings my cousin and I made in June, sadly they were not around then. When I spied them at my green grocer a week or so ago, I knew I couldn’t resist so I picked up a small container knowing full well they would be converted to something delicious. While Plum Dumplings are a great childhood memory, they are not the type of thing we eat on a regular basis so I decided on Plum Butter, another thick jam made without the use of pectin. Making jam or Lekvár is so easy, I’m astonished that I hadn’t done it more often in the past; perhaps it was the fear of making more than we could consume! Well, fear not my dear readers because this recipe makes a few small jars so we’ll be in great shape over the cold winter months.

plum butter, plum jam, szilvas lelvár

We enjoyed the delicious plum butter on homemade bread!

Plum Butter

Makes 370 mL thick jam

Ingredients:

  • 630 g plums (a small container)
  • 255 g sugar
  • 60 mL water
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Cut plums in half and remove stone. Put plums into a heavy bottom pan and add water and sugar. Set over medium heat and cook until softened.
  2. Add cinnamon and cook for 30-40 minutes until thickened, testing often with the freezer method.
  3. Once the butter has thickened, pour into sterilized mason jars and follow canning best practice instructions.

Notes:

  • I left the peel in for texture, you may run the mixture through a fine sieve if you prefer no peel.
  • The plums cook down to a very creamy texture so there is no need to purée or press through a food mill, unless you wish to.
plum jam, plum butter, szilvás lekvár

It’s far too chilly to enjoy the plum butter outside now!

Peach Butter

peach, butter, jam,

My parents emigrated to Canada from Hungary in 1956 during the Hungarian Revolution; the citizens revolted against the Russian takeover. After about 12 days of Revolution, the Russian army mounted and squashed Hungary once and for all. At 20 years old, my Mom left just prior to the Russian’s ending the revolution to escort her sister to Vienna but ended up continuing her journey on to Canada; she celebrated her 21st birthday alone in Halifax. My Dad was relatively active against the Russians and decided to leave to protect himself (my uncle and aunt were expecting their first child so they were not able to leave). My Dad’s family lost everything to the Russians (the Puppet theatre(Báb Szinház) in the Liget, their family home…E V E R Y T H I N G). My Mom’s family had already lost everything to the Germans during the WWII (they had a small store that sold coffee, flour etc.). The Russian hostility toward Hungary surprised the world and both my parents were able to immigrate to Canada as Refugees of War.

My parents did not know one another in Hungary so they made their way to the New World on their own. My Mom (13 years younger than Dad) talked about her journey but Dad sadly did not. I only know that Dad came through Gibraltar and an Ocean Liner. Mom also arrived by boat but I can’t remember how or where from. You know the movies that show people trying to escape oppression, desperately crawling on their bellies across vast lands under the cloak of darkness? That was my Mom’s story. She and her sister came across the farmlands of Hungary, all the way to the Austrian border near Vienna. The Austrians were very sympathetic to the plight of the Hungarians and they helped make their way to a better life.

I’m not sure either of the parents had a “plan” as such but I know my Mom already had some relatives in Canada (an Aunt and her husband, children and their spouses). My Mom’s sister’s husband had already arrived in Toronto and was instrumental in making arrangements for my Aunt to meet him there, sadly Mom was not in that equation due to the economic circumstances of my Aunt and Uncle so she had to find her own way to Toronto. Did you ever read Angela’s Ashes? I remember reading the bit about Angela only having enough money for one egg and it resonated with me…there were many times my dear Mom only had enough money for one egg during the first months in Canada. It’s difficult to understand that this happened only 59 years ago. Mom landed in Halifax and stayed for a few months. All Canadian immigrants were given $5 (around $45 today) upon arrival and were told to have a good life. Mom found a sympathetic Swiss woman who owned a beauty shop and she worked various odd jobs at her shop and rented a room in the woman’s home. Neither of my parents spoke a word of English, so they learned from listening to the radio.

My Dad found his way to Toronto and worked in restaurants to make a living, at first waiting tables and then later as a Maî·tre d’hô·tel (Maître-D) at a very prestigious hotel near the airport. Mom’s sister introduced Mom and Dad  in 1957; they dated on and off and then lived together in 1958 (yes, that was very risqué back then!). My Mom was the hold-out, she didn’t want to marry a ‘pretty boy’ as she called him. It’s true, Dad was quite the looker and the ladies loved him. Dad taught Mom puppetry and they travelled together working on the Chrysler Canada Tour in the late 50’s. He finally wore her down and they married in 1960. They eventually settled in Toronto and began having a family.

I remember my dear Mom making most of our pantry items, just like her mother did and my Dad’s mother. Jam was always a treat and as I mentioned before, Mom’s strawberry jam was one of my favourites. I bought some peaches for a photoshoot and it turned out we didn’t need them so I decided to make peach butter out of it. Mom would bottle several mason jars of jam, but since it’s only JT and I, I only made a small amount. Now that we’ve already gone through the first jar, I wish I had made more.

Jam, peaches, preserves,

A delicious, smooth peach butter or jam made without pectin.

Peach Butter

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 400 mL

Ingredients:

  • 650 g peaches, I had about 6  peaches (measure with peel and stone)
  • 100 mL water
  • 160 g white sugar
  • 30 mL lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Peel peaches and remove stone (see notes for tip on peeling). Cut into eighths and set into a heavy bottom pan. Add water and set over medium heat and cook until peaches are softened.
  2. Add sugar and lemon juice and purée with an immersion blender or run through your food mill.
  3. Return peach purée to pan and cook for 30-40 minutes until thickened, testing often with the freezer method.
  4. Once the butter has thickened, pour into mason jars and follow canning best practice instructions.

Notes:

  • An easy way to peel peaches is to score the skin into quarters, pour boiling hot water over them to cover and allow to sit for a minute. Take a sharp knife and begin by sliding the knife between the skin and flesh and peel away. Repeat for all of the peaches.
  • If you have a food mill, you need not peel the peaches (I have one but felt like peeling them anyway), the mill will capture all of the skin.

ZucchiniNoodles_First

As usual, I’m a little late on the bandwagon for this post. The humble zucchini noodles have been around the web-o-sphere for some time now with the very fancy (and expensive) spiralizers. I wasn’t ready to commit to such a large piece of equipment for yet again, one task, until I saw Liz’s easy Zucchini Noodles with Parmesan using a hand-held spiralizer. Now that’s something I can definitely get my head around! So I bought a cheap and cheerful version ($3) thinking if I liked it, I would go ahead and splurge for the OXO version ($15) and take the cheap and cheerful version to the cottage!

HandHeldSpiralizer

Cheap and Cheerful version

We’ve actually been making zucchini noodles using a simple mandoline and the taste was fine but they really didn’t resemble noodles too well. So when I started seeing the curlier noodles made with this incredibly simple hand held version, I was smitten.

Did I love it? HELL YES! I’ve already made zucchini noodles a many, many times since purchasing the spiralizer and have been LOVING it. I loved it so much, I went out and purchased a good quality version as a hostess gift. I’m sure it’s much better quality and will likely last longer.

ZucchiniNoodles

It really is one of the most delicious vegetable dishes EVER! AND low calorie (if you don’t use pesto)

Zucchini Noodles with Walnut Pesto

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 small straight zucchinis
  • 2 tbsp walnut pesto (recipe below), or pesto of choice
  • 10 walnut halves
  • freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions:

  1. Wash and dry the zucchinis. Microwave whole vegetable on high for 40 seconds each; microwaving warms the zucchini and softens it a bit so the noodles cut smoother.
  2. Spiralize both zucchinis using the small blade, cutting the very long lengths into spaghetti lengths. Microwave the zucchini noodles on high for about one minute to heat.
  3. Toss gently with the pesto and garnish with parmesan cheese and walnut halves.
ZucchiniNoodles2

Wrapping the “noodles” on your fork is just as easy as regular pasta

Walnut Pesto

A Kitchen Inspirations Original Recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 100 g walnut pieces
  • 1 large bunch of fresh basil, washed and stems removed
  • 1/4 cup EVOO, or more if desired
  • 100 g freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions:

  1. Lightly toast the walnut pieces and allow to cool.
  2. In the bowl of a large food processor, add the basil, olive oil and cheese.
  3. Pulse until a desired consistency is achieved.
  4. Freeze pesto in about 1 tbsp ice cube containers and once frozen, remove and put into a zip lock baggy and return to the freezer. Use as required.

Notes:

  • I used to use the larger blade but honestly, the smaller blade results in linguine noodles.
  • You can peel the zucchini but I like the contrast in texture and colour of the dark green peel. I did not test peeled zucchini in the initial microwave so you’ll have to tread lightly — you want to soften the zucchini and not turn it to mush.
  • Use a combination of zucchini and summer squash (yellow zucchini) for more interest.
  • Microwave the “noodles” to heat, you really don’t want to cook them through. It’s noodle texture you want with a slight crunch (al dente)!
  • Pine nuts have been ridiculously expensive over the few years. The $15 bag I used to buy at Costco is now close to $30 at Costco. It comes from China. I have since refused to buy the Chinese product for a variety of reasons (this is the main one) so I am constantly on the lookout for good pesto nut/seed substitutions.
  • If you prefer a more runny pesto, add more olive oil.
  • ALWAYS clearly label nut products in the freezer so you don’t poison someone (unless you want to).

Paella Bake

PaellaBake_First

Cottage season is almost over and we’re heading right into the holidays: Canadian Thanksgiving, Halloween, American Thanksgiving and then Christmas! My how time flies. This “recipe” has become a “go to” recipe for brunches and lunches at the cottage where refrigerator space is at a premium and standard grocery items are difficult to find (to say the least). It’s the perfect recipe to reinvent ‘leftovers.” For the last couple of years, whenever I make a one pot rice dish like Paella, Jumbalaya, Risotto or even a pasta dish like JT’s Mediterranean Pasta, I ALWAYs make 2 extra servings. The trick is to set aside the two extra servings so that you’re not even tempted to finish off every last bite and lick the plate clean ;-p! The two extra servings combined with eggs and a little flavouring bake up into the most delicious dish, you will be tempted to make the recipe just to rebake it for brunch the following day! And the best part is that it freezes very well, so even if there is only two dining on leftovers, freeze the rest cut into single portions in a ziplock bag, ready for a quick lunch or a fancy brunch.

LimerickLake On some mornings the lake is so very still.
PaellaBake

Bits of the seafood, chicken and chorizo dot the delicious egg bake.

Paella Bake

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 8

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F (177° C). Prepare a square baking pan with perpendicular sides (some square cake pans have angled sides). Line with parchment so that it extends up two of the sides. Spray lightly with nonstick spray.
  2. Combine eggs and La Bomba and whisk well. Fold gently into the leftover paella being careful not to squish the rice into a mushy mess.
  3. Pour into the prepared pan and jiggle around making sure that the proteins are distributed evenly. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.
  4. Cool slightly and cut into 8 portions with a very sharp knife. Serve with lemon slices and a light salad.
PaellaBake2 Would you care for a slice?
PaellaBake3 Our Paellas are always full of flavour.
LimerickLake_Sunset Red sky at night, sailors’ delight!
LimerickLake_cocktails Cocktails inside the screen-in porch, so peaceful.

Limoncello

Limoncello First

A couple of years after JT and I tied the knot we went to Europe together, it was a combination business and pleasure trip. As the business part of our trip, we went to Modena, Italy to see a piece of equipment that JT’s soap-making family business purchased. As you may or may not know, Italy is well known for its soap making equipment. And a little known fact 😉 Modena is the epicentre of balsamic vinegar.

The Italians take their balsamics very seriously, think of the French and champagne. The special thing about the thick, rich vinegar is that it’s aged for several years in a variety of barrels; it is this very aging process that gives this unique condiment its sweet and piquant flavour, rich and luxurious colour and thick, viscous texture.

We drove up from Florence where we were staying a few days during the middle of our trip; it’s a scenic 2 hour drive through the lush Italian countryside. The Italians had been making soap equipment for hundreds of years and at that time, they were some of the best. JTs family already had several Italian pieces in their factory and although they had purchased some pieces from Italy before, this particular machine was a first-time purchase from this vendor, so a visit from ‘the customer’ was a big deal. We met with Mr. Borghi the English speaking Italian representative of the equipment maker. The machine itself was over six figures so you can imagine our surprise when we were taken to a humble rural garage where a few men were busy hand crafting the machine! A very tall, broad, heavily bearded gentleman approached us with visible excitement. He was wearing mechanics coveralls and his hands were covered in machine grease, he didn’t speak a word of English so Mr. Borghi had to translate for us. We had a short tour of the garage (really just one large room) and then we were invited to lunch.

We ate an enormous meal at a humble, family run local restaurant; each dish was prepared with love and respect to its origins. I don’t recall much of the meal (it was 27 years ago!) except that it was lively with conversation and it was my very first introduction to balsamic vinegar. When our host discovered that I had never had balsamic before, he insisted I order a steak that was garnished with 100 year old balsamic table side (and no, they did not leave the bottle), the waiter ceremoniously poured a few drops of the liquid gold onto my perfectly cooked steak. Everyone (yes, everyone in the packed little restaurant) stopped and watched as I carefully cut into the juicy steak and took my first bite. At the time I thought it was odd, after all it’s only vinegar with a dark, thick, chocolate syrup-like colour. But as soon as it hit my tongue I understood how truly special that moment was. The earthy, salty flavour of the rare cook steak against the thick, sweet, pungent and complexly flavoured vinegar was something I had never experienced before, I was in heaven! As my ‘audience’ waited with baited breath, I knew my face revealed the reaction they were hoping for: pure, unadulterated bliss – words were not needed. Then the restaurant resumed the animated conversation and clatter of cutlery against the plates. As an after lunch digestive, our gracious hosts poured some delicious, luciously thick and ice cold limoncello. What a treat that was.

After lunch our lovely translator, Mr. Borghi insisted that he buy me a bottle of balsamic to remember the experience, so in the parking lot after a long and deliciously filling meal, a plan was hatched. We would follow Mr. Borghi a short distance to a reputable shop where he would pop in, buy the vinegar, say our farewells and we would continue our drive to Florence. The “short drive” turned into 45 minutes and was in the complete opposite direction to Florence which meant our two hour trip was now three and a half. Poor JT.  But I had a prized possession: my very first four leaf balsamic vinegar!

I suspect that Italians feel the same way about Limincello and that the process to make it is as revered as the final product itself. Limincello was, of course, invented in Sorrento, Italy some 600 km south of Modena. And although this recipe claims to be originally Italian, this particular version is not. However, I was truly intrigued by the process and it had to be made. Sadly I was not able to source Meyer Lemons (see notes) as the recipe suggests but I did go the extra mile to purchase organic lemons for the main reason suggested in the article: the alcohol evaporates in the enclosed glass, macerating the lemon skin and then falling back to the bottom of the jar as flavoured liquid so you don’t want pesticides contaminating your Limoncello.

LimoncelloMaking_1

Suspended Organic Lemons ready to do their job.

LimoncelloMaking_2

I wondered what the macerated lemons would look and taste like: they were quite pale and had a very strong vodka lemon flavour that was surprisingly unpleasant. I chucked them.

LimoncelloMaking_3

After 4 weeks, the vodka took on a slightly yellowish colour. The gorgeous bottle is from our lovely neighbours.

Limoncello Recipe

Please click here for the “best limoncello recipe you’ve ever tasted”

I followed the recipe with the exception of the organic Meyer lemons, I used ordinary organic lemons.

I also made a simple syrup using the same weight of raw sugar as water and dissolved it by simply stirring for a few minutes and not boiling. Next time I’ll use ordinary sugar but I’ll do the same process, I wasn’t pleased with the amber colour of the simple syrup and its negative effect on the colour of the limoncello, although when poured into a small glass, it was pretty yellow.

I must admit I was pretty pleased with the outcome. Except for the cost. In Ontario, a 750 mL of Skyy vodka is $38.75, the organic lemons were $3.00 and the raw sugar was $4.00. A bottle of commercial limoncello is $18.35.

limoncello

I served the ice cold limoncello in antique glasses on my dear Mom’s needlepoint tray that she made in school.

limoncello2

Notes:

  • I did buy as lovely Meyer Lemon tree that presently has about 15 little lemons growing on it!

Cherry Jam

CherryJam_First

I read David Lebovitz’s recipe for No-Recipe Cherry Jam and loved it from the start because it was just ratios! Usually I have to take down recipes to suit the volume or quantity of ingredients I have on hand and David’s recipe made it super easy, plus I liked his first direction: “1. Wear something red.”

David suggests to cook the cherries and measure the volume and then add 3/4 of it in sugar (apparently the sugar is required so that it doesn’t spoil, otherwise I would have reduced it).

Delicious goodness of homemade jam.

Delicious goodness of homemade jam.

Cherry Jam

Makes 300 mL jam.

Original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 350 g fresh Ontario cherries (you can use any old cherries, but I thought I’d give our Province a plug!)
  • 400 mL cherry juice (I had some left over from cherry squares I made a few weeks ago)
  • 375 mL sugar
  • zest and juice of 1 fresh lemon

Directions:

  1. “Put on something red.”*
  2. Pit all of the cherries and chop about 2/3 of the cherries into smaller pieces and the remainder into halves.
  3. Cook the cherries and cherry juice in a non-reactive pot. David suggests a slightly larger pot because the juices bubble up. Put a plate in the freezer (this will help you determine when the jam is done).
  4. Add the lemon juice and zest (I used a peeler to peel large slices of lemon so that I could remove them after). Continue to cook until the cherries are soft (about 20 minutes).
  5. Once cooked, measure the volume you have, including the juice. I netted 500 mL so 3/4 of that is 375 mL sugar. Stir in the sugar and continue to cook on higher heat until the bubbling diminishes and the jam congeals when a drop is put on the super cold plate and returned to the freezer for a moment. Be careful not to overcook the jam it will caramelize the sugar and it will taste terrible! It’s best to test often (David suggests it’s better to test often than to overcook the jam). My volume took 20-25 minutes to the perfect viscosity. Remove from heat.
  6. David suggest to add a bit of kirschwasser, but I was all out so I added a tiny drop of almond extract as he advised. Stir well.
  7. Cool to room temperature and bottle as you would normally. He suggests this jam will keep in the fridge for several months.

*From David Lebovitz

HomeMadePhyllo_First

Growing up, one of our family favourites was Rétes (Hungarian Strudel) and my dear Mom made Hungarian delicacies like Káposztás Rétes (Savoury Cabbage Strudel) and Túrós Rétes (sweet Cottage Cheese Strudel) and even sometimes but not often, Almás Rétes (Apple Strudel). Mom’s favourite was Káposztás Rétes (Cabbage Strudel) and although as kids we couldn’t stand it, I often find myself craving the savoury flavours of this treat.

My dear Mom always told stories as she was cooking or baking, stories about food, of course! The one story that has resonated with me all these years is that Grandma (Nagymama) made her own Rétes dough! The story goes that Nagymama laid a clean, white sheet on the dining room table, dusted it with flour and stretched and stretched and stretched her homemade dough until you could read newsprint through it. I always imagined an enormous dough (like this) on the table! Mom never made strudel dough that I recall, by the time she was a homemaker, ready made, frozen dough was already available and so much easier than making it yourself. I have used ready made Phyllo more times than I can count on all my fingers and toes, but I’d never made it myself. So you can well imagine why homemade phyllo dough is on my bucket list.

Recently, we invited dear friends to the cottage and I thought homemade Baklava would be a lovely dessert over the weekend and a great excuse to make homemade phyllo dough. I chose Baklava because if the Phyllo didn’t work out as well, the syrup would ‘hide’ its flaws, unlike Rétes. The recipe I followed is here (why reinvent the wheel?) but I can tell you right now that using the pasta maker is not nearly as satisfying as rolling by hand. A marble rolling pin (or something really heavy) would be helpful…I had a rolling pin made by one of my dear Mom’s friends many years ago and I paid the price by bruising my palms and fingers!

Bucket List

Homemade Phyllo Dough

This recipe makes 25 sheets approx. 25 cm x  41 cm (10″ x 16″)

I allowed the dough to rest overnight.

The recipe instructions indicate to take the dough to #9 on the pasta maker (mine is a KitchenAid Stand Mixer with attachments) but I recommend to take it to #8 and do the rest by hand. I also tried rolling it entirely by hand (see photos below – only took about 12 minutes each) and it wasn’t as difficult as I had anticipated but it did bruise my hands badly). Between each number of stretching the dough by pasta machine, keep rubbing a little flour to both sides of the flattened dough, this is how the correct texture is achieved. Believe me, you will know when you feel it.

I also found that rolling the dough through each pass on the pasta maker a couple of times instead of just once results in a finer dough.

Baklava

Yields:

  • 17 (4-sheet) baklavas
  • 11 (2-sheet) baklavas
  • 4 left over sheets (freeze for later).

Ingredients:

  • 21 sheets of phyllo dough
  • 120 g hazelnuts
  • 200 g almonds
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted

Directions:

  1. Roast both nuts on 163° C (325° F) for 18 minutes or until most of the skins have separated from the hazelnuts (almonds may or may not separate).
  2. Using a clean tea towel, rub the hot nuts until most of the skins come off. Separate skins from nuts.
  3. Chop both hazelnuts and almonds roughly and combine with sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Set aside.

Syrup Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 cup honey
  • 4 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Combine  first three ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, remove from heat and add lemon juice. Stir well, set aside.

Baklava assembly:

  1. Preheat the oven to 163° C (325° F).
  2. Divide the dough into 40 g dough portions.
  3. Lightly flour a large, clean surface and roll out to approximately 25 cm x 41 cm or 10″ x 16″ sheets. Continue to roll all of the dough like this until you have rolled it all out. Cover with a lightly damp cloth and a jelly roll pan to protect it from drying out.
  4. Take one sheet of phyllo and lay it length-wise in front of you. Brush generously with the melted butter. Sprinkle 3/4 cup of the nut mixture per sheet. Continue for 2-3 sheets.
  5. Taking the long end, begin to roll the phyllo tightly. Brush the finished roll with melted butter.
  6. Cut into 5 cm or 2.5″ lengths (or smaller equal lengths). Place cut side up into a lightly buttered pan, it doesn’t matter if they touch. Continue until all the dough and nut mixture is exhausted.
  7. Bake for approximately 45-50 minutes.
  8. Allow to cool completely and then pour the syrup over The rolls and allow to rest for a few hours.
Phyllo40g

I found that 40 g made the perfect sheet size.

Phyllo_1

A relatively damp and somewhat elastic dough (not nearly as elastic as pizza dough)

Phyllo_2

You can roll to 9 in your pasta maker, but honestly I did not find rolling by hand difficult.

Phyllo_3

OK. By saying “I did not find the rolling difficult”, what I meant was “not difficult as I was rolling” but the next day, my palms were bruised from the shear pressure I had to put onto the rolling pin. You may wish to roll with a marble rolling pin.

Phyllo_4

For some reason, my Nagymama (grandma) always said the dough has to be thin enough to read a newspaper through it, I figured a nut panel would suffice!

Phyllo_5

This is one of the rolls of Baklava.

Phyllo_6

Cut rolls into 16-17 equal lengths and place into a greased pan. It’s OK if they touch because the dough has been greased sufficiently so they won’t stick.

Baklava_Beauty

The finished product, with a little extra honey drizzled on. PS, that silver tray comes from my Dad’s side of the family, it’s probably over 100 years old!

 

Notes:

This is quite a damp dough and it’s a bit sticky but don’t worry, you’ll be stretching and rolling additional flour into it to give it the correct wet/dry ratio.

The dough only becomes difficult to work with (breaking, cracking) when it dries out; make sure you have a lightly damp tea towel to cover any rolls or sheets. I also used a 10″ x 16″ jelly roll pan to cover it.

In hindsight, I should have used only 2 or 3 (not 4) sheets per roll. Next time I think I’ll sprinkle the nut mixture on each sheet and not just the end — I have adjusted the recipe above.

I was 100% sure I would not be making this recipe again because it’s so inexpensive to buy ready made, but in reviewing the ingredient list I may have to resort to making it myself as there is one or two ingredients that gross me out.

Crispy Sage

CrispySage_First

I hesitate to call this a recipe because it really is just one ingredient and it’s so easy, I almost didn’t put it on the blog. But then I thought it’s a lovely garnish that is quite underrated. And it’s NOT FRIED!

As you are aware, we’re going through the Tosca Reno Eat-Clean Vegetarian Cookbook and I made Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Hazelnuts and Crispy Sage (page 192) and was fully intending on frying the sage leaves (in 1 tbsp olive oil) when it dawned on me that I could nuke them, the way I nuked thinly sliced potatoes to make potato chips. Yes, indeed.

It was a success! They literally melt in your mouth; although they are rather tasty, they do lose a bit of their perfume which is not a bad thing as I sometimes find sage a little overpowering.

The time spent in the microwave will depend on your machine, each one is different. I found 2 minutes with the amount in the photo was just perfect.

Wash sage leaves and dry well. arrange on a folded paper towel so that they do not overlap. Microwave for 1-2 minutes or until crispy. I found that the little ones crisped up a lot faster than the larger, thicker ones but they were all lovely and crispy.

CrispySage

It’s a beautiful garnish and it’s not fried!

AvocadoHollandaise_First

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Lorraine Elliott of Not Quite Nigella, in Toronto. We’ve been following each other for four years now and when we met in person it was like we’d known one another for ever. I wanted to do something special with her so I contacted an acquaintance who produces several Food Network Canada shows and she made it happen – we spent the morning on the set of Chopped Canada, Season 3. But you’ll just have to wait to hear all about it in the new year (don’t worry, it’ll be here before you know it!).

Eva & Lorraine behind the scenes!

Eva & Lorraine behind the scenes!

Lorraine was in Toronto with the Canadian Tourism Commission and made a special request to come to Toronto to meet me! I was flattered beyond belief. For Lunch, we met up with my dear friend Barb (Profiteroles & Ponytales) and a new friend, Trudy Bloem, a Personal Chef from Ottawa (the DIL of a lovely neighbour) at one of my favourite Italian restaurants, Bar Mercurio. We shared a number of tasty dishes that I’m sure Lorraine will blog about. The CTC sure kept her busy and she saw many of the Food significant parts of TO, but not everything so I’ve invited her back! And one of these days, we’ll travel to Australia to visit her (and Charlie, Maureen & Liz)!

Lorraine wasn’t the first positive experience with an Aussie I’ve ever had, after all there was the “gravy boat incident”.

About 12 or 13 years ago, I was trying to finish off some stray pieces to our wedding China. I checked our local supplier and as I suspected it was unaffordable, so I checked eBay. I’ve purchased many things over the years from eBay and my experiences have always been exceptional. I found the exact gravy boat, you guessed it, in Australia. It was a young couple recently married and for some strange reason were given a gravy boat to a set that they didn’t want, so she was selling it for a very reasonable price on eBay. I contacted her to make sure she would ship it to Canada and she said she would. She was not registered on PayPal so she asked for a money order. No problem, but I needed an address. She gave me an address and off we went to get a money order. We don’t often need money orders so we were inexperienced (this will make sense later in the story). The money order was mailed and we waited. And waited. Weeks went by and the girl didn’t receive it. I called the post office and asked how long a letter from Toronto should take to travel to Australia and they said six to eight weeks. So we waited in the meantime corresponding with said girl almost weekly. At 10 weeks she still hadn’t received the money order but she was tired of the game so she said she would mail the gravy boat to me anyway and hope to receive the money order. I felt bad about it, so we got another money order but when we went to cancel the first one, we discovered that we had included the receipt in the original envelope so we couldn’t cancel it (read inexperienced)! I bit the bullet and got another money order anyway (still marginally cheaper than buying the gravy boat in Toronto). I wanted to make sure I had her correct address so I asked her to confirm. You guessed it, she had given me the wrong address the first time (sweet girl but…) so the new money order was mailed and within a week the gravy boat arrived! Then two days later the girl wrote to say the second money order arrived and that she would destroy the first one if it ever arrived. I’m not kidding you, a day later we received back the first money order (with receipt) marked “unknown address, return to sender”! This drama took over three months! We were able to get a refund with the original money order, I got a deal on the gravy boat and a great story out of it! Do you have any cool stories like this? Share in the comments.

If I were serving this avocado hollandaise at home, I would have definitely used the Australian gravy boat, but I served it at the cottage for a tasty vegetarian breakfast!

Ready4Hike_6259

It’s still quite buggy in Canada’s north so we were well prepared with our bug shirts!

Vegan Avocado ‘Hollandaise’ Sauce

Makes about 3/4 cup of ‘hollandaise’ sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 small very ripe avocados
  • 1/2-3/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Purée everything together until very smooth adding water until desired consistency is achieved, season with salt and pepper.
  2. Serve warm or room temperature.

Notes:

  • This is a much ‘lighter’ feeling sauce than the traditional eggyolk-butter-based version.
  • I didn’t want to add more lemon juice as I feared it might make the sauce bitter so instead I added a teaspoon of white vinegar and a tablespoon of Dijon, it was a flavourful sauce.
  • Add only as much water to the sauce to achieve the consistency that you want. I wanted mine pourable and I almost used the entire 3/4 cup, just a hair less.
AvocadoHollanadaise

I served this on Asparagus and Spinach bennies one weekend.

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 1.42.27 PM

This is 1/4 of the total yield of sauce

This is traditional Hollandaise Sauce made with 4 eggs and 1/2 cup of unsalted butter. Although the calories are fewer than the avocado version, take a look at the fat and cholesterol!

KaleWrappedMiniQuiche_First

Happy Holiday! Today is a civic holiday here in Ontario and we’re enjoying it!

graphics-snoopy-743815

In effort of trying to eat healthier, I decided to cook out of the lovely new cookbook by Tosca Reno, The Eat-Clean Diet. Of course, I wouldn’t be doing the blog justice if I just copied the recipes so I’ve changed them up a bit so if you’re looking for the exact recipe, you’ll have to buy the book!

This is a delightful combination of flavours and textures and the kale works beautifully as a wrapper! I’m definitely going to make this one again, although I can’t help but think how tasty bacon would be in it!

KaleWrappedMiniQuiche

The kale within the quiche softens up beautifully but the kale sticking out of the quiche crisps up like kale chips!

Kale-Wrapped Mini Quiches

Makes 6 mini-quiches. Original recipe from Tosca Reno’s The Eat-Clean Diet, Vegetarian Cookbook

Ingredients:

  • 12 large kale leaves, stems and ribs removed.
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 cup cauliflower florets
  • 3 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 eggs, large
  • 5 egg whites
  • 1 cup 1% milk
  • 2 tbsp Cilantro pesto (see notes)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F and roast the sweet potato, cauliflower and shallots for 30 minutes or until cooked through.
  2. Lightly spray a 6 tin large muffin pan with olive oil and line each cavity with 2 kale leaves, having the curly bits stick out a little over the top. Spray very lightly with olive oil.
  3. Into each kale lined cup, divide the roasted sweet potato, shallots and cauliflower evenly.
  4. Meanwhile, combine the eggs, egg whites and milk with the Cilantro Pesto (recipe found on page 52) and whisk well.
  5. Pour the egg mixture into each muffin cup evenly. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes. If the kale begins to darken early, cover with parchment and then foil to protect it.
  6. Allow the quiches to sit for 5 minutes before removing from the muffin cups. I used a silicon muffin pan like this one, which made plating very easy.

Notes:

  • Tosca roasts the kale in a 350° F oven first to soften it. I experimented  without this step and it worked just fine (it was 30° C 86° F With high humidity and I didn’t want the oven on more than I had to).
  • If you don’t like cilantro, use regular pesto but the nutrition will be different.
  • The cilantro pesto contains only two tablespoons of oil and no cheese making this by far, the healthiest pesto on this blog.

KaleWrappedQuiche_Nut

Kale Wrapped Mini Quiches, Serving size is 1 quiche

CilantroPesto_Nut

Cilantro Pesto, Makes 1 cup and this is for 2 tablespoons

 

WheatBerryTabbouleh_First

Isn’t it funny how the universe works? Some things seem like they are way to coincidental and happen for a reason. I’m fatalistic that way. Case in point: recently I assisted (yes, I’m still assisting because I’d rather be working than not, so if I have free time on my calendar, I’ll assist) a lovely stylist for a print shoot at an amazing house up in Caledon Hills. This house is 15,000 square feet (1,400 square metres!), indoor pool, outdoor pool, fitness gym, billiards room and the list goes on. The custom kitchen with a massive stove, a walk-in pantry (with huge side-by-side fridge freezer like this) was just fantastic to work in! A bit grand for lil ol’ me but gorgeous none-the-less. Around 7:30-8 the owner came home and sat in the kitchen to have a bit of dinner from the craft table. We started chatting while I was grilling chicken breasts and it turns out that she is a recipe developer and cookbook author! In fact, she is a fitness guru (and gorgeous and amazingly fit), you may have heard of her…Tosca Reno!!!! How cool is that??? She gave me a copy of her Eat-Clean Diet® recipe book, autographed and all! I gave her my contact info and am hoping to have the honour and privilege of working with her sometime soon. But that’s just half the story.

Fast forward to the following Wednesday and I’m down-town for my weekly meeting (and very generous birthday lunch, thanks KiK gang!) and I’m telling Andrea, one of the partners my amazing story and lo and behold, that very Saturday (the day after I was assisting in Caledon Hills) Andrea bumped into a woman in Caledon carrying boxes and some boxes fell and Andrea went over to help, so who was the woman? Tosca Reno!!! Andrea recognized her immediately because she has followed her on Facebook and just loves her Eat-Clean Diet® program. Coincidence? I think not!

So what does this story have to do with this post? I’m getting to it…As we are in the heat of the summer, enjoying every bit of the 35° C (with 90%+ humidity) we’re trying to eat lighter (plus losing a few pounds wouldn’t hurt either) and in light of my new, delicious Eat-Clean Diet® cookbook, I decided to make a wonderful wheat berry tabbouleh. For me, a tabbouleh is always a combination of my favourite things, so this recipe is quite unique to my tastes, but feel free to amend to your own specific tastes. True tabbouleh aficionados will baulk at my recipe saying it’s not authentic tabbouleh and that’s just fine with me…call it whatever you wish, but I hope you make it and I hope you enjoy it.

Would you like a bowl?

Would you like a bowl?

Wheat Berry Tabbouleh with Shrimp

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup wheat berries, rinsed and sorted through
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken stock, or water
  • 20-30 shrimp (21-30 per pound, 5 per person)
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/2 cup each fresh or frozen corn and peas
  • 1/2 cup quartered grape tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp roughly chopped mint
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Direction:

  1. Bring wheat berries to a boil and then simmer for about an hour.
  2. Meanwhile,  put the diced red onion into a small bowl of very cold water (this mellows the pungency of the onion).
  3. Cut the avocado into smallish cubes and set into a bowl. Squeeze one lemon and add the finely chopped garlic and olive oil and stir well. Pour over the avocado.
  4. Combine the corn, peas, green onion and tomatoes and set aside.
  5. Grill the shrimp until opaque, set aside.
  6. Once the wheat berries are cooked, add the avocado and corn mixture and stir well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Gently stir in the shrimp and the finely chopped herbs.
  7. Serve warm or at room temperature.

WheatBerryTab_2

This is truly a delicious and filling meal.

We were lucky enough to have a couple of events for the PanAm games right in our neighbourhood so JT and I took a short walk down to see one of them, The Women’s Road Cycling in High Park. We took Gold and Bronze in this gruelling race (I say gruelling because I was dripping sweat just standing in the heat, I can’t imagine how hot it was for the athletes!).

I made this short film of our experience, it was amazing being there in such a positive crowd!

Arancicu_first

I was testing a rice cooker recently and one of the recipes was Risotto on a specific setting on the machine. To say it was challenging is an understatement but after 6 tests and tweaks we finally came up with a recipe I was rather happy with. And the neighbours were also happy, one can only eat so much risotto! The last test was the best and JT and I had it for supper but it made so much that I had enough left over to make Arancini di Riso, Italian Rice Balls and boy were they delicious!

Everyone has a favourite risotto recipe so I won’t reinvent the wheel, you just need to have some risotto made and cooled (I spread it out onto a parchment lined baking sheet and covered it with plastic wrap in the fridge overnight). The risotto should be able to be formed into a ball, so if your risotto is a little dry, you may want to add a bit of liquid to allow it to stick together in a spherical shape.

Arancini_2999

Baking at 400° F gives you the crispy crust that you expect from deep frying, except you didn’t!

Arancini di Riso (Rice Balls)

My mushroom risotto recipe yielded 8 cups (give or take 2 L) but we ate about 3 cups in for dinner, so I estimate that the remainder 5 cups (1.25 L) made 22-24 balls

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups risotto
  • 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup AP unbleached flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella (or 22-24 1 cm or 1/2 inch cubes)
  • Fresh basil and Parmesan for garnish

Directions:

  1. Spread risotto onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate until entirely cooled (overnight).
  2. Add bread crumbs to a shallow bowl and the flour to another shallow bowl. Lightly beat the eggs with a splash of water and pour into a third shallow bowl.
  3. Make golf-ball sized balls of the cooled risotto and squeeze a good pinch (or one cube) of cheese into the centre — cover the cheese entirely with the risotto otherwise it will leak out. Continue until you have used up all the risotto.
  4. Coat each ball in flour, then roll into the eggs and repeat the flour and egg mixture (this will make the balls as crispy as if they had been deep-fried). After the final roll in the egg wash, roll each ball in the bread crumbs to coat well . Set onto a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze for future use.
  5. To bake from frozen pre-heat the oven to 400° F. Spray Arancini and the baking sheet with olive oil. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden and warmed through; turn often so it bakes evenly.
  6. Serve with a chunky salsa or tomato sauce.

Arancini_3000

The cheese melts on the inside and becomes deliciously gooey!

We had our dear friends Paul and T up from the US this past weekend (hence the tardiness of this post), here are a few pics!

HappyHourLake

We might have had a few of these!


Paddleboating

Paddleboating on a very warm day.


Fishermen

Our lake apparently has good fishing.


TheFirstFigs_1

Figgy finally made us a couple of figs.


TheFirstFigs

Sadly they were not as sweet as I had hoped. I’m sure I just need to fertilize.

 

AppleStreurselMuffins_first

Things are heating up in Toronto! And I’m not talking about temperature, although temperatures are pretty hot too! On Friday we began hosting the Pan Am Games (and ParaPan Am) which is a really big deal. At last count, Canadians are holding the most medals (yay, Go Canada Go!) with 24 in total with 10 GOLD! The U.S. is in close second with 19 total and 7 Gold! The last five years have been leading up to the next 2 months, with revitalization and new construction. We built new stadiums, tracks, pools and revitalized a number of venues across the city, including repaving all of the roads in High Park!

The opening ceremonies were held in the Pan Am Ceremonies Venue on Friday (formerly the Rogers Centre) with internationally renowned Cirque de Soleil delivering a once in a life-time show with their usual fanfare, culminating with Donovan Bailey base jumping from the summit of the CN tower! And, if that wasn’t enough, the CN Tower had the most amazing fireworks!

The Pan Am games have only been on since Friday and we’ve already had some shenanigans in our fair city. We had a guy use mannequins to access the HOV lanes (high occupancy vehicle lanes where you have to have 3+ in the car) during the games. The Brazilian Men’s Cycling team thought they’d use the Don Valley Parkway (a major north/south highway in Toronto) as their practice venue on Sunday morning! No one was hurt and they were escorted to safer ground as cyclists are not permitted on our highways. Then, totally unrelated, a dead racoon was memorialized on a quiet downtown Toronto residential  street as Animal Services failed to pick up the little guy for over 12 hours! Yes, we’ve had some entertainment indeed!

And if all of that isn’t excitement enough, we have some very special friends coming on Friday and I’m cooking up a storm in anticipation! Then the following week I will have an extra special surprise, but you’ll have to wait and see who that is.

This little recipe was born out of the need to use up a couple of apples, I wanted a healthier muffin without the normal oil component so I created this moist, tasty and generously-sized muffin.

AppleStreurselMuffins2

A moist and tasty muffin

Evenly portioned into 12 muffin cups

Evenly portioned into 12 muffin cups

Apple Streusel Muffins

A Kitcheninspirations Original Recipe. Makes 12 good-sized muffins.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cup peeled and shredded apple
  • 1/2 cup chopped dates
  • 1 cup bran buds
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of nutmeg

Ingredients for Streusel Topping:

  • 1/4 cup oatmeal
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F (190° C). Butter and flour 12 muffin cups. Set aside.
  2. Layer the milk, bran buds, apple and dates making sure bran buds are covered in the wet ingredients, set aside for 5 minutes. In another bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg and set aside.
  3. Prepare the streusel topping by combining all ingredients and rubbing in butter until crumbly. Set aside.
  4. Add beaten eggs to the bran bud mixture and stir well. Fold the flour mixture into the bran bud mixture until just combined.
  5. Divide batter into 12 muffin cups evenly. Top with streusel topping and bake for 20-25 minutes or until cake tester comes clean.
Hot out of the oven on a day that was 27° C (81° F)

Hot out of the oven on a day that was 27° C (81° F)

AppleStreuselMuffins

It’s delicious with a little butter.

AppleStreuselCalorie

Calorie count is per one muffin


Several months ago, I was asked to style a commercial for the Steven and Chris show. Chef Daniel Mezzolo is the famous executive chef from Gusto 101  (please recall the lovely Kale Salad I reinvented). We worked after the show taped so I had a 3pm call time and it didn’t end until well after 11pm that night. It was a long day but it was a blast, I hope you enjoy this short clip.

Silvasgombocz_first

I recently read on a blog (which I can not find for the life of me, but if it was you, kindly mention it with a link in the comments) a rant about restaurant service where wait staff remove empty dishes from the table before everyone has finished eating. This is a HUGE issue in Toronto, particularly with the roadhouse-style (3 star or less) establishments. It is a disgusting trait, particularly when there are ONLY TWO people dining. Because JT inhales eats much quicker than I, I am often left eating at the table while his plate is cleared away. Just because restaurants here only pay servers minimum wage, it doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be training! UGH.

I mention this trend because on a recent dinner with neighbours (progressive dinner folks) at a fairly well reviewed French restaurant in our historic Distillery District they actually went one step further. It wasn’t a busy night but service was slow and we were through a bottle of wine before our first course even arrived; eventually we casually ate our appetizers and chatted up a storm so when they removed the dishes I got up for a quick bio break. I ordered my favourite bistro dish, Table Side Wellington Country Beef Tartar which is prepared in front of the guest. Can you guess what’s coming next? The server actually PREPARED MY DISH WITHOUT ME BEING THERE! OMG, did that really happen? Oh yes, it did. I was so aghast, I was speechless! So now, several weeks later I am ranting on my blog. Shame on you, French restaurant in the Distillery District, the remainder of the experience wasn’t even worth mentioning (OK, I will say the steak frites came in pieces (what? did they gather up the leftovers from other plates?) AND it was over-cooked). Strike that place off my list.

It is no secret that Hungarians love food and we love to cook; so while my cousin and his lovely wife, Éva were visiting, I asked her to show me how to make a traditional, light Hungarian supper called Szilvásgombóc (Plum Dumplings). I’ve read many a blog that this dish is NOT a dessert and the Hungarians are quite adamant about it. When I was a child, we had this dish during plum season but I can’t recall if it was a main or a dessert. I have never made it on my own so I was happy to have Éva make it while I watched. It is delicately sweet and seasoned generously with toasted bread crumbs and cinnamon. We always had it with sour cream so my presentation included Greek Yogurt, but Éva always had it plain with extra cinnamon or with some lekvár (thick jam).

We made the dish at the cottage, so I wasn’t able to document the weights and measures and I still have some in the freezer so I won’t be making it any time soon. For an experienced cook, like most of my followers, it is a recipe made by feel (similar to making Italian Gnocchi), but I will reference Ilona Horvath’s recipe from The Traditional Hungarian Kitchen published in 1996 and 2000. It is an excellent cookbook translated and worked into North American cooking standards and according to my dear Mom, good, old fashioned Hungarian recipes.

Below, I present my dear Mother’s recipe from her Mother’s cookbook that she brought with her on her escape from Hungary in 1956, Az Ínyesmester Ezer Új Receptje published by Athenaeum, 1935. It is a well-loved, faded copy and the recipe for szilvásgombóc in the book is entirely by feel (no measurements documented!).

Cookbook

That’s a recipe for Roquefort Dressing written in my Mom’s handwriting in Hungarian.

Magyar Szilvásgombóc (Hungarian Plum Dumplings)

Makes about 24 gombóc

Ingredients:

  • 12 sweet plums (the small Italian ones are best, we were not able to find them so we cut them in half)
  • Boiled potatoes (we used 5 medium-sized yukon gold potatoes)
  • All purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tbsp cinnamon, divided
  • 3/4 cup of unseasoned bread crumbs (we made our own from whole wheat bread)
  • 2-3 tbsp sugar

Directions:

  1. While boiling the peeled potatoes, wash, pit and cut the plums in half and season with 2 tbsp of cinnamon, set aside.
  2. Rice potatoes while still warm (Éva made a point of this). Beat the egg by hand and combine it with the riced potatoes.
  3. Slowly add flour to the potato and egg mixture to make a soft dough.
  4. Using about two tablespoons of dough, press out to about 1 cm thick in the palm of your hand (about the size of the palm of your hand), add a quarter of a plum to the centre and cover entirely with the dough, pinching the seams shut.
  5. Boil water with a pinch of salt. Boil plum dumpling until done (they should float to the top, just like gnocchi).
  6. Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, toast the breadcrumbs until golden and while still warm, add the sugar and mix gently until the sugar has melted and caramelized. It should not be a sopping mess. Turn off the heat. Add the remaining 2 tbsp cinnamon and mix well. Roll each cooked dumpling in the bread crumbs and plate.
  7. Serve warm or cold, with or without yogurt or sour cream
This plate survived two bombings during the second world war.

This plate survived two bombings during the second world war.

Notes:

  • We tested one plum ball first to make sure it didn’t fall apart during boiling and decided it was a bit too soft and we added more flour.
  • The old cookbook describes a good plum dumpling dough to be thinly wrapped around the plum, a fine and light texture, somewhat pillowy (not chewy). “A jó szilvásgombóc téstája vékony, finom és könnyu, sőt omlós.”
  • I wish we had tasted the plums because they had very little taste and we should have seasoned them with a touch sugar to bring out their plum taste. This dish should not be sickly sweet, it is delicately sweet.
  • Ilona Horváth adds lard to the dough but we did not.
  • My relatives LOVE cinnamon so the proportions may be a bit much for the average person, add according to your own personal taste. Cinnamon in Europe is the real McCoy and is a lot stronger than our Cassia. Too much cinnamon may make the dish bitter!

 

AlmasSutemeny_First

We had a grand 2-week visit with my Hungarian relatives, enjoying the many things that Toronto has to offer. During the annual street party, our dear neighbour (one of whom we do the Progressive dinners with) asked us all over to their place for a BBQ. I made dessert. I chose to remake the Martha Stewart Apple Cake that I previously posted here. It was so well received that My cousin asked for the recipe, so I will post this recipe in Hungarian for my kin in Budapest (English will follow).

Egy nagyon jó két hétes nyaralás volt a magyar rokonokal. Meglátogatunk mindent ami van Torontoba. Az este amikor az utca ünneplés volt, a kedves szomszéd (akikval közül csináljuk Progresszív vacsorákat) meg hivtak minket egy grillezésre. Én csináltam a desszertet. Úgy döntöttem, hogy meg csinálmon a Martha Stewart almás süteményét, amit korábban irtam rola itt. Annyira szereték, hogy az unokatestvérem kérte a receptet, így én hozzászólom a receptet magyarul (English recipe to follow).

Apple Cake

A tasty combo of cake and apples with a good dose of cinnamon. Egy finom torta almával és egy jó adag fahéjjel.

Almás Sütemény

Az eredeti recept it van.

Egy reczept csinál egy 23 cm kerék tepsit ami 8 – 10 cm magas, vagy két 20 cm kerék tepsit de csak 5 cm magas.

Hozzávalók:

  • szukor meghinteni a tepsit 
  • 195 g liszt
  • 12 g sütőpor
  • 5 g  só
  • 7 g fahéj puder, plusz egy kicsi a tepsinek és a pite tetejére
  • 85 g vaj, olvaszva
  • 170 g barna cukor, plusz egy kicsi a pite tetejére
  • 125 mL tej
  • 2 tojás, szobahőmérség
  • 2 nagy alma, hámozott és vékonyra szeletelve
  • 30 g vaj, plusz egy kicsi a tepsinek és a pite tetejére kis csipetkékb

Utasítás:

  1. A sütőt előmelegítjük 200 °C-ra.
  2. Ki vajazuk a tepsit egy kis vajal és meghintjük cukorral.
  3. A liszthez hozzáadjuk a sütőport, a sót, és a fahéj pudert és alaposan keverjük össze.
  4. Egy másik tálban jól megkeverük egy habverővel az olvasztott vajat, a barna cukrot, a tejet, és a tojást.
  5. Lassan a vaj keveréket a liszt keveréketel hozá adjuk és osze keverjük.
  6. Öntsük a tésztát az előkészített tepsibe és az almát egyenként rendezzük körbe szorokan amíg elfogy (ugy mint a kép).
  7. A pite tetejét meghintjük egy kis barna cukral és fahéjjal es kis csipetke vajjal.
  8. Sütjük amíg a teteje arany szinu és a gyümölcs meg van fóve, körülbelül 40-50 perc, vagy amíg a sütemény teszter (tiszta fogpiszkáló) a tészta közepének jön ki tisztan.
Apple Cake2

Perfect for dessert or afternoon tea. Egy tökéletes desszert, vagy délutáni cávéval.

Apple Cake

Original recipe may be found here.

Makes one 9″ deep spring-form pan cake or two 8″ slightly shallower round cakes.

Ingredients:

  • sugar for dusting pan
  • 195 g flour
  • 12 g baking powder
  • 5 g  salt
  • 7 g cinnamon
  • 85 g butter, unsalted and melted, plus a bit more for the pan and cake top
  • 170 g dark brown sugar, packed
  • 125 mL milk (I used skim)
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 large apples, peeled, cored and sliced into 2 mm sliced wedges

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F. Butter a 9″ springform pan and line the bottom with parchment. Sprinkle with sugar and shake the pan to coat.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
  3. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together melted butter, brown sugar, milk and eggs.
  4. Slowly fold the butter mixture into the flour mixture, just stirring until blended.
  5. Spoon the batter mixture into the prepared springform pan, smooth the top evenly.
  6. Arrange the apple slices in a circle closely together in the cake batter. Then press each piece of fruit gently down into the batter.
  7. Sprinkle over with the 2 tbsp brown sugar and cinnamon. Top the brown sugar by dotting the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter over.
  8. Bake until top is golden and the fruit has softened, about 35-50 minutes in a convection oven (fan oven for my European friends), or until a cake tester inserted in the centre comes out clean.
TheFamily

Our last lunch together on the back patio.

ChocolateAlmondCake_First

I was recently reminded of a project I completed in anticipation of family arriving from overseas. The project wasn’t imperative for their comfort or enjoyment, it was just the impetus I needed to “git ‘er done” as they say!

We’ve lived in our present home for almost 15 years, and ever since the first day we moved in, I’ve wanted curtains on both windows in our living room (or lounge) but we already had perfectly good, and totally lovely curtains on the back sliding doors. To replace perfectly good (and well made, I might add) curtains seemed excessive to me, so we lived with them. For 14+ years. Until I did some math and to my utmost delight , I discovered I could get two for the price of one, out of the generous fabric that the original curtains had. I wanted the dated tabs replaced with a more contemporary and clean look (for the sewers out there, I simply folded the tabs down, behind the top and stitched across. Pull the rod through the tabs to hang. I also added recycled toilet tissue rolls to help hold  the role). The sliding door curtains are functional and we do close them down on the very cold days, but the front ones are just for show! I am just so happy every time I look at them. Of course, I had to do the dining room next…it’s really never ending. While hemming the new dining room curtains, I started thinking about the Indonesian Spekkoek Lapis Legit cakes I made a couple of years ago (here and here), specifically about how I can change it up. My FILs birthday was in mid-May so making a cake for him was the perfect opportunity to experiment. We all love Charles’ Kladdkaka and Tuppkaka so I wondered if I could combine the two delicious cakes using the Spekkoek Lapis Legit technique. It was a huge success and the two flavours went together famously. I made the cake again for JTs birthday in June, by special request.

What project have you put off only to get it done for guests?

OldCurtains

These are the very generous old curtains

I changed the rod to something a little more in style with the Craftsman home. I’ve also fixed the hem since this photo!

Kladdkaka

Ingredients:

  • 200 g Caster Sugar
  • 140 g unbleached Flour
  • 50 g Cocoa Powder
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 2 tsp Vanilla
  • 120 g Butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup water

Directions:

  1. Prepare your spring-form tart pan with non-stick cooking spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper.
  2. Add the sugar, flour, cocoa powder and baking powder to the bowl of your food processor. Plus few times to incorporate evenly.
  3. In the microwave, melt the butter slowly so it doesn’t overheat. Combine the cooled melted butter, eggs, vanilla and water. Slowly pour the melted butter mixture in an even stream while processing. Mix well, scraping down the sides as required. 
  4. Lightly grease a round tin about 20cm in diametre (I used a spring form tin). Spoon the batter into the tin and smooth out to the edges (it is rather thick). Resist the urge to try this batter, it’s seriously good and you will not be able to stop.
  5. Set aside while you make the Tuppkaka layer.

Tuppkaka

Ingredients:

  • 300g Caster Sugar
  • 200g Plain Flour
  • 74g Butter
  • 2 Eggs, separated
  • 2 tsp almond flavouring
  • 1/4 cup water

Directions:

  1. Melt butter and allow to cool to room temperature.
  2. Combine the eggs with the sugar and beat well (until thick and very pale yellow). Combine the melted butter with the almond flavouring and water and and mix well.
  3. Sift in the flour and stir until entirely incorporated.

Making the layered cake:

  1. The first layer is chocolate, use about 1/2 cup of chocolate batter for the first layer.
  2. Broil for 2-4 minutes watching carefully so it doesn’t burn. Once it is set and your tester comes out clean, pour 1/2 cup of the almond batter on top and spread evenly (the heat from the chocolate will begin cooking the batter so you’ll need to work fast.
  3. Broil for 2-4 minutes until it is set and your cake tester comes out clean. Repeat alternating the flavours until you have used up both almond and chocolate batters, broiling each layer individually.
  4. Allow to cool completely before layering the ganache on the cake.

Chocolate Ganache Ingredients:

  • 114 g dark semi-sweet chocolate
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) heavy cream

Ganache Directions:

  1. Heat cream to almost boiling, pour over chocolate and stir until melted and entirely incorporated and smooth.
  2. Pour over cake and smooth top and sides.
  3. Refrigerate until set.

Notes:

  • Set your oven rack 2nd highest from the top.
  • As the cake becomes taller you may need to reduce the broil to low so it doesn’t burn.
  • I baked the final layer in a 350°F oven for 10 minutes because it just got too close to my boiler and I was concerned it would burn.
ChocolateAlmondCake

It’s a little like eating chocolate marzipan!

ChocolateAlmondCakeCut

I still need to work on my layers but it tasted darn good!

SweetPotatoHummus_first

A couple of weeks ago my kitchen had all sorts of half used leftover vegetables from a testing I did for my recipe testing lady. They were for recipes that called for specific volumes of vegetables (such as, 1 cup) instead of the quantity of vegetables (such as 1 medium carrot). I always find those recipes a bit odd because I am left with bits and pieces that lay around for weeks without any specific purpose. Indeed, I could have thrown them into a soup or stew but I wasn’t making either of those things. Then I saw my lovely friend Lorraine’s Roasted Vegetable Hummus recipes and thought “GENIUS”! What a great way to use up bits and pieces of leftover veg. Thank you Lorraine, truly a great idea (ps, it was darn delicious too!).

Because this recipe was created to use up leftover vegetables, feel free to modify the quantity or variety to what you have on hand. This would also work beautifully if you had leftover roasted veg from a dinner. Hummus is an easy Middle Eastern dip/spread and the seasonings should be to your personal taste; we love the traditional flavours so I’ve kept it pretty much the same with the exception of substituting tahini with toasted sesame oil because that’s what I had (you can use peanut butter too, I know, GASP!!!).

It turned out that The Hungarians had never tried sweet potatoes (not sure if it’s a veg not available in Budapest or they were never introduced to it) but it was a grand success as a dip AND as a roasted vegetable side for our roast chicken dinner one night.

Sweet Potato and Carrot Hummus

makes about 1 cup, depending on the size of your vegetables

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into equal sized cubes
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into equal sized cubes
  • 1 large clove of garlic, whole
  • 3 tbsp EVOO, divided
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp each, cumin and coriander
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp water or vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp smoked sesame oil
  • toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 190° C (375° F).
  2. Add sweet potato and carrot cubes to a large roasting pan and drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil.
  3. Add garlic (peel and all) to a small ramekin, top off with 2 tbsp olive oil and and water. Season with sea salt. Cover with foil and tuck into a corner of the roasting pan.
  4. Roast vegetables for about 35 minutes or until very tender, try not to brown the vegetables so that the dip colour remains vibrant.
  5. Scrape vegetables from roasting pan into a glass bowl, squeeze the garlic out from its skin and pour the liquid from the garlic into the glass bowl with the sweet potato and carrot.
  6. Toast the cumin and coriander until fragrant, add to the glass bowl along with the remainder of the ingredients (with the exception of the sesame seeds). Purée until smooth, season with salt and pepper, if desired. For an ultra smooth dip, press through a fine sieve. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds. Serve at room temperature with bread, crackers or crisp vegetables.
SweetPotatoHummus

It’s creamy and naturally sweet.

My dear friend Genie of Bunny, Eats, Design suggested I submit this post to our growing edge for June, themed Picnic, hosted by Maddie from Supper Lovin’

our-growing-edge-banner

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