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Posts Tagged ‘Appetizer/Hors d’oeuvres’

You may have noticed from my other socials that we have escaped Toronto and finally headed to Spain. Our first trip in February was cancelled by you know what. We are here for 51 days. The sun and relative warmth have been life-altering. I wake up just to see the sunrise on the Mediterranean (it’s not that bad, 7:30-ish during our stay).

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Our kitchen in the flat (my cousin’s flat) is challenging from a size point. I have fitted it with most of my favourite tools so I can do most things but finding a place to do them can be a challenge. Most people who rent do take away or go out to one of the many restaurants in this little village. The Spaniards like to eat late (9pm would be considered an early dinner) but I find it difficult to eat that late, so we end up going out for lunch and having a light dinner around 7pm. Although the first few attempts to lunch were failures as many places don’t open until at least 1:30 (we don’t eat breakfast) and they close between 2-5pm for Siesta. Don’t get me started on Siesta, it is a beloved ritual in the smaller centres. This little recipe was developed to take us through cocktails one evening. 

Retro Olive Balls

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 8 pastry-wrapped large olives or 20 pastry-wrapped small olives

Ingredients:

  • 15 g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 60 g cheese, we used manchego
  • 60 g flour
  • 15 g roasted garlic purée
  • Salt, pepper to taste
  • water to bind
  • 8 large olives or 20 small olives

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Combine everything but the olives in the small bowl of a food processor and process until combined. If the dough still doesn’t come together, add a few drops of water and pulse until it comes together.
  3. Divide the dough into eight equal portions. Roll each portion into a small circle and wrap around each olive, rolling in your hand until it is smooth. Repeat until all of the olives are wrapped.
  4. Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet until golden, serve warm.

A delicious buttery pastry enveloping a Manzanilla Olive.

Notes:

  • I used unpitted Spanish Manzanilla Olives because it is what I had at home, black olives or even pimento-stuffed olives would be lovely with this recipe. Make sure you mention to your guests that the olives are with pitts.
  • Double or triple this recipe for more tasty little balls.

 

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We’re getting into patio season here in the Big Smoke and patio season means glasses of vino and cocktails with friends on our cozy covered patio. I never like to serve alcohol without something to nosh on and I had a couple of dips in the freezer that needed a little flatbread. This recipe whipped up very quickly and because it is not a yeasted dough, no rising was required. They do puff up quite a bit, so roll them on the thinner side.

Quick & Easy Flatbread

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 4 flat breads about 20 cm (8 inches) in diametre

Ingredients:

  • 300 g “00” flour
  • 8 g baking powder
  • 2 g baking soda
  • 160 g Greek yogurt
  • 20 g olive oil
  • 45 g water
  • 125 mL olive oil for frying

Directions:

  1. Mix the dry ingredients well; combine the wet ingredients and whisk well. Combine the dry and the wet and kneed for a minute or two.
  2. Divide into four equal balls (mine were 133 g) and roll out to about.5 cm thick.
  3. Heat the olive oil to 350° F and fry each side of the flatbreads until the inside temperature is 150° F. Cool on kitchen paper to absorb excess oil. Serve warm or grilled and cut into wedges.

Notes:

  • Freeze cooked flatbreads in a ziplock bag.

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My brother loaned us his cottage for the last week of January. Yes, it is a lot colder up there but it is extremely beautiful with the pristine, sparkling snow and the occasional visit from wildlife. I needed to clean out the fridge before we left and created this tasty and satisfying soup. Pair it with a scone or grilled cheese and you have the perfect winter-time lunch. The measurements are not important here because I was just using up some less-than-perfect produce, it’s just an inspiration for future soups.

JT bought me the KitchenAid Vegetable Sheet Cutter to help me cut down our carbs so I had a lot of zucchini cores leftover which played right into this delicately flavoured soup. I was going to add cream but then I had a very ripe avocado that would meld perfectly into this winter meal.

Celery, Zucchini, and Avocado Cream Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1.45 L soup

Ingredients:

  • 15 mL EVOO
  • ~ 1/2 a bunch of celery, roughly chopped
  • ~ 1 zucchini, roughly chopped
  • ~ 1 small Vidalia onion, roughly chopped
  • 5-10 sprigs of parsley
  • 1 L chicken stock
  • 1 small Avocado, peeled and pitted
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, heat the EVOO, add the celery, zucchini, onion, and parsley, and cook until softened. Add the stock and simmer for 30 minutes or until all of the vegetables are very soft. Add the avocado.
  2. Blitz with your immersion blender or allow to cool and purée with a Nutri Bullet or VitaMix for a smooth and creamy soup. Strain through a fine sieve to remove the celery ‘hairs’.
  3. Serve hot.

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I started watching a couple of Ontario-guys on Facebook who try to prove or disprove crazy videos they’ve seen, mostly of food but it can also be science or cleaning and such. They are a bit goofy which makes them rather charming. Their girlfriends sometimes participate in these videos by making some outlandish foods. This traditional Georgian potato, cheese-stuffed bread was one of them. The recipe looked so good, I had to do a little research and make my own. Their recipe was fairly straight forward using baking powder and not yeast bread dough, but the research showed that most of the recipes were yeasted bread dough, so I went with that. Then I found a few that had egg in them which gives the bread a wonderful, chewy texture. Then there is the mashed potato and cheese stuffed inside. OMG, so good. My recipe makes four disks about 20 cm in diametre, cut into eight portions.  The bread freezes very well. Remember to put it in the refrigerator overnight to defrost, then allow it to come to room temperature before baking. We went through two bad boys in two days and I sent a third one to a friend who was going to visit her parents! The fourth one is under lock and key in the freezer, I’m saving it for a special time! I will definitely be making this recipe again and again!

Soft, pillowy mashed potatoes with the sharp feta (or goat) and gooey mozzarella makes for a more-ish starter.

Kartofdzhyn (Cheese and Potato Stuffed Bread)

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 4 stuffed bread rounds about 20 cm (8 inches) each

Ingredients for the Bread:

  • 6 g quick yeast
  • 8 g granulated sugar
  • 120 mL milk, at 110F
  • 460 g bread flour
  • 6 g salt
  • 215 g Greek yogurt
  • 2 eggs
  • Olive oil for the dough
  • 1 egg yolk, whisked for brushing the dough

Directions:

  1. Combine the yeast and sugar with the warm milk and allow to proof for about 10 minutes (it should froth up)
  2. Add the flour and salt to the large bowl of your stand mixer and mix lightly.
  3. Combine the Greek yogurt and eggs with the frothy yeast mixture and whisk until well combined.
  4. Add the liquid ingredients to the flour and knead with the hook for 10 minutes. Stop the mixer and allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes, then resume kneading for about 15 minutes or until the dough comes away from the bowl.
  5. Coat the dough with olive oil and allow to proof for about an hour, or until doubled in size.

Ingredients for the Filling:

  • 2 medium yellow potatoes (about 230 g), boiled
  • 30 g butter
  • 30 g roasted garlic purée
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 100 g feta cheese or goats cheese
  • 230 g mozzarella
  • 6 g salt

Directions:

  1. Mash the potatoes with butter and roasted garlic, then beat with a whisk beater until light and fluffy. Fold in the scallions, cheeses, and salt and set aside.

Directions for the dough disks:

  1. Divide the dough into four equal portions. Roll out each portion evenly to a circle about 25 cm (10 inches). 
  2. Add one-quarter of the filling to the centre of each round and pull in each side to form a sealed disk. Flip over and gently roll out to about 20 cm (8 inches). Pierce the top of the disk with a fork and brush each dough disk with the egg yolk. Set aside while the oven preheats or freeze on a baking sheet and transfer to a plastic zip-lock bag for the future.
  3. If baking at the moment, put a cast-iron pan into the oven and pre-heat the oven to 400° F. Add one disk to the hot pan and bake for 20 minutes. When done, remove from the heat and brush the top with some more olive oil. Serve warm.

 

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Way back in January, we were getting some seriously cold temperatures. I had a ham bone leftover from Christmas Eve that I wanted to use and what better use is a rib-sticking split pea soup? I was able to get 6-8 portions out of the soup, about 250 mL or a cup each, it’s pretty thick. The soup is fairly filling so if you want to make it last a little longer, add a bit more stock to thin it down.

Fall Split Pea Soup with Ham

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

Directions:

  • 175 g finely chopped onion
  • 100 g celery, diced
  • 100 g carrots, diced
  • 65 g pancetta, cut into small slices
  • 20 g garlic, finely chopped
  • 10 cumin
  • 1”5 g smoked paprika
  • 3 cups water
  • 4 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 430 g split peas
  • 175 g cooked ham, diced
  1. In a pressure cooker cook the pancetta until crispy then add the onions and until translucent.
  2. Add the split peas and sautée for a minute.
  3. Add the garlic and cumin and sautée for about 30 more seconds (or until you can smell the aroma), add the ham, water and stock. Now add the paprika and cinnamon stick.
  4. Seal the cover and cook under pressure for 45 minutes or until the split peas have softened (I use a fairly low setting). You should check the water level twice during the process to make sure it hasn’t boiled down to nothing, stir. If the liquid is too reduced, add more.
  5. Serve with a dollop of low fat Greek yogurt and home made bread.

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We had dear friends over for Christmas Day dinner last month. I had made a bunch of regular gyozas and wanted some for my Gluten-Free besty. After much research, I found several recipes and came up with my own. This recipe has the elasticity that steamed gyozas have but it also packs an incredible crunch when fried to a golden brown on one side. JT couldn’t tell that they were gluten-free! I’m thinking they may even make incredible ravioli!

Gluten-Free Gyoza Wrappers

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Make 15 gyoza wrappers

Ingredients:

  • 50 g gluten-free all-purpose flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 33 g tapioca flour
  • 4 g xanthan gum
  • 0.1  g salt
  • 40 g boiling water
  • 10 g vegetable oil

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the dry ingredients and mix well.
  2. Combine the boiling water and vegetable oil and pour into the dry ingredients, mix well until it comes together. Set out to a lightly GF floured board and knead for a few minutes. Cover tightly in plastic wrap and allow to rest for about 15 minutes.
  3. Cut the dough into four portions and roll out to about 2 mm thick using the KitchenAid pasta dough attachment, roll the dough and fold it onto itself several times on #1. Then roll the dough out from #1-#4. Use like any gyoza dough being careful to cover it tightly with plastic wrap when not in use.
  4. Steam the GF gyozas for about 3-4 minutes, they should bounce back if you gently poke them.

Notes:

  • Keep the dough tightly covered with plastic wrap when not in use, it dries out very quickly.
  • Rub a little water on one side of the seam before closing so that they don’t come apart when steaming.
  • The gyoza will puff up when you steam them.
  • The uncooked gyoza feeze well. Freeze on a parchment-lined sheet and for about 30 minutes, drop into a ziplock bag. I wouldn’t leave them for more than 30 minutes on a sheet uncovered because they dry out.
  • Most recipes did not have the addition of tapioca flour or vegetable oil; I added the tapioca flour to improve the elasticity that gluten-free flour lacks and the vegetable oil was needed to help the dough from drying out.
  • You will need to roll out the dough by hand to get it through #1, but you’d have to do that with regular pasta dough too.

The gyoza is chewy and crunchy like a real gyoza should be!

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I was finishing off making some spanakopita with store-bought phyllo pastry and had run out of the pastry with enough filling to make about 4 additional pieces (don’t you hate that?) so I decided to try my hand at a quick phyllo dough. It worked out extremely well so I thought I’d document the process. It’s getting dark so early these days, so you’ll need to excuse the horrible light in my photos.

Quick Phyllo Pastry

Makes about 4 sheets 15 cm x 30 cm (enough for 4 triangles)

Ingredients:

  • 50 g all-purpose flour (10.5 ounces)
  • 15 mL olive oil
  • 2.5 mL red wine vinegar
  • 1.5 g salt
  • 25 -45 g water

Directions:

  1. Mix all of the ingredients together until you get a uniform, soft dough that does not stick. Knead for a few minutes. Set aside, wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. Divide into two equal balls and roll out, thin enough to see through. I used my KitchenAid pasta maker to the thinnest setting.
  3. Use in your favourite phyllo recipe.

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Let me begin by saying that this is not an authentic Thai pumpkin soup but it is a sophisticated blend of Thai flavours that make a super creamy and flavourful dish. I used a small white pumpkin which makes this beautiful lightly pumpkin flavoured, pale celery coloured soup. I garnished it with lightly toasted pumpkin seeds but lightly toasted coconut shavings would be gorgeous as well.

We recently had friends over for brunch and I had expected that it would be cold out and that soup would be a well-received course. We lucked out and had an exceptional November day so we sat outside for hors d’oeuvres and then retreated inside for the main course and back outside for dessert. Even though it wasn’t cold at all, particularly on our heated patio, the soup was very well received. This recipe is a keeper.

Thai-inspired Pumpkin Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 1.5 L of soup

Ingredients:

  • 430 g pumpkin, roasted and cubed
  • 15 mL roasted garlic purée
  • 1 kaffir lime leaf
  • 5 mL galangal, finely grated
  • 5 cm lemongrass, sliced lengthwise and pounded to release flavours
  • 1 L chicken stock
  • 30 g coconut milk powder
  • 50 g creamed coconut
  • toasted pumpkin seeds for garnish

Directions:

  1. Combine the roasted pumpkin, garlic purée, kaffir lime leaf, galangal and lemongrass and sauté on medium-low until you can smell the gorgeous aromas. Add the chicken stock and bring to a rolling, gentle boil for about 45 minutes; you are trying to infuse the stock with the Thai aromatics. Taste and continue to boil if necessary to infuse more flavours.
  2. Once the chicken stock has been infused, remove from the heat and blitz the stock with a stick blender until all of the flavourings are puréed. Allow to cool on the counter for 1-2 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
  3. Strain the soup through a fine sieve, pressing the pulp until you get most of the liquid out, discard the pulp. 
  4. Return the highly aromatic stock to a pot and reheat gently. Add the coconut milk powder and blitz with a stick blender until smooth. Continue to heat without bringing it to a boil. Add the creamed coconut and blend well.
  5. Serve with toasted pumpkin seeds as garnish.

Notes:

  • You may substitute a can of coconut milk including the cream instead of the coconut milk powder and creamed coconut, I forgot to buy it and resorted to things I had in my pantry.
  • Blitzing the aromatics with the stock is unconventional but it really does impart a sophisticated blend of Thai flavours that is a little more forward than just simmering the flavourings in the stock. 
  • To make this totally vegetarian, substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock.
  • As you know, Thai food is a carefully weighted combination of salty, sweet, sour and bitter and this recipe incorporates all of those flavours and imparts a significant amount of umami. Personally, I find coconut milk sweet enough so my recipe does not include sugar but it would be entirely up to you; if you use sugar, I would use cane sugar.

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I had a few plums leftover from the plum cake recipe and I decided to make a tasty hors d’oeuvres for cocktails the following evening. They come together quickly and are very tasty. The amount of honey needed will depend on how tart the plums are. The sweet, honey-infused goats cheese with the tart plums and salty Serrano Ham are a perfect taste sensation.

Soft, sweet goats cheese pairs very well with the tart plums and salty Serrano Jamon.

Plums with Honey infused Goats Cheese wrapped in Serrano Jamon

Makes 6 pieces (2 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 3 plums (should be bite-sized)
  • 15-20 mL Manuka Honey
  • 50 g goats cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 slices Serrano Jamon

Directions:

  1. Cut plums in half, remove stone.
  2. Combine the honey with the goats cheese and mix well.
  3. Mound the cut sides with the honey and goats cheese combo and wrap with half a slice of Serrano Jamon, spear with a skewer.
  4. Serve at room temperature.

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We were having the Boyz over for a trip down memory lane in May, we had just come out of a 100+ day, hard lockdown and were finally permitted to have less than five people in our backyards so we jumped on it! The Boyz are Andy and Mark, they own a lovely Irish Pub in Leslieville called The Roy. I met Andy many years ago when we both worked at a design firm and have been friends ever since. Andy and Mark love to travel and they love to travel to Spain. Way back in 2020, before the world fell apart, we happened to be in Spain at the same time so we met up in Malaga. We soon realized that our friendship had gotten a lot deeper because of our shared love of Spain. Sadly the last year and a bit has not been kind to restauranteurs and the Boyz are definitely feeling the pinch so when we were allowed people over, I thought I’d create a night of tapas for a trip down memory lane with food. And who doesn’t love an entire night of eating?

Many of the recipes I served have appeared on the blog, but this one is new and so delicious, I had to post it. This is a compilation of several recipes online and my tapas books so I don’t have a reference. When you say croquetas, I immediately think of creamy potatoes but this one is not made with potatoes (although it would have been delicious too), it’s made with a thick béchamel, and you know how I adore béchamel! As you can see from the menu, it was served later in the evening and people were getting pretty full, but not one was left on the plate! Not one.

The menu for the night:

  1. Crispy Calamari with Romesco Sauce 
  2. Bacon Wrapped Dates
  3. Sautéed chorizo with Bread 
  4. Spanish Potato Omelette 
  5. Tuna Avocado salad in Endive Spoons 
  6. Manchego and Serrano Croquettes (recipe below)
  7. Catalan Tomato Bread with Anchovies
  8. Seared Scallop on Creamed Corn 

Dessert:

  • Selection of Spanish cheeses, crackers, grapes, nuts

Croquetas de Jamon Serrano y Manchego

Makes 16 croquettes, about 26 g each

Ingredients:

  • 80 g serrano ham, finely chopped
  • 50 g shallot, finely chopped
  • 50 g manchego cheese, coarsely grated
  • 30 g butter
  • 15 mL EVOO
  • 60 g all-purpose flour
  • 200 mL milk
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 45 g panko
  • 20 g manchego cheese, finely grated
  • 500 mL peanut oil

Directions:

  1. Heat the butter and olive oil in a pan, add the shallots and cook until translucent.
  2. Add the flour and stir well and cook for a couple of minutes. Whisk in the milk and stir until thickened. Stir in the Serrano ham and 50 g of the coarsely grated cheese.
  3. Spread the mixture onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and allow to cool completely.
  4. Once cool, shape into little ovals about 26 g each. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  5. Whip the egg with a fork in a small bowl. In another small bowl, combine the panko and the finely grated Manchego cheese.
  6. Dip each oval into the egg and coat thoroughly, then plunge each one into the panko mixture and coat well, storing each one on a clean parchment-lined pan.
  7. Heat the oil to at least 350 F and fry each croquette until golden. Serve immediately or hold on a baking sheet and reheat in a 350 F oven until warmed through.
  8. Serve with Romesco Sauce.

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I love to cook Asian flavours, particularly in the warmer weather, it just feels right. One such warm and balmy evening I came up with this interesting twist on an old favourite: Thai Green Curry “Risotto“! It’s definitely not traditional so I’ve omitted the cheese because I didn’t like the flavour combination but I have an alt in the notes if you still want cheese in it. It’s creamy, even though I used Jasmine rice and I kept it monochromatic adding only green veggies. It was a definitely a winner!

Thai Green Curry “Risotto

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 2 dinner-sized servings or 4 appetizer servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 small shallot (about 25 g)
  • 15 mL EVOO
  • 60 mL Green Curry Paste
  • 160 g jasmine rice, rinsed well
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • 300 mL chicken stock
  • 100 mL coconut milk
  • 50 g green beans (cut into 1 cm pieces)
  • 150 g bay scallops
  • 50 g frozen peas
  • 2.5 mL lime juice

Directions:

  1. In a small Dutch oven, heat the oil and add the shallots and cook until translucent. Add the kaffir lime leaves.
  2. Add the rice and toast for a minute or so. Add the green curry paste and cook until fragrant.
  3. Pour in the chicken stock about one-third at a time, stirring occasionally, cooking the rice until all’onda. Add the scallops and cook until they are 125-130F or you can panfry them like I did.
  4. Turn down the element and stir in the coconut milk, add the vegetables and heat through.
  5. Add the lime juice to taste. Remove the kaffir lime leaves to serve.

Deliciously creamy “risotto” with the flavours of Thailand.

Notes:

  • I add the lime juice to brighten the flavours without salt.
  • This is neither an authentic Thai nor Italian recipe. I just thought the green curry and jasmine rice lent itself to the traditional dish. This green curry does not have cheese in it but if you want it creamier, try a little cream cheese stirred into the curry right at the end.
  • Use any protein you wish, chicken or shrimp would be great too.

Bay scallops add the perfect amount of sweetness to this flavourful dish.

Note:

  • Rice portion was updated July 17 to reflect two servings.

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Way back in April we had an outdoor Indian evening with a single neighbour and for hors d’œuvres I served Pork Samosas. They were delicious and so moreish. They are not the traditional deep-fried samosa, but they are baked phyllo pastry versions. I can tell you that they didn’t last long.

Photo of baked pork samosas

A delicously flavourful, crispy triangle.

Baked Pork Samosas

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 16 two-bite samosas

Ingredients:

  • 15 mL vegetable oil
  • 1/2 shallot, finely chopped
  • 200 g ground pork
  • 5 g garam masala
  • 5 g curry powder
  • 10 g cumin
  • 5 g grated ginger
  • 10 g roasted puréed garlic 
  • 200 g mix vegetables
  • 50 g frozen peas, thawed
  • 10 g cilantro leaves, chopped, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/2 pack phyllo pastry
  • 150 g unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan and sweat the shallot until translucent.
  2. Add the pork and cook until no longer pink, mix in the ginger and garlic and stir well.
  3. Sprinkle the garam masala, curry powder and cumin over the cooked pork and stir until fragrant. Remove from heat and mix in the vegetables and cilantro. Allow to cool completely.
  4. Cut each phyllo sheet into 5 cm widths and brush with melted butter.
  5. Starting at one end, dollop a tablespoon of the pork mixture and begin folding in a triangle pattern like illustrated below.
  6. Brush the tops with more melted butter. Bake in a preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden and heated through. Serve with peach chutney.

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Warm Spanakopita Dip

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 250 mL dip

Ingredients:

  • 15 mL garlic-infused EVOO
  • 30 g shallots, small dice
  • 160 g zucchini, grated
  • 70 g spinach, finely chopped
  • 0.5 g dill weed
  • 50 g cream cheese
  • 70 g Greek feta, crumbled, divided
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized pan and sweat the shallots until translucent. Add the zucchini and cook until softened. Add the spinach and wilt completely. Season with the dill and stir well.
  2. Add the cream cheese and stir until it has melted into the vegetables.
  3. Add about three-quarters of the feta and stir well into the warm dip. Reserve one-quarter of the feta for garnish.
  4. Reheat the dip and serve with pita bread.

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I am constantly on the lookout for new hors d’oeuvres/finger food that I can insert into my cocktail repertoire. I came across this tasty recipe in early April when I was looking around for something to make with polenta. I loved the crackers because I’ve already made Polenta Fries, Polenta Crisps, and Polenta Choux Pastry. Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe includes a beautiful tapenade but I didn’t have parsley and I wasn’t going to go out for just one ingredient as we had just stepped into our THIRD State of Emergency Lockdown, so I improvised with baby arugula, and I must say, it’s darn tasty, I may even substitute the parsley with arugula going forward.

Don’t let the dark edges fool you, they are the best part!!!

Polenta Bites with Mediterranean Tapenade

Recipe inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi

Makes about 35 little crackers and enough tapenade for about 6 or 8 crackers.

Ingredients for the Polenta Bites:

  • 350 mL chicken stock
  • 15 mL roasted garlic purée
  • 15  EVOO
  • 2.5 g sea salt
  • 75 g fine cornmeal
  • 40 g finely grated parmesan
  • 5 g chopped chives

Directions for the Polenta Bites:

  1. Prepare a large sheet of parchment paper by spraying it with non-stick spray. Set aside.
  2. Heat the chicken stock with the roasted garlic purée, extra virgin olive oil and sea salt until a slow boil.
  3. Slowly pour in the cornmeal and stir vigorously until all has been incorporated into the water and it is beginning to thicken, add the grated parmesan and chives and cook, stirring constantly until very thick.
  4. Pour the hot mixture onto one half of the prepared parchment and fold the other half over it. Using a rolling pin, roll out to about 2mm thick. Even out the edges (cooks treat) and cut into 3 cm squares. Allow to cool completely.
  5. Preheat the oven to 425° F (I used convection) and bake the polenta bites for 20 minutes. Remove the sheet from the oven and flip the crackers over so that the top is the bottom and the bottom is the top and try to separate the crackers and move them around on the parchment so they bake evenly. Bake for an additional 20 minutes. Cool completely.

Green olives, kalamata olives, artichoke hearts and peppery arugula make a very tasty tapenade.

Ingredients for the Mediterranean Tapenade:

  • 5 Green olives (with pimento)
  • 6 Kalamata olives, pitted
  • 4 quarters Marinated Artichoke Hearts
  • 2 small handfuls of baby arugula
  • 1 green onion about 15 cm long, roughly chopped
  • 30 mL EVOO
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions for the Mediterranean Tapenade:

  1. Add everything into a small food processor and process until you have achieved the desired consistency.
  2. Serve as a dip or portioned onto each cracker like a canape.

 

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These are super quick and easy to make. They don’t keep well, particularly if your house is a bit humid so plan to bake them just before you want to eat them or if they get a bit soggy, just pop them into the oven to dry them out a bit.

Deliciously crunchy and cheesy crisps.

Cheese Crisps

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 12-15 crisps

Ingredients:

  • 400 g old cheddar cheese, grated

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400° F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone matt.
  2. Spread the cheese out on the matt as thinly as possible so that the grated pieces are interlaced.
  3. Bake for 4-6 minutes or until the cheese has entirely rendered and is starting to become golden but not burned.
  4. Carefully remove from the oven and pull the parchment onto a cutting board. With a pizza cutter, cut into wedges. Allow to cool completely. Serve immediately.

Notes:

  • I use a rimmed baking sheet because the oils from the cheese may slide onto the oven and burn.
  • Parchment may burn so a silicon matt is preferred.

 

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Several years ago, I replicated some French Onion Soup Pillows from a long-gone, favourite restaurant. They somehow managed to get the delicious French onion soup into a dumpling that exploded when you bit into it. It was unexpected and wonderful. I was thinking about making them again when I discovered some cooked beef gyoza filling in the freezer and I was inspired to make a Japanese version of our beloved French Onion Soup Pillows, and Self-Saucing Gyoza were born. They’re a little more fiddly than normal gyoza because you have to make the sauce and allow it to set overnight, but it’s totally worth it. Now I wish we could have friends over so I could serve them these delightfully explosive bites, damn you Covid.

Self-Saucing Gyoza

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes enough Sauce for about 25 gyoza

Ingredients for the Sauce:

  • 1 gelatine leaf (agar agar will not work)
  • 100 mL miso broth
  • 20 mL soy sauce
  • 5 mL Hoisin Sauce
  • 30 ml mirin
  • A batch of homemade gyoza, like these

Directions:

  1. Soak the gelatin leaf in cold water until soft. Wring out the water and add it to a small saucepan.
  2. In the same saucepan, combine the broth, soy sauce, hoisin Sauce and Mirin and whisk over low heat until the gelatine has melted. Cool and pour into a small rectangular plastic container (container should allow sauce to be a minimum of 70 mm deep). Refrigerate overnight until set. Cut into 25 cubes.
  3. Make up the gyoza as per recipe and add one gelatine cube per gyoza. Freeze gyoza on parchment paper individually, add to a ziplock bag for future use. Cook gyoza as per recipe.

The gelatin melts into a delicious sauce within the gyoza.

Notes:

  • You may wish to make your gyoza wraps a bit thicker than normal so the sauce doesn’t leak out while cooking.

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Over the holidays, I received some lovely sourdough starter and I made sourdough bread (as though we needed it!). I’m always a little distraught discarding some of it so I adapted an old recipe I brought back from Hungary to utilize the discard and a little of the fed starter, it worked out very well. I’ll definitely keep this in mind for future baking.

Sourdough Cheese Sticks

Makes 1 30 cm x 42 cm sheet, cut to whatever size you desire.

For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 300 g all-purpose flour
  • 150 g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 100 g discard sourdough starter plus 30 g fed starter
  • 125 g Greek Yogurt
  • 100 g shredded cheese (sharp cheddar works well, freshly grated Parmesan is best)
  • 5 g Salt
  • 20g shredded cheese

Directions:

  1. In the large mixing bowl of your stand mixer with the scraper attachment, blend flour, butter, starters, 100 g cheese and salt until incorporated, then switch to a dough hook and add the Greek yogurt and knead until smooth ball forms.
  2. Allow to rest in a warm dark place for 1 hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375° F
  4. On a piece of parchment paper, roll out dough to about 1/2 cm thickness.
  5. Cut into 7-10 cm x 2 cm sticks.
  6. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  7. Slide cheese sticks on the parchment paper onto a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes or until cheese is golden and melted.
  8. Re-cut sticks, if necessary, while still warm. Serve warm or at room temperature.

These are very tasty served warm.

Notes:

  • Use a flavourful, hard cheese (like cheddar, gruyere or Jarlsberg) is best for this treat.
  • I use a pizza cutter with a kitchen ruler to cut the sticks, it makes it very easy. If you cut the sticks after you sprinkle with cheese, your cutter will take up most of the cheese!
  • In the original recipe, there is an egg wash on the top, I omitted this time because I figured the cheese would stick regardless, but it does add a lovely sheen which I will not omit next time.
  • These cheese sticks freeze well. To reheat, spread in a single layer, cheese side up on a baking sheet and bake at a low 200° F for 10-15 minutes or until defrosted and slightly warm.

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It’s definitely going to be a very different holiday season this year. We usually escape the drudgery of November by renting a house in a friends’ community in Arizona but, not this year. I’m already dreading February when we usually escape to Spain, thank you COVID19, not this year.

I usually look forward to all the holiday parties, both throwing and going to them, but not this year.

Over the last few years, I’ve slowly stopped baking my Christmas goodies to give to friends, but not this year. We deserve a treat. So friends, drop the diet and enjoy!

We usually entertain friends and family this time of year around our wood-burning fireplace in our living room, but not this year. However, we’ve adapted our outdoor space to include a natural gas heater, and equipped the sectional and chairs with electric blankets, trying to extend our entertaining capacity during these trying times. It’s been very successful at 10° C (50° F) but who knows how cosy it will be when temperatures plummet to -10° C (14° F) in January and February. I’m taking full advantage while I can.

This recipe was developed for an evening when we socially-distance-entertained friends under the warm heat trapped under the awning and cosy electric blankets.

These crackers are like biscotti because they are twice-baked. Using an electric slicer gives you excellent control and wonderfully thin slices.

Fruit and Seed Crackers

Makes 75 thinly sliced crackers

For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs, lightly whisked
  • 300 mL milk
  • 15 mL honey or agave syrup
  • 5 g salt
  • 125 g spelt or whole wheat flour
  • 200 g AP unbleached flour
  • 60 g dried cranberries
  • 70 g raw pumpkin seeds
  • 50 g sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. Prepare a small terrine pan (like this one) by lining it with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Combine the eggs, milk and honey and mix well.
  3. Sift the salt and flours together to combine. Stir in the fruit, nuts and seeds. Make a well in the centre and pour the egg mixture into the dried ingredients, stir to combine.
  4. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 25-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Reduce the oven temperature to 300° F.
  5. Tip the loaf out to cool completely and then slice as thinly as possible (I found the electric slicer did a beautiful job). Bake cracker slices until toasty and crisp, about 20-30 minutes, flip if necessary. Cool completely to store.

Notes:

  • I adapted this recipe from Chef Mimi’s blog. I used the seeds and fruit I had on hand, it’s quite versatile, so use what you have on hand.
  • I made these again in August 2021 and did not have whole wheat or spelt flour so I substituted almond flour and they turned out lovely.

 

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In mid-July, we were one of five couples invited to a socially responsible BBQ at a friend’s house. They put three tables together outside giving us ample space to distance ourselves. Each couple was asked to bring something and this marvellously flavourful side was one of the dishes someone brought. Everyone asked for the recipe, including me! I chose to make it as a dip for a summer evening cocktail party, socially responsibly distanced, of course. Each couple had their own plate!

The beans and lentils are packed with flavour, the salsa and lime yoghurt just up the ante.

Baja Mexican Beans and Lentil Dip with Lime Sauce and Salsa

From Bowls of Goodness: Vibrant Vegetarian Recipes Full of Nourishment By Nina Olsson

For the original recipe please click here

  1. Combine all of the ingredients and set aside.
  1. Combine all of the ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate until needed
  • Olive oil
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 200 g dried navy beans (400 g cooked)
  • 100 g dried lentils du puy (200 g cooked)
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 avocado, finely diced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp smoked sweet paprika
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  1. Cook the beans and lentil until softened, rinse.
  2. Heat oil in a frying pan and add the shallots until caramelized, add the garlic and cooked beans and cook until they can easily be mashed about 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Serve in a bowl or on a plate drizzled with the Baja Sauce and Salsa with baked tortilla chips

I chose blue tortilla chips because they were gluten-free and organic.

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We enjoyed a lot of seafood in Spain. But this recipe did not come from our time there, it graced our cocktail table soon after we moved back into our newly renovated bedroom. We were watching a little Jamie Oliver before turning out the lights and the recipe that night was this gem: Crispy Squid and Smashed Avocado. It was a hit the first time I made it, and soon after, I was getting requests to make it again. It is a deep-fried recipe, and you all know how much I love deep-frying, but it is quickly fried and on my first measure of the oil used, I was able to get most of it back after it cooled which means the calamari did not absorb much. Cutting the calamari length-wise instead of in rounds will allow the calamari to curl up like a spring which looks super cool. I paired this tapa with Romesco Sauce and Avocado Cream, and they were both awesome!

Calamares Fritos

To see the original recipe, please click here.

Serves 1-2 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 calamari tube, cleaned and sliced lengthwise to open up
  • 65 g all-purpose flour
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1 L vegetable oil

Ingredients for the Avocado Cream:

  • 1 Avocado
  • pinch of cumin
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1 lime, juiced

Ingredients for Serving:

Directions:

  1. Cut the calamari into strips lengthwise (not rings). Add the flour and sea salt to a bowl and toss the calamari strips until well coated.
  2. Heat the vegetable oil to 375° F. Fry the calamari strips 5 at a time until golden. Drain excess oil on kitchen paper.
  3. Meanwhile, mash or cream the avocado with cumin, sea salt and lime juice.
  4. Serve calamari hot with the sauces.

Notes:

  • Cut the calamari into thin strips length-wise so that it will curl into a spring shape as it fries. Shorter ones will curl less.
  • This dish is equally as good with either sauce so if you don’t want two sauces, just go with one.
  • To scale up the dish, just add another calamari tube for each additional person. More than 4 people, double the avocado cream recipe.

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Our time in Spain seems like a lifetime ago. So much has happened in the short time of our return. In Canada, everything seemed to come to a head the day after we got home!

To put your minds at ease, we were in the province of Almería in my cousin’s little village of San José, some 573 km (356 miles) from Madrid. Our stay took place during low season, many (probably more than half) restaurants and shops were closed for the season and there were very few tourists. My cousin’s flat is in a complex of 14 and the busiest weekend had maybe 5 flats inhabited; during week days there were usually only two inhabited flats and we were one of them! The province of Almería has only 46 confirmed cases to date (March 20 when I wrote this post), we were fortunate. We are into our second week of isolation with no symptoms (I am so relieved). But it’s a moving target and we need to be diligent. Having been away for 40 days we haven’t seen any of our friends so coming home to isolation is emotionally challenging. A big thank you to you, our blogging community, you’re never too far away with a kind word. As we are learning to be virtual with our local friends, it’s comforting to know that our virtual friendships are tried and true.

We had lunch at La Tagliatella in their CC Torrecárdenas, Almería City location just prior to skipping over to Northern Europe. It gets 4.5 stars from Trip Advisor reviewers. The food was excellent and service was good too. Our Spanish is pretty sad so the young woman serving us brought English menus to the rescue, we didn’t even ask.

The restaurant is tastefully decorated in a contemporary Italian style and unless you look out the interior window, you wouldn’t know you are in a mall. There were very few patrons when we dined (at one point it may have been just us!).

We began with a little amuse-bouche that was a cracker topped with fresh cream cheese (sorry, forgot to take a photo).

I had the Carpaccio al Tartufo Bianco (paper-thin slices of veal, with white truffle ice cream and white truffle pearls)(~16 €), it was excellent. It was accompanied by a very large but very thin, grilled bread/cracker with a drizzle of olive oil. It was a little difficult to eat but it was delicious (later during our sojourn in Northern Europe, I discovered that it should have been saturated in olive oil). The carpaccio was doused generously in olive oil and a little too generously peppered; the truffle flavour was mild but enough to enjoy (sometimes it can be too strong). The white truffle ice cream was sweet, which was a bit of a surprise but there was so little of it, it did not impact the enjoyment of the dish.

JT had the Scaloppine (slices of Pork tenderloin in a creamy sauce with mushrooms, fries and vegetables)(~15 €). It didn’t look like much but it was quite delicious. The fries were a nice portion too (quite the opposite of what we became used to in America!).

JT felt like a little sweet after lunch and I felt like an espresso so we ordered the Caffè Gustoso (Coffee with chocolate truffles and a mini tiramisu)(~6 €) which was perfect for sharing (I forgot to take a photo so I took one from their website). The tiramisu was a take on the classic dessert but the pudding itself was quite tasty. The truffles were exceptional.

If you’re looking for a nice Italian meal in Almeria, check out La Tagliatella. They have two locations.

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

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full-price and my opinion is just that, my opinion.

Miss you Dad. March 23, 1923 – July 16, 1981

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Our little village in Spain has an awesome Indian restaurant at the far end. We ate there once and even though everything was great (food, service), we decided that going forward it’s a better take-out place because it just didn’t have a cool vibe (overly lit); and a bonus is that it’s far better value as take away, if you don’t order way too much rice, like I inadvertently did!

Even though the rice wasn’t expensive, I really hate throwing away good food so I kept it for something in the future. The future arrived in the form of a tapa! I made a spin on the famous Spanish Tortilla de Patatas but used rice, cauliflower purée and cheese instead of potatoes. It made a very tasty tapa which we later used as breakfast.

The measurements are approximate because I used leftovers.

Tortilla de Arroz, Coliflor y Queso

Makes 1 omelette about 20 cm in diameter (serves 4-6 people)

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 250 g cooked rice
  • 125 mL cauliflower purée
  • 125 mL milk
  • 50 g cheese, finely grated
  • 30 mL pesto

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients and whisk until smooth. Set aside for 20-30 minutes at room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  3. Heat a small 20 cm frying pan on the stove on medium heat and brush generously with olive oil.
  4. Pour the contents of the omelette into the hot frying pan and press evenly in the pan.
  5. Cook uncovered for 10-15 minutes.
  6. Place pan into the oven and finish cooking until a toothpick tester come out clean.
  7. Serve warm with a roasted garlic aioli.

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During our time in Spain, we ate a lot of delicious tapas. One such tapa was the Ensalada de Aguacate y Atún, a simple yet spell-binding combination of tuna, avocado, lemon juice and olive oil. Using the very best of all four ingredients allows each one to shine individually and together they melt into the most magical concerto. We just couldn’t get enough of it. It was, however, not easy to find in our little town so I decided to make it part of our weekly meal plan. I made this one for our Valentine’s Day lunch.

Ensalada de Aguacate y Atún

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 150 g canned tuna in oil
  • 200 g ripe avocado, cubed
  • Juice of one lemon
  • A good drizzle of olive oil
  • Arugula

Directions:

  1. Drain the tuna and combine it with the cubed avocado and lemon juice.
  2. Spoon evenly onto a bed of arugula. Drizzle generously with olive oil.

Notes:

  • For presentation purposes, I layered the ingredients over the arugula. In reality, it is served well combined.
  • The arugula was my addition, the true dish is served on its own.

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Happy Birthday, Mom. She would have been 84 today. She’s been gone 15 years and I still miss her.

It’s easy to come up with easy, healthy recipes when this is the view from your flat.

This is the view from our flat.

Although the kitchen is at the back, with no view, I strategically place my computer so that it faces the view. I pop out to the computer every few minutes to jot down the recipe as I come up with it. This view makes me edit a lot. It’ll get posted or nixed based on the JT review. This one was pretty good. Many vegan ‘cheese’ dip recipes use nutritional yeast to make it taste cheesy, so I thought this would taste cheesier, but it didn’t so the name was modified from Tangy Butternut Squash “cheese” dip to Tangy Butternut Squash dip.

The dip can be enjoyed with inferior views.

Tangy Butternut Squash “Cheese” Dip

Makes 500 mL dip

Ingredients:

  • 885 g Butternut Squash (about 1/2 a large squash)
  • 50 g roasted red pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 26 g roasted garlic
  • 5 g cumin, toasted
  • 1 g smoked paprika
  • 59 mL Vegetable Stock
  • 15 g nutritional yeast
  • 15 mL white vinegar
  • Chopped Cilantro

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Brush the cut side of the butternut squash with olive oil. Place on a baking sheet, cut side up and bake until soft, roughly 45 minutes. Scoop out the soft flesh into the heat-proof container of the immersion blender.
  3. Toast the cumin until you can smell it. Add it to the immersion blender container with the cooked squash. Add the toasted cumin, vegetable stock, nutritional yeast and lemon juice and blend until very smooth.
  4. Press through a fine sieve to achieve a super velvety texture. Stir in the chopped cilantro. Serve warm with toasted tortilla chips.

 

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I have wanted a Tamagoyaki pan for the longest time. There are several cheap and cheerful ones on the market but they are all non-stick and to be honest, I just don’t care for the non-stick coating. This past Christmas, JT got me a cast iron Tamagoyaki pan and I love it! Tamagoyaki is described as a sweet yet savoury rolled omelette and it is ever-so moreish! I’ve made quite a few since the day I received this lovely gift and they have all been well received. I used Nami’s recipe over at Just One Cookbook and it’s a keeper. I generally make them for hors d’œuvres but you can easily make a lunch out of them. For Hors D’œuvres, estimate 2-3 pieces per person or about one half of a roll.

Tamagoyaki (Japanese rolled omelette)

Makes one rolled omelette about 5 cm in diameter and 20 cm long (or the width of your pan).

Ingredients:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 30 mL neutral flavor oil (vegetable, canola, etc)
  • 45 mL dashi
  • 5 mL soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar (optional)
  • 5 mL mirin
  • slice of cheese

Directions:

  1. Combine the eggs, dashi, sugar (if using) soy sauce and mirin and whisk well.
  2. Bring the Tamagoyaki pan to medium heat. Brush the entire surface with oil. Pour about 30 mLs of the egg mixture into the pan and tilt to spread the egg mixture evenly. Lay a single slice of cheese onto the omelette allow it to melt.
  3. Using a heat resistant spatula, begin rolling the thin layer of egg starting from the sloped end of the Tamagoyaki pan and move it back to the sloped end. Brush the entire Tamagoyaki surface with oil again and repeat pouring and rolling until all of the egg mixture has been used.
  4. Roll the Tamagoyaki in a parchment-line bamboo or plastic sushi mat and hold with elastics for about 5 minutes. Slice into six even slices. Serve warm.

Notes:

  • Nami has a great video to show how to accomplish this task; it’s not difficult at all and it doesn’t take long to become quite expert at achieving the perfect Tamagoyaki!
  • Nami adds about 2 teaspoons of sugar to her recipe but I reduced it to one, then one time, I totally forgot and didn’t miss it. The mirin is sweet enough.
  • To get the cool texture, roll the Tamagoyaki in a bamboo or plastic sushi mat and allow to sit for 5 minutes. I line my bamboo sushi mat with parchment to protect it.
  • Serve with finely shredded daikon radish seasoned with a little rice vinegar.

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Canadian Thanksgiving was at my SIL’s place in Peterborough. She asked that we bring hors d’œuvres so I made three dips. This one was blog-worthy.

Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Makes about 250 mL dip

Ingredients:

  • 160 g roasted red peppers, skin and seeds removed
  • 15 g roasted garlic purée
  • 1 g salt
  • 10 mL red wine vinegar
  • 20 g almond flour

Directions:

  1. Combine everything in your food processor and process until smooth.
  1. Serve at room temperature with crackers or bread.

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

These are tasty, bite-sized morsels.

Stuffed Clams

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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

These worked very well with our favourite Italian Pinot Grigio.

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

Vietnamese Grilled Pork Patties

Makes about 20 small slider-sized patties

Ingredients for the sauce:

  • 10 mL chili paste
  • 10 mL roasted garlic purée
  • 10 g sugar
  • 15 mL fish sauce (see notes)
  • 45 mL freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 175 mL hot water

Ingredients for the pork patties:

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

Ingredients for the salad for 2-4 people:

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

Directions:

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

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

Notes:

  • The sauce needs to mellow because it is very limey at the beginning. The meat juices help the sauce mellow out.
  • We have reduced the sugar in this recipe by eliminating it from the patties, we found it balanced enough.
  • Check the saltiness of your fish sauce, you may need to reduce the quantity so the patties aren’t too salty.

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We entertain a lot. I usually like to have a variety of small bites in the freezer to draw upon so I don’t have to think about one course. These shrimp cakes freeze beautifully and reheat very well, the perfect hors d’œuvres for a dinner party.

Vietnamese Seafood Cakes

For the original recipe, please click here.

Makes about 40 bite-size cakes

Ingredients:

  • 140 g “00” flour
  • 5 g baking powder
  • 5 g sea salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 100-125 mL water
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger
  • 10 g fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 20 g green onions, finely sliced
  • 20 g sesame seeds, toasted
  • 350 g Raw Shrimp, scallops and clams chopped roughly in larger chunks
  • Grape seed oil for frying

Directions:

  1. Combine flour, baking powder and sea salt and mix well.
  2. Whisk eggs with water and ginger.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix into a paste (about the consistency of pancake batter).
  4. Add the remaining ingredients (cilantro, green onions, sesame seeds and chopped seafood and mix well.
  5. Heat about 1 cm grapeseed oil in a pan. Using a 4 cm cookie scoop, scoop spoonfuls into the hot oil and press down to flatten a bit. Fry each side until golden.
  6. Serve warm with a spicy mayo dipping sauce (125 mL (1/2 cup) mayo with 15 mL (1 tbsp) sriracha sauce) and a splash of honey.

 

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A similar, unbelievably moreish dish was the first course that Dave (Fine Dining at Home) served us at his beautiful home in Manchester. It was creamy, full of flavour, and so delicious that my mouth is watering as I think of his dish. You can see his version here.

I really didn’t have a high-brow enough opportunity to serve this dish before our reno started, so I made a version that I used as a dip for a more casual starter. This was the basis of my recipe. Dave generously gifted me with several truffle-y food items and one was a beautiful bottle of truffled olive oil. I used his olive oil for the dip. If you are not a fan of truffle flavour, simply use a good quality olive oil instead.

Deliciously light and dreamy.

Truffled Parmesan Mousse

Makes about 125 mL mousse

Ingredients:

  • 20 g unsalted butter
  • 25 g sweet onion, finely minced
  • 30 mL cognac
  • 125 mL whipping cream
  • 125  g parmesan rinds
  • pinch of rosemary
  • 15 mL white truffle olive oil
  • sea salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and sweat the onion until translucent. Add the cognac and cook until it has almost evaporated.
  2. To the onion, add the whipping cream, parmesan rinds and rosemary and bring to a slow simmer. Simmer for about 30 minutes stirring often.
  3. Taste and season with salt.
  4. Strain to remove the rinds, onions and rosemary. Allow the liquid to cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for 30 minutes or overnight.
  5. Add the white truffle olive oil and mix well. Whip with a hand mixer until it is somewhere between soft and stiff peaks. Refrigerate until needed.

 

Notes:

  • This is a very rich dish, so if you serve this as individual appetizers, I would choose smaller glass vessels. Garnish as Dave did with a demiglace and steamed asparagus spears with a parmesan tuile.

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We are heading into another renovation. Why, you might ask? Well, it’s been 12 years since the last one and things need to get done. Obviously, we’ve chosen another contractor, with whom we shall have a better relationship, hopefully. It really doesn’t take much: honesty and communication. That’s all we ask. Don’t leave us hanging and for damn sure, don’t lie to us. We have been hung out and lied to and to be honest, it’s difficult to get over. But I’m going in with a positive attitude.

We are adding a master ensuite and walk in closet to our bedroom, and we are updating the main bathroom. We will move into the basement guest suite to remain in the house while the work is getting done. The dreaded demolition starts April 9.

I tell you this because we have been entertaining like mad, knowing that the next few months will be chaos and dust. So I’ve been cooking like crazy and gearing up blog posts so I don’t skip a beat. My best friend and her picky-eater- hubby came by for brunch so I made these tasty crackers. Needless to say, hubby passed on them.

Gluten-free, Low Carb, Herbed, Olive Oil Crackers

Makes about 33 crackers

Ingredients:

  • 100 g almond flour
  • 20 g coconut flour
  • 20 g psyllium husk
  • 5 g salt
  • 30 mL Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 egg
  • A good pinch of thyme leaves
  • A good pinch of rosemary
  • A good pinch of dehydrated onion and garlic, ground into a powder

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F (175° C).
  2. Using the metal blades in your food processor, add all the ingredients and pulse until entirely combined and resemble small peas.
  3. Pour onto a large sheet of parchment paper and push toward the centre. Lay another piece of parchment on top. Roll out between two pieces of parchment to about 0.5 mm (1/16″) thick.
  4. Cut into shapes using a pizza wheel and a kitchen ruler. (I cut small triangles that were about the size of chips).
  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until they begin to get a golden tone. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack. They will firm up as they cool.
  6. Store in an airtight container.
  7. Serve with your favourite dip or cheese.

Notes:

  • This is a modification of this earlier recipe.
  • The crackers have good body and are sturdy enough to hold dip or cheese.
  • I used dried herbs because it’s still winter here and my herb garden is still hibernating!
  • We were just in Spain and of course, I purchased some wonderful olive oil. This is the one I used for this recipe.

 

  • Feel free to flavour with your favourite herbs or spices.

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As you can imagine, I had hoped that winter would be on its way out by our return from Europe last week. Sadly, it wasn’t so. Temperatures, although slightly warmer were still not showing signs of spring. And Facebook was of no help, throwing into my face, a year that the crocus’ were out and the lily of the valley was growing in thickly. No, spring has not sprung — that damn groundhog lied, again.

During these colder days, I like to eat soup so I’ve been creating new flavours since our return. I cobbled together a version of this recipe just before we left and JT liked it so much he asked for it upon our return so I got out my measuring tools and recreated this tasty dish for posterity. To me, lentils have always been paired with warm South Asian spices, more like curries, which we adore but I wanted something different. This soup comes together quickly and is thick and luscious enough to make a meal on its own. It has some nice comforting flavours of roasted garlic and cumin with a beautiful fresh hint of kaffir lime leaves and coconut. I didn’t have time to source fresh Kaffir lime leaves so I used the dry stuff, if you use fresh, you may wish to cut it back a bit, they are meant to be a background note. The lentils purée up creamy and smooth and make a gorgeous luxurious soup. I will serve this at an upcoming dinner party, I know it will be a hit.

Some crispy rice crackers would have made a nice side for this dish.

Thai Inspired Lentil Coconut Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 1.25 L soup

Ingredients:

  • 15 mL coconut oil
  • 130 g sweet onion, chopped
  • 15 mL puréed, roasted garlic
  • 5 mL cumin
  • 8 kaffir lime leaves (mine were dried)
  • 300 g red lentils, rinsed and picked through
  • 1 L chicken stock, or vegetable stock
  • 250 mL coconut milk
  • salt, to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat the coconut oil in a Medium Dutch oven. Sauté the onions until translucent. Add the roasted garlic and stir until fragrant.
  2. Add the lentils and stir to coat. Dust with the cumin and cook until fragrant.
  3. Add the kaffir lime leaves and the chicken stock and cook until lentils are soft. Remove the kaffir lime leaves.
  4. You can run an immersion blender through the soup, leaving a few chunks for texture or entirely creamy or you may leave it soupy.
  5. Garnish with toasted coconut.

Notes:

  • I usually remove 250-500 mL of the chunky soup and purée the remainder until smooth and creamy and then I add back the chunky bits for texture.
  • Lentils generally thicken as they sit so you may wish to add a bit more stock or coconut milk depending on your preference for the thickness and how long it sits before serving.
  • America’s Test Kitchen recently mentioned that a sprinkle of baking soda on onions as you sauté them will reduce their acidity and make them caramelize quicker. I have been using this technique since I saw it.
  • When I prepped for Anjum Anand, she had me toast the cumin quite a bit, but for me, toasting until fragrant is enough.

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You may recall that I made a version of this recipe in November 2012 but had an unfortunate accident when the entire omelette slid out of the pan and onto the floor! No “three-second rule”, that baby was toast!

Preparing for a recent trip to Spain, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to repost the recipe in its full glory. These creamy little potatoes are the perfect ingredient for this simple but tasty dish. And it’s perfect if you have leftover potatoes. But don’t stop there, even though the potatoes and onion are the traditional tapa, the flavour combos are endless. In fact, I cheated and added a little crispy pancetta for additional flavour.

Spanish Potato Omelette

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes one loaf pan, about 10 cm x 21 cm (4″ x 8.25″), 16 slices

Ingredients:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 200 g potatoes
  • 60 g onion, finely sliced
  • 30 mL roasted garlic
  • 30 g pancetta, finely diced

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously grease a loaf pan, set aside.
  2. Boil the potatoes until soft. Strain and layout on a cool baking sheet and smash with a fork. Allow to cool completely.
  3. In a small frying pan, over medium heat, sauté the pancetta until crispy, remove and set aside.
  4. Whisk the eggs together, add the roasted garlic and whisk well. Mix in the smashed potatoes, pancetta and raw onions.
  5. Pour into the prepared loaf pan, making sure the inclusions are evenly distributed.
  6. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until egg is completely set. Cool slightly, run a sharp knife around the perimeter and turn out of the pan. Flip over and slice into even, bite-sized rectangles.
  7. You may serve immediately or cool completely, refrigerate and gently reheat the prior to serving.

Notes:

  • I did not bother to peel the potatoes, I just smashed the little buggers skin and all after boiling.
  • The original Spanish recipe called for the onions to be sweated out beforehand, you can do this, but I found no alteration in the flavour of the omelette so why waste the extra time?
  • You may also serve these with a dollop of sriracha mayo.

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Updated March 30, 2019: added Oretta’s Burrata Truffle Egg photo

Over the last few years, I have worked (prepping and cooking) many times with David Rocco, author, chef, and producer. About a year ago, I decided to follow him on Instagram and I have not regretted it. He doesn’t post too often and he posts about his family as well as the standard self-promotion that celebrities post about. I love the posts about his family. He has three kids and an absolutely gorgeous wife. The first time I heard of Oretta, an authentic Italian restaurant in the Entertainment district on King West in Toronto, was on David’s Instagram (apparently, he goes quite often)! The food looked beautiful and delicious so I immediately put it on my restaurant bucket list. If you’re looking for American-Italian-family-style gluttony, this is not your place, but if you’re looking for authentic Italian cooking in a tastefully decorated Italian-style space, this place might be for you! This is the type of restaurant that all the beautiful people frequent, particularly during TIFF.

The first time I stepped into Oretta was last summer, for dinner, it was like stepping into a high-end restaurant in Florence, Italy, it literally took me back to 1989, when we last visited that special place. High, vaulted ceilings, geometric wall art, interesting tiles and spectacular food. We have eaten several times since, and I have wanted to post a review but have always forgotten to take photos (story of my life). The food is authentic Italian and it’s delicious! They even have Neapolitan pizza (in a wood-fired oven, no less).

Everything is wonderful at Oretta, but each and every time we have been there with reservations, we have ALWAYS been seated beside a table of infants. Literally, babies. And each time I have to ask to be moved, which they do quite happily (but why on earth do I need to ask?). I must have a sign on my forehead that says, “seat me beside the noisiest, fussiest table, please!” It won’t stop me from going but I know that I will need to ask to be moved. Every. Single. Time.

Their menu has the usual suspects (arancini, burrata, polipo, polpette, foccacia, pizza, pasta to name a few) but it’s their brunch menu that is truly special. Sadly, it was one of those times that I forgot to photograph it but I can certainly speak to it. I had ordered the Uova Burrata E Tartufo (truffled eggs with burrata). It was to-die-for! The truffle added the perfect earthiness and the burrata, portioned in every bite, gave the dish the richness that made the brunch extra special. It was so good that I actually dream about it, it was the type of dish you wish would not end. My only regret was that I gave JT a bite to taste and he wasn’t thrilled but he doesn’t like truffle so it was wasted on him!!

The last time we were there was at the end of January. I was obsessing about the egg dish and so looking forward to having it again, but sadly Winterlicious had just begun and they didn’t have their brunch menu. No worries, though, all the food is great.

I ordered the Polipo ($20.00), charred octopus, chickpea puree, red pepper jam, olives, pancetta, crostini. The octopus was perfectly cooked and not overly ‘charred’. The creamy chickpea puree and subtly sweet red pepper jam was the perfect canvas to showcase the polipo. The briny umami of the olives balanced everything perfectly.

JT ordered Manzo ($22.00) 6oz seared flat iron, caponata, tomato emulsion which was also quite tasty. Although the steak was perfectly cooked, it was a tiny bit chewy which made me think it might not have been brought up to room temperature before cooking. The dish was meaty and the soft sweet vegetables made for a lovely contrast. Both meals were worth ordering again, so we will definitely be back. But those eggs…

We were recently in Cancun, Mexico for a destination wedding (don’t get me started) for my Goddaughter/niece. They literally picked the most expensive place in Cancun (don’t get me started). We haven’t been to an all-inclusive for 25 years and this 2-day experience reminded me why, it’s just not our thing!  What was most disappointing is that not one room had an ocean view, not one. I cannot imagine why you would go to the Carribean and not want to see the Ocean from your room. Anyway, now I can put my focus on our next trip, Spain.

Here are a few pics. Click on any one for a gallery view.

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My facebook feed knows l like to cook/bake. Almost every video that comes up is a recipe video. A few weeks ago, I had woken up in the middle of the night and was having trouble falling back to sleep so I pulled out my phone to see what was happening in cyberspace. A really cool low carb cauliflower recipe video showed up. I thought I had saved it but I didn’t and after scouring the internet for the recipe, I gave up and created my own. We had quite a bit of cheese left over from our New Year’s Day lunch so this recipe was perfect timing.

This was a great success. The bites are soft, flavourful and have great texture from the crispy melted cheese. And the bacon. Who doesn’t love bacon?

Ladies will need two bites, JT needed one!

Low Carb Cheesy Cheddar, Bacon Cauliflower Bites

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 35 bites.

Ingredients:

  • 250 g cauliflower, riced
  • 120 g of sharp cheddar, grated and divided
  • 20 g shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 40 g coconut flour
  • 2 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled
  • 3 g, each salt and pepper
  • 3 large eggs, beaten

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Prepare a mini-muffin cup pan with non-stick spray.
  2. Cook the cauliflower in the microwave for 4-6 minutes and remove as much water as possible by squeezing it in a cheesecloth. Set aside to cool.
  3. Combine the cooled cauliflower, 80 g cheddar, shallots, garlic, coconut flour, bacon and eggs and mix well. Spoon 15 mL (1 tbsp) each into the prepared pans. Top with remaining cheddar.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until set and cheddar on top has melted. Gently loosen sides and remove from the pan. Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or room temperature.

Notes:

  • This would be a great recipe to use with flavoured cheddar. The recipe above was made with Peppercorn Cheddar and topped with orange old sharp cheddar.
  • This freezes very well. To reheat, just pop some on a baking sheet and heat at 300° F until defrosted and warm on the inside, about xx minutes.

Nutritional Breakdown:

Per 1 piece

  • Calories: 34
  • Net Carbs: 1 g
  • Protein: 2 g
  • Fat: 3 g

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We had a little break from the Christmas rush on boxing day and we made our pilgrimage to Niagara-on-the-Lake. We love to stay at Harbour House because the rooms are nice, the people are wonderful and they have a few perks that we like to take advantage of: a lovely breakfast spread in the morning room, wine and cheese in the lobby between 4-5 every night, free shuttle service to any restaurant within NOTL! During our last night, we dined at The Cannery and I noticed they had a twice-baked soufflé on the menu so I immediately amended our NYE menu to include a twice-baked soufflé.

We had some friends over for New Year’s Eve and I decided to make a tapas evening. We had six courses but were too full so we only had five of them. I spread the evening out as much as possible so we ate from 7:30-10:30. The courses were:

  • Zucchini Fritters with Sriracha Aioli
  • Twice Baked Mushroom Soufflé
  • Coconut Shrimp with Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce
  • Crab Gyoza with Ginger Soy Dipping Sauce
  • Mussels in a White Wine Broth and Baguette
  • Cheese Course (this is the one we saved for the following day).

It was a nice way to spend the evening, just noshing and chatting away. We hadn’t seen these friends since mid-November so we had a lot to catch up on. But there wasn’t a lot of talking during this course. Just eating!

Twice Baked Mushroom Soufflé

Original recipe by Lorraine Elliot of Not Quite Nigella.

Makes about 500 mL (~15 oz)

Ingredients:

  • 15 g butter, plus additional for buttering ramekins
  • 15 g plain all purpose flour
  • 80 g shiitake mushrooms, sliced medium thickly
  • 40 g chestnuts, roasted and roughly chopped
  • 10 mL roasted garlic purée
  • 125 mL milk, heated
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 40 g goats cheese, crumbled

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C).
  2. Butter the ramekins well, all the way up the sides. Boil some water.
  3. Dry roast the mushroom slices in a non-stick pan so that they colour a little on both sides and much of their moisture has evaporated. Set aside.
  4. Melt the remaining butter in the pan and add the flour all at once. Cook the flour for a minute without burning it. Add the milk and whisk until smooth, it will be very thick.
  5. Chop the slightly cooled mushrooms and add them with the roasted, chopped chestnuts and roasted garlic purée to the roux and whisk well.
  6. Add the egg yolk and stir well to combine. Set aside to cool.
  7. Meanwhile, beat the egg white until stiff but not dry. Take about 1/4 of the beaten egg whites and stir it into the roux mixture to loosen. Fold in the remaining egg whites until well incorporated but not deflated.
  8. Divide the mixture into the prepared ramekins and bake in a bain-marie (this is why you were boiling the water) for 35-40 minutes or until tops are lightly golden (remember, they will be baked again).
  9. Allow to cool in the ramekins for about 5 minutes (they will deflate a bit), then gently loosen sides with a sharp knife and turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool until room temperature.
  10. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator until needed. If you are not going to use it for a few days, wrap each soufflé individually in plastic wrap and then bag in a large ziplock freezer bag. Freeze until required.
  11. To defrost, remove from the freezer the night before it is required and defrost in the refrigerator. The microwave is not suitable for this step.
  12. Lay the soufflés into individual ovenproof dishes and prepare the béchamel finishing sauce.

Ingredients for Béchamel Finishing Sauce:

  • 5 g unsalted butter
  • 15 g all-purpose flour
  • 250 mL milk
  • Pinch of thyme leaves
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • season to taste.

Directions for Béchamel Finishing Sauce:

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

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Happy New Year! These shrimp cakes are chuck-full of shrimp, in fact, they are more shrimp than cake! And they are packed with the fresh flavours of ginger, cilantro and green onions which work incredibly well with the sweet succulent shrimp! I had intended on freezing them, but they disappeared too quickly so unfortunately I have no idea how they would perform after being frozen. They really don’t take long to put together and they pan fry so quickly, you could make them up in the morning and hold them in the refrigerator until needed, then reheat them at 250F for about 30 minutes. These luscious babies are definitely going on my New Years Eve tapas menu.

Gluten-Free Vietnamese Shrimp Cakes

For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 100-125 mL water
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 30 g coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 10 g fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 30 g green onions, finely sliced
  • 100 g celeriac, finely grated
  • 454 g Raw Shrimp, chopped roughly
  • Grape seed oil for frying

Directions:

  1. Whisk eggs with water and ginger.
  2. In another bowl, combine baking powder, coconut flour and sea salt and mix well. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix into a paste.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients (cilantro, green onions, celeriac and chopped shrimp and mix well.
  4. Heat grape seed oil in pan (about 1 cm deep). Using a 4 cm cookie scoop, scoop spoonfuls into the hot oil and press down to flatten a bit. Fry each side until golden.
  5. Serve warm with a spicy mayo dipping sauce (125 mL (1/2 cup) mayo with 15 mL (1 tbsp) sriracha sauce).

Notes:

  • You may use a blended gluten-free flour mix instead of just plain coconut flour, but I found the coconut flour flavour works really well here.
  • Don’t like frying? Try baking them in a 350F

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We are knee deep in cocktail party season and I’m going to post a recipe that will keep you on budget! Do you love Boursin? Are you appalled at the price? In Toronto, a little 150 g (a touch more than 1/2 cup) pot could cost $6.00+++!!! So I improvised and created this herb-infused cream cheese spread, it’s equally as good and costs a lot less! Make this a couple of days in advance so the flavours have time to meld, you won’t be sorry.

Herbed Cream Cheese Spread

Makes about 250 mL or 1 cup.

Ingredients:

  • 30 mL olive oil
  • dry or fresh herbs, to taste
  • garlic, minced finely
  • 70 g butter, softened
  • 100 g cream cheese, softened
  • 100 g ricotta
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • Chives or green onions, finely chopped

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil over low heat with the fresh herbs and garlic, simmer for 10 minutes to infuse. Allow the infused oil to cool completely.
  2. Pour infused oil through a fine sieve and reserve, discard herbs and garlic.
  3. In a small processor, pulse the cheeses and butter together until light and fluffy. Slowly pour in the cooled olive oil and continue to pulse until it has been entirely incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Serve at room temperature and watch it disappear.

Notes:

  • The first time, I used a combo of fresh lemon thyme, rosemary, tarragon and Greek oregano. This time, I used finely grated Herbes de Provence.
  • I had homemade ricotta, but if you do not, just double the cream cheese, it’s still delicious!
  • Use whipped cream cheese for a similar texture to the actual Boursin.
  • I like to serve this spread in a small glass pot but any container will do. To serve similar to the actual Boursin, line a ramekin with plastic wrap and pack the spread into the plastic wrap and freeze. To serve, Remove from the freezer and invert on a platter and remove plastic wrap. Allow the dome to come to room temperature.
  • Serve with bread, crackers or crudité.

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Way back in later September, JT and I rented our neighbours’ cottage in Muskoka. Its vista reminds me of our beloved cabin that we no longer visit. But that’s a whole other story for some other time. Right now, I’d like to focus on the cottage we rented, and its beautiful views. Click on the images below to view the gallery.

We invited some dear vegetarian friends up for a couple of days and one of the days we had a grazing dinner of tapas and cheeses. One dish that was very successful was the mushroom and chestnut paté with cognac. You would be hardpressed to guess this does not have any meat. The texture is creamy and smooth with great depth of flavour.

Mushroom and Chestnut Paté with Cognac

Makes 125 mL Paté

Ingredients:

    • 100 g roasted chestnuts, roughly chopped (I used this one)
    • Handful of raw cremini mushrooms
    • 1 shallot, roughly chopped
    • 2-3 cloves roasted garlic
    • 80 g butter, room temperature
    • 15 mL EVOO
    • 30 mL cognac
    • pinch of nutmeg
    • pinch of allspice
    • pinch of salt and black pepper
    • ~20 g butter, to top off paté

Directions:

  1. Melt 20 g butter with the olive oil in a pan. Sauté the shallots until caramelized, add the mushrooms and cook until softened. Add the chestnuts and sauté lightly until softened. Deglaze the pan with the cognac.
  2. Set aside to cool.
  3. When cool, add the cooked ingredients to a food processor or jar of the immersion blender. Add remaining softened butter (not the melted butter at the end of the list), roasted garlic and spices and pulse until very smooth.
  4. Add the paté to a plastic-lined pan and press into the corners or into a shallow mason jar, as pictured, and smooth the top over. Pour melted butter over the top and allow to harden.
  5. Allow this paté to come to room temperature before serving.

Notes:

  • You may substitute the butter with vegan butter should you desire, however I am unsure of the impact it would have on the overall flavour.
  • You may use any type of mushroom, I love cremini’s earthy sweetness.

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We are knee-deep in entertaining season so I thought I’d share some easy recipes for entertaining. Homemade dips are simple to make and are a million-times better than store-bought dips. I’ve suggested grilling the eggplant for a smoky flavour in my recipe but if your grill is tucked away for the long winter, you can broil them for a similar effect.

Speaking of entertaining, do you own a wood-burning fireplace or know someone who does? Do you struggle to bring wood in from your wood pile when you have friends over? The sawdust and bits of wood alway stick to your clothes and the number of trips in and out is tiring! I have a solution! I’ve created a handy log carrier, hand made by yours truly in Canada! This is the perfect gift for the wood burning fireplace owner! Made of heavy duty denim, with a copper handles, these carriers can hold 12-14 kg (25-30 lbs) of wood, the perfect amount for a roaring fire without breaking your back! They are $60 (Canadian) each or two for $100 (Canadian). Shipping within Canada and to the US is available but you’ll need to contact me before November 23 to make sure you get it by Christmas. Now let’s get busy and make some baba!

Baba Ganoush

For the original recipe, please click here.

Makes about 400 mL dip

Ingredients:

  • 8 small Thai aubergines, halved and seeded
  • olive oil
  • 2 cloves of roasted garlic
  • 15 mL tahini
  • 6 g cumin
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of half a lemon
  • sea salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Grill aubergines on very hot BBQ, until skin is charred and the flesh is soft (we did ours mostly on the skin side on the BGE).
  1. Roast the garlic in a parchment pouch wrapped in foil. Cool.
  2. Peel the charred skin and away from the aubergine and discard, peel roasted garlic and discard skins.
  3. In the bowl of your food processor, add all of the ingredients and purée until smooth, season to taste.

Notes:

  • I like to toast my cumin for big flavour.
  • Use raw garlic if you wish, we have developed a bit of an aversion to raw garlic so I roast it whenever possible.
  • Use as much olive oil to give you a smooth dip.
  • I would not substitute peanut butter for the tahini in this case.
  • If you like a tarter dip, add more lemon juice.
  • Seeds of the eggplant tend to be bitter, so I’d remove them.

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