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In late March/early April, we spent two glorious weeks in Arizona. We stayed with friends for this duration because we had offered to puppy-sit (Jordan) while they took a quick 7 day holiday in Ireland. We had never puppy sat before but their beautiful black lab, Jordan is quite possibly one of the laziest dogs we have ever met so she was really no problem at all. We did get her used to three walks per day, that is, until we bumped into a woman carrying a black light, walking her dog after dark. I had to ask and yes, it was to detect scorpions. That was the end of our after dark walks. Period.

I like to arrive with gifts in hand and these basil Parmesan Straws were the perfect hostess gift because I had a bunch of basil that needed using a couple of days before our departure. Plus they are pretty tasty. Jordan thought so too.

Sun-dried Tomato, Basil and Parmesan Straws

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 75 pieces

To print this recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 290 g flour
  • 10 g Fresh Basil, finely chopped
  • 50 g sun-dried tomatoes in oil, roughly chopped
  • 10 g garlic, finely minced
  • 110 g unsalted butter (cold)
  • 30 g  grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten separately
  • 15-30 mL water or milk
  • Sea salt

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°F.
  2. Put all dry ingredients into a food processor, including the basil, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic, and process to mix well.
  3. Add the butter and process to coarse granules.
  4. While the blades are running, pour in the egg and process until a soft ball forms. If this does not happen, drizzle little bits of water until a soft ball forms.
  5. Remove from processor and using a small amount of flour, roll out the dough to about 1/2 cm thickness. Cut into 8cm x 7 mm straws and position evenly on a cookie sheet. Brush with second egg and sprinkle with sea salt.
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden.
  7. Remove and allow to cool. This will store well in a cool, dark place or freeze.

Notes:

  • I like to use a plastic ruler to cut the straws evenly. My ruler is a dedicated food ruler that never is used with pens or pencils or markers!
  • This type of rolling pin gives you evenly thick dough, but as I have mentioned previously, it is a pain to unscrew the disks and I inadvertently have to wash all of the disks each time I use it.
  • This dough is a bit wetter than some of my other recipes because of the sun-dried tomatoes and fresh garlic.
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I created this recipe in 2012, modeled after an appetizer at an old favourite restaurant which sadly closed down many years prior to 2012. Like many of my old posts, the photos are dark and dreary and deserve an update so here it is. I also threw in a sourdough baguette, the recipe can be found here. I used this starter which, frankly took a long time and was not as sour-doughy as I had hoped but I found the liquid ingredient intriguing so I gave it a go. I will try this starter used in the recipe next time.

It’s still a winter picture, so give me a break!

Sizzling Mushrooms

Serves 2-4 as an hors d’œuvres (about 112 g of cooked mushrooms and onions, without the feta)

Ingredients:

  • 20 g unsalted butter
  • 150 g mushrooms, stems removed and sliced medium thinly
  • 60 g sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 g garlic, finely minced
  • 30-60 g sheep and goats milk feta, crumbled (see notes)
  • 30 mL cognac (optional)
  • 2-4 sprigs of fresh thyme, roughly chopped
  • sea salt to taste

Directions:

  1. In a small frying pan, melt the butter and add the onions, cook until caramelized (about 10-15 minutes).
  2. Add the mushrooms and cook until they are no longer wet (about 5-10 minutes) and have also caramelized. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Season with sea salt if using, but remember the feta is also salty so season sparingly.
  3. Deglaze the pan with the cognac, stirring to loosen any of the bits stuck to the pan. Remove from heat and add the fresh thyme and stir. Sprinkle the crumbled feta over the hot mushrooms and serve immediately with thinly sliced sourdough baguette (fresh out of the oven, no less!)

Notes:

  • I used a 50/50 combo of shitake and cremini mushrooms, but feel free to use whatever mushrooms you desire.
  • We prefer actual Greek Feta made in Greece of Sheep and Goats milk, here in Toronto there are many imposters so try to find this one.
  • We typically don’t use pepper, but if you like it, use white pepper to avoid the harsh dark specs on the feta.
  • This recipe cooks beautifully in a cast iron pan, if you have a small one, use it. My small one was a bit too big for this amount.

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Winter is not giving up easily in these parts. At least the days are sunny even if they are still nippy. It’s the grey days with endless overcast that really pull me into the dumpers, so I bake to make me happy; plus the ambient heat the oven gives off doesn’t hurt. I created this tasty scone recipe when I discovered a couple of rogue oranges in the refrigerator. The flavour combination may sound strange but it works, plus it’s delicious straight from the hot oven with a generous pat of butter.

Cheddar Orange Scones

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 8 large scones

Ingredients:

  • 270 g AP flour
  • 25 g coconut sugar
  • 20 g baking powder
  • 1 g salt
  • 56 g cold, unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
  • 150 g sharp cheddar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 125 mL orange juice (about 1 navel orange)
  • zest of 2 navel oranges
  • Yogurt for brushing tops

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 425° F.
  2. In the large bowl of your food processor, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and pulse a few times to mix well.
  3. Add the butter and pulse until well incorporated but not softened.
  4. Combine the egg, orange juice and zest and mix well.
  5. Pour into the food processor while pulsing and pulse until well mixed. If your kitchen is on the warmer-side, allow the dough to rest in the refrigerator for a bit here or if it’s on the chilly-side, proceed to next step.
  6. Roll out to about 2 cm thick and cut with your favourite cookie cutter. Continue until you’ve used all of the dough. Brush tops with yogurt and bake 15-17 minutes or until lightly golden on top and baked through. Cool slightly on a wire rack and serve warm with butter.

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Everyone has busy days, the type of days that you’re too busy to cook and the easy thing to do would be to order in or throw some unhealthy grocery-store frozen dinner into the microwave and be done with it. We’ve all done it and what happens is interesting: you don’t eat for the love of food, you just eat and because it’s fast and easy. But then, it never hits those emotional triggers so we end up feeling awful and regretting our choice. There is nothing I hate more (other than the obvious crap going on in our world) than regretting calories. Fret not dear friends, I have the perfect solution with this slow cooker lasagna, and you need not make enough for an army because this handy hack will have you getting that slow cooker out more often!

This is the one slow cooker hack you’ve been waiting for: Line your slow cooker with a silicon mat and lay your smaller, heat-resistant dish on top of it. Presto, a custom-sized slow cooker.

The Silpat protects the ceramic slow cooker from the metal of the loaf pan.

I made this awesome Lentilles du Puy lasagna this way. I won’t lie, there is some prep work with this dish, but a little pre-planning on the weekend will make it a breeze on that busy weeknight. The recipe was inspired by my LA friend, Greg of Sippity Sup, he had made an incredible Swiss Chard Lasagne with Bechamel that literally had me licking my lips during the entire read through! He used one of my favourite ingredients: béchamel sauce!

Creamy béchamel with eggplant and roasted red peppers just melt in your mouth.

Slow Cooker Lasagna with Eggplant, Roasted Red Pepper and Lentilles du Puy

Recipe inspired by Greg’s Swiss Chard Lasagna

Makes one 12 cm x 22 cm x 10 cm loaf pan, serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

  • 60 g Lentils du Puys, cooked
  • 100 g onions, chopped
  • 10 g Ice® Mama Mia garlic, finely chopped (see notes)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 400 mL San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
  • 250 mL béchamel sauce with a pinch of nutmeg (see notes)
  • 4 gluten-free, oven-ready lasagna noodles (I used this brand)
  • 1 Chinese eggplant, sliced into 0.5 cm thickness (about 6 slices)
  • 176 g roasted red peppers (about 6 small roasted red peppers)
  • 150 g Mozzarella cheese, grated

Directions:

  1. In a splash of olive oil, sauté the onions until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add the oregano and basil and stir well.  Add the San Marzano tomatoes and cooked lentils, stir well and allow to cool to room temperature. This makes around 500 mL.
  2. Prepare a 12 cm x 22 cm x 10 cm loaf pan with non-stick spray. Spread a couple of spoonfuls of the lentil tomato mixture on the bottom of the prepared pan.
  3. Lay 1 and 1/3 noodles over the lentil-tomato mixture (covering the entire pan area). Top with 1/3 of the lentil-tomato mixture spread evenly over the noodles, then a single layer of 2 roasted red peppers, then lay two slices of the eggplant over the peppers. Top with béchamel and about 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat until everything is layered, making sure you top with the grated cheese.
  4. Lay a silicon mat (like Silpat)  into the slow cooker and place the loaf pan onto it, in the centre (see notes). Cover and turn the slow cooker on high for 3-4 hours or until noodles have cooked through. Relax.
  5. When the noodles have cooked through, pre-heat the broiler in the oven and broil the lasagna on high until cheese is bubbly and caramelized. Serve hot with simply dressed greens.

A nice bubbly, caramelized cheese topping!

Notes:

  • You may have seen me searching for softneck garlic sometime late last year. It was, of course, the wrong time of year for farmer’s market garlic, but that didn’t stop me from trying my best to hunt it down. During this process, a friend on Facebook mentioned Beneli Farms, a Manitoba, 5th generation farming family specializing in garlic for the last 15 years. I reached out to them and they were very quick in getting back to me and eager to help but sadly they were not able to courier me softneck garlic in time, but they did courier a large selection of their specialty garlic! I use garlic a lot but I am still going through my generous stash. For this dish I chose their Mama Mia™ Ice® Garlic for its smooth flavour. It was definitely the right choice as it did not overpower the dish, just provided a smooth, delicate garlic flavour in the tomato sauce. Thank you Garth and Miranda.
  • To make gluten-free béchamel sauce, simply substitute a good gluten-free flour with the all-purpose flour. Don’t forget the pinch of nutmeg.
  • The Silpat mat simply protects the ceramic bowl of the slow cooker from the the metal loaf pan.
  • The Gluten-free noodles I’ve used in this recipe stand up a bit better than regular oven-ready noodles and maintain a good texture in this dish. The liquid proportion I’ve indicated is perfect for cooking the noodles without destroying them, i.e., they still have bite.
  • Leftovers may be frozen for future quick meals, but don’t count on it!

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Is anyone else’s mind-blown that it is 2018? Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were freaking out for Y2K? Now 18 years later, we are still here and I’m approaching my 11th year of blogging! Thank you all for your continued support, I feel so grateful to call all of you friends, all over the world. Heartfelt thank you.

Last summer, we visited our dear friends at their Wisconsin home. While we were there, one of the breakfasts we had were some delicious Sausage Crescent Roll Bombs, made super-easy by using regular store-bought crescent rolls! Their version had sausage, scrambled eggs, and cheese, so good. I have to admit, I haven’t had or made a crescent roll for more years than I wish to count but the breakfast idea stuck with me and I knew I wanted to make it for a special occasion. Fast forward to New Years Eve 2017 and we were having friends over for the night, but they are vegetarian so making the crescent rolls as our other friends’ recipe was out of the question, so I improvised and came up with this delicious alternative! Same store-bought crescent roll pastry, but with a twist: I used goats cheese, smoked salmon, caramelized onions, wilted spinach and scrambled eggs, topped off with a creamy Dijon and Dill béchamel sauce. Yup, it’s definitely a winner. And you can freeze them for future breakfasts or brunch! Easy-peasy!

A delicious combination of flavours that are so good, I’ve had the request to make them again and again!

You see how bright the eggs are, they are that way because of the gorgeous yolks!

Smoked Salmon Roll-ups

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 8

To print recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • few handfuls of baby spinach
  • 1/2 sweet onion, like vidalia
  • 2 L eggs
  • 15 mL Greek Yogurt
  • 1 package crescent rolls ~235 g (I used this one)
  • 150 g goats cheese, room temperature, loosened with a bit of milk
  • 140 g smoked salmon
  • 5 g butter
  • 5 g flour
  • 125 mL milk
  • pinch of dill
  • 15 mL Dijon Mustard
  • splash of white vinegar

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Caramelize the onions in a splash of olive oil. Add the spinach and wilt. Remove from hot pan to cool.
  3. Combine eggs and yogurt and mix well. Add another splash of olive oil to the pan and heat, add the eggs and scramble until softly set. Remove from pan to cool.
  4. Open the crescent roll package according to directions (this was a bit of a challenge for me) and roll out flat. Ignoring the angled pre-cut lines, cut into 8 even strips.
  5. Spread equal amounts of goats cheese on each strip, top with smoked salmon, then the spinach and onion mixture and finally the eggs. Roll-up the strip.
  6. Spray 8-muffin cups with non-stick spray and place one roll into each cup. Repeat until all eight cups are filled. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden and pastry is baked through.
  7. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan, whisk in the flour and slowly pour in the milk whilst whisking to create a smooth sauce. Whisk in the dill and the Dijon and a splash of white vinegar and cook the sauce until thick and creamy.
  8. Serve the baked roll-up on a warm plate drizzled with the Dijon-Dill Béchamel sauce.

The pastry is slightly sweet which balanced the slightly tart bechamel sauce.

You’ll just have to take my word for it that the recipe makes 8! I freeze them in muffin cups and later transfer them to a zip-lock bag.

Notes:

  • We buy these eggs because they have had the most consistently orange (note pale yellow) yolks with great flavour.
  • For New Years’ Day, I served them on a bed of butter-wilted spinach and garnished with finely chopped green onion.
  • This is a versatile recipe, you can easily make your own version like the original or with ham and cheese, philly steak, etc., you get the drift!
  • Freeze extra roll-ups unbaked in a lightly sprayed muffin tin and when frozen, transfer to a zip-lock bag. To bake, no need to defrost, simply return to a lightly sprayed muffin tin and bake at 375° F in a preheated oven for about 30-40 minutes (or until internal temperature is around 180° F).
  • Have a large group for brunch? Make the roll-ups the night before and store in the refrigerator. Bake in a preheated oven as per instructions.

This is the actual dish I served for breakfast on New Years Day. I put the roll-up on a bed of butter-wilted spinach.

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

Apple & Cheese Strudel

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

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

To print recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

Crispy Cheese Tuiles

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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

These will be perfect with our welcome back martinis!

Notes:

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

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