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Posts Tagged ‘cheese’

This post was inadvertantly published on the same day as another, so we apologise if you’ve already seen/been here. Also, this post was written during our first foray out of lockdown.

We have continued to entertain one couple at a time outdoors, keeping well below the allowed maximum of five (outdoors only). Our space allows for four people socially distanced, any more, we’re less than two metres (six feet) apart and we are not comfortable with that.

I try to make meals that are hearty and warm. This is one such dip I made as an hors d’œuveres for friends who came for lunch (the main was JT’s Bœuff Bourguignon). That day in February was 6° C (43° F) outside but our heater warmed our little area to 15° C (59° F) which made it very comfortable with light coats on (in fact, my friend came seriously over dressed and had to peel layers off to be comfortable).

It’s quite romantic eating outside in the winter, and even my naysayer hubby is loving it. In fact, most of the negativeness has come from the men, the women are all over being outside but once the guys experience our little cozy nook, they are sold. Just like this dip, one taste and you’re sold. I make a similar dip using canned crabmeat but I must tell you that this salmon dip is so much more flavourful.

Warm Salmon Dip

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 375 mL dip

Ingredients:

  • 250 g Cream Cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tsp dill (dried is fine)
  • 2 tsp horseradish (the original recipe called for horseradish cream, but I never had horseradish cream on hand)
  • 20 g red onion or shallot, finely minced
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 25 g celery, finely minced
  • 150 g canned salmon, without skin or bones. It’s about 1/2 cup, or one can give or take.

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients and mix well (a light-duty hand mixer is perfect for this).
  2. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. If you are making this for the future, line three 125 mL or half-cup ramekins with plastic wrap.
  4. Divide the mixed dip into the three ramekins pressing into the ramekin so it will retain the shape. Try not to have too many folds so that the plastic comes off easily. Carefully twist the plastic wrap to seal. Place the ramekins in the freezer. Once the dip has frozen to the ramekin shape, remove the frozen dip and label it and return the shaped dip to the freezer until needed. Put your ramekins away.
  5. About 30-40 minutes before serving, pre-heat the oven to 375° F. Remove plastic wrap from the frozen dip and pop the shaped-frozen dip into the original ramekin you used to freeze it. Place on a cookie sheet (it may boil over depending on how full your ramekin was) and bake for 30-40 minutes or until dip is bubbling in the centre.
  6. Remove the baked dip, garnish with a smoked salmon rose and serve with papadams, crostini, crackers or even sliced cucumbers.

A warm, boldly flavoured salmon dip that is perfect for outdoor entertaining.

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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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For special occasion desserts, I like to pop over to my long-time blogging-friend Liz, Skinny Chick Can Bake. Liz has the most beautifully presented desserts that I have seen from a home cook. Most of Liz’s recipes are also unfamiliar to me as I grew up in a European household. A dear friend was turning 70 in September and I wanted to make a special dessert to celebrate the occasion and this beauty did not disappoint. It has a lovely banana flavour but the pineapple isn’t flavour-forward other than providing some added moisture. It reminded me of banana bread but it was much moister than the standard quickbread. And that cream cheese frosting is one that dreams are made of.

Hummingbird Cake

For the original recipe, please click here.

Makes one 20 cm cake, about 16 servings

Ingredients for the cake:

  • 400 g flour
  • 300 g sugar
  • 6 g cinnamon
  • 6 g salt
  • 5 baking soda
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 375 mL vegetable oil
  • 7 vanilla extract
  • 540 g mashed bananas (use ripe bananas)
  • 228 g crushed pineapple, drained (about 1/2 a container)
  • 120 g chopped pecans, toasted for about 5 minutes at 350 degrees

Ingredients for the Frosting:

  • 500 g cream cheese, room temperature
  • 40 g butter, room temperature
  • 10 mL vanilla
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 500 g icing sugar, sifted
  • Pecans, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Begin by preheating the oven to 350° F and prepare three 20 cm round cake pans by lining with parchment paper and spraying with a non-stick spray.
  2. Sift the flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and baking soda together in a large bowl, set aside.
  3. Combine the eggs, vegetable oil, vanilla, mashed bananas and crushed pineapple and fold into the flour to make a smooth batter. Pour evenly into the three prepared baking pans.
  4. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack.
  5. Meanwhile, cream the cream cheese and butter together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and lemon juice and beat well until incorporated. Add the sugar a little at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl frequently until all of the sugar has been incorporated.
  6. When the cakes are thoroughly cool, cut the dome off the top is there was one. Lay the first cake on a serving platting protected by parchment (in short rectangles so that they are easy to remove). Spread a thin layer of the icing over the first layer, place the next cake on top and spread again, add the final layer to the top. Crumb-coat the entire cake in a thin layer and refrigerate for 2 hours to set. When the frosting is firm, finish the cake with the remaining frosting or as desired.
  7. Decorate the cake with more pecans that have been toasted.

Notes:

  • Although the cake has a whopping 300 g of sugar, it is not excessively sweet, it’s the frosting that takes it over the top! I won’t kid you, it is sweet but not as sweet as it was in the original recipe.
  • I reduced the butter to about one-quarter of the original recipe, it still made a super-rich frosting.
  • Neither our friends nor we like super-sweet desserts so I opted to reduce the sugar from 6 cups to 4 cups in the frosting and added the juice of half a lemon to help cut it even more. The resulting frosting was still sweet but it didn’t make your teeth tingle. If you prefer an even less sweet frosting, I suggest you reduce the cream cheese by one quarter so that you require less the icing sugar thicken it up. As it was, 4 cups of icing sugar to 500 g cream cheese and 40 grams of butter made a light fluffy frosting but it needed refrigeration to keep stiff. It was a hot and humid day when I served this cake and my version of frosting didn’t melt but it wasn’t as stiff as frosting usually is.
  • I baked the three layers in a 20 cm (8-inch) round pans because I did not have 9-inch pans as Liz’s recipe calls for (hence the slightly longer baking time as they turned out somewhat thicker.
  • The original cake had coconut but I omitted it because our friends do not like coconut.

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My friend David of Fine Dining at Home (blog on hiatus) put me onto this recipe on his instagram; it looked absolutely delicious, so, then and there, I decided I wanted to make it. I renamed the recipe mille-feuille lasagna because the number of layers reminded me of one of my favourite pastries. I won’t lie, this is a labour-intensive recipe, but then again, what lasagna recipe isn’t? I will say that it is well worth the effort. The homemade pasta is so delicious, light and somewhat crispy. The spinach and basil layers against the creamy béchamel and the stringy mozzarella are divine! Don’t skip the resting and searing step, it really makes the recipe.

Mille-Feuille Lasagna

For the original recipe, please click here.

Makes one 21.6 cm x 11.4 cm (4″ x 7″) loaf pan, about 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 300 g Spinach, blanched
  • ~50 g basil, blanched
  • 125 mL passata
  • 15 mL tomato paste
  • 15 mL roasted garlic, puréed (fresh is fine too)
  • 300 g mozzarella, ground

Directions:

  1. Combine the spinach and basil and wring out the water well. Set aside.
  2. Combine the passata, tomato paste and garlic and mix well. Set aside.

Ingredients for the Béchamel:

  • 30 g butter
  • 40 g flour
  • 500 mL milk, warmed

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter in a medium, heavy-bottom pan. Whisk in the flour and mix well. Cook on medium-heat for 2 minutes.
  2. Slowly add the warm milk and whisk. Whisk the sauce until smooth and creamy. Cool completely.

Ingredients for the Pasta:

  • 1 large egg
  • 125 g Flour (“00”)
  • Salt

Directions:

  1. Add the egg to the small bowl of a food processor and whisk. Add the flour and salt and pulse until it forms into a soft dough.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, knead gently a few times until it comes together into a smooth ball. Cover in plastic wrap and allow to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  3. Using a pasta maker, create 12 sheets that are #8 thickness on the kitchenaid pasta maker. Cook the sheets in salted boiling water for 1 minute or less. Cool in an ice bath, remove and dry off.

Ingredients for the Spinach Pesto Sauce:

  • 150 g spinach and arugula
  • 30 g ricotta or cream cheese
  • 30 g pesto
  • 200 mL milk or cream
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Blanch the spinach and arugula, immerse in ice water to stop the cooking. Wring out as much water as possible.
  2. Place spinach, arugula, cheese, pesto and milk into a bullet and purée until smooth. Season to taste.
  3. Press through a fine sieve into a heatproof container, set aside.

Final Assembly:

1. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper, it will make it easier to pull out.

2. Add one pasta sheet to the base, follow with

    • A thin layer of spinach,
    • Another pasta sheet
    • A layer of passata
    • Another pasta sheet
    • A layer of béchamel
    • Another pasta sheet
    • A layer of cheese
    • Another pasta sheet

3. Repeat until all the ingredients have been exhausted ending with a pasta sheet and cheese on the top.

4. Bake in a 350° F preheated oven for 50 minutes or until cheese has entirely melted and béchamel is bubbling.

5. Allow to cool completely. When cool, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate 24 hours.

6. To serve, cut into 5-6 slices and reheat in the oven. Then sear one side on a non-stick frying pan.

7. Serve on a bed of warmed spinach pesto sauce (recipe above) with a little crème fraiche.

The pasta crisps up on the seared side to give you a wonderful crunch against the creamy textures of the cheese and spinach and basil layers. 

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This recipe has become a staple that we have once every two weeks. The pastry comes together easily (use any favourite pastry recipe you like), great texture and has a nice depth of flavour with the sesame seeds. The custard with spinach, shallots and goats cheese are a delight in every bite. 

Low Carb Spinach and Goats Cheese Tart

Makes one 20 cm tart

Ingredients for the pastry:

  • 100 g almond flour
  • 8 g psyllium husk powder
  • 30 g unsalted butter
  • 30 mL egg whites
  • pinch of salt
  • 20 g toasted sesame seeds

Directions for the pastry:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients with the exception of the sesame seeds in a small food processor and process until smooth and totally combined. Gently knead in the sesame seeds. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Roll out the dough between two pieces of parchment, so that it is a bit larger than the pan. Gently peel off the parchment and roll onto the pan, pressing into the sides. Fold-down excess and press into the sides making the thickness even all around. Dock.
  3. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool slightly.

Ingredients for the filling:

  • 40 g shallots, finely sliced
  • 15 mL EVOO
  • 100 g baby spinach
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 mL roasted puréed garlic
  • 2 tbsp milk or cream
  • Salt
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 15 g Beamster, finely shredded, divided
  • 50 g soft unripened goats cheese, sliced into 6 rounds
  • Directions:

  1. Sauté the shallots in the olive oil until soft. Add the baby spinach and wilt completely. Cool on a piece of parchment.
  2. Combine the eggs, roasted garlic purée, cream, salt, nutmeg and about half of the Beamster and whisk until smooth.
  3. When the spinach cools, evenly spread it into the baked tart shell and pour the egg mixture evenly over it. Sprinkle with remaining Beamster.
  4. Top with the sliced goats cheese and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the egg has set. You may wish to protect the side crust if it gets too dark.
  5. Serve with a green salad.

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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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My dear friend Lorraine Elliott published this recipe while we were wintering in Spain. It’s not super hot in Spain this time of year and we prefer it that way because we are not fans of extreme heat or crowds. I like to choose simple recipes that can be baked in the oven to warm the kitchen up a bit. The moment I saw this recipe, I knew I had to make it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t source Halloumi in our little village or even the big supermarket in the city so I used a Spanish Manchego. It was delicious! A perfect lunch with a tomato side salad.

It’s similar to Spanakopita but not really.

Spinach, Feta and Manchego Pie

Makes a pie about 12 cm x 25 cm x 3 cm.

Serves 4-6 people

Ingredients:

  • 2 sheets of puff pastry, defrosted in the refrigerator overnight
  • 400 g frozen spinach, defrosted in the refrigerator overnight
  • 100 g sweet onion, finely sliced
  • 20 g roasted garlic, puréed
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 120 g Greek feta, crumbled
  • 80 g of Manchego, grated
  • 15 mL milk, divided

Directions:

  1. Once the spinach has defrosted, squeeze out as much moisture as you can.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper.
  3. Roll out one sheet of the puff pastry to about 2 times the size of your pan. Insert it into the parchment-lined pan and dock it with a fork.
  4. Press a sheet of foil into the pan to hold the sides of the pastry up. Add some weight to avoid it from rising too much. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until lightly golden.
  5. In the meantime, sauté the onion until translucent, add the spinach and break it up to incorporate the onion evenly. Stir in the roasted garlic purée and nutmeg. Transfer to a bowl.
  6. Add the cheese to the spinach and stir until entirely combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Roll the second sheet of pastry to the size of the pan. Return it to the refrigerator.
  8. Remove the foil from the baked pastry and spoon the spinach mixture pressing it evenly into the pan.
  9. Brush the top part of all four sides of the pastry with milk. Remove the second pastry from the refrigerator and lay it over the spinach-filled pastry. Press the sides of the top pastry into the spinach-filled pastry.
  10. Brush the top of the pastry with the remaining milk and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden.
  11. Slice the pie into equal portions, serve piping hot with a little salad.

Note:

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I made this simple breakfast dish for overnight guests in early February. Unfortunately, they had to leave before they could be oven-ready so I popped them into the nuker and presto, done in three minutes! They are super easy to put together the morning of, but I wanted even less kitchen time so I assembled them the night before. To bake quickly, allow them to come to room temperature for an hour before you bake them.

Ham and Cheese Egg Cups

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 6 large eggs
  • 200 g of cooked ham
  • 200 g of grated cheese, divided
  • 50 g of tiny broccoli florets

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Spray each ramekin with non-stick spray.
  3. Break the eggs into a medium bowl snd whisk well to break the yolks and combine with the whites.
  4. Add the ham and broccoli florets and mix well. Add the cheese, reserving a small amount to garnish the tops.
  5. Divide the mixture evenly between the four prepped ramekins. Garnish with reserved cheese.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Or you can nuke them for 3 minutes on high.
  7. Allow ramekins to sit for about 5 minutes before serving. Option to serve: Carefully turn out each egg cup onto a warm plate and turn right-side-up. Serve warm.

Winter has come. But the weather has been really strange because as soon as we have any snow accumulation, it warms up, the rains come and the snow melts.

Notes:

Inclusions are limitless:

  • Smoked salmon, capers, red onion slices, cream cheese.
  • Cooked shredded chicken, roasted red pepper cubes, avocado cubes, sliced onions, roasted corn, shredded jalapeño jack cheese, served with salsa.
  • Roast pork tenderloin, sluced red onions, sliced black olives, roasted red pepper and greek feta served with Tzatziki sauce.

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Happy New Year! Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season, spoiling your loved ones! Wishing you a new year filled with joy, good health, good friends and good food! Love from Éva

I do apologize for not being more present with my blogging buddies, but we’ve only just returned from our month-long sojourn in Arizona. We had three sets of dear friends visit us for 5-6 days each during our stay; it was a fun-packed time away, also enjoying our dear friends who currently live in Arizona.

I made this delicious winter stew for friends just before we left for Arizona. It was a perfect way to begin winter. The stew was filled with succulent seafood drenched in a creamy béchamel. And if you’re super hungry, you can eat the bowl, or part of it!

Seafood Stew in Sourdough Bread Bowls

Please click here for the original recipe.

Serves 4-6 depending on size of bowls.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 a sweet onion, finely diced
  • 2 celery ribs, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 8 mini potatoes
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 500 g mixed firm seafood — peeled shrimp, scallops, lobster meat, mussels, calamari or white fish (cubbed)
  • 1 cup shredded flavourful white cheese, like Gruyère and Asiago
  • Kosher salt (to taste)
  • 4 sourdough bread bowls

Directions:

  1. In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil and sauté the onions until translucent.
  2. Add the potatoes and carrots and sauté until about half-cooked. Add the celery and sauté for about 2-4 minutes.
  3. Lower the heat and add the butter and allow it to melt. Sprinkle the flour into the vegetables and mix well. Cook for a minute or so. Add the dried herbs. Slowly add the milk, stirring to mix into the floured vegetables and bring to a slow simmer, stirring and allowing the mixture to thicken. You may bring this to room temperature and refrigerate until required.
  4. If you have refrigerated the vegetable mixture, simmer on low until the vegetables are thoroughly cooked through. Add the seafood with the longest cooking first (shrimp, scallops, calamari and lastly, mussels). Cook the seafood through.
  5. Add the shredded cheese, mix well and taste for seasoning. Serve piping hot in hollowed out sourdough bread bowls.

Here is that gorgeous winter light again.

Notes:

  • I like to spend as much time with our guests instead of stuck in the kitchen cooking dinner so I try to make as much of the dishes in advance as possible so that my time spent in the kitchen is minimal while we have guests. Because I cooked most of the stew earlier that day, I was able to reheat it and cook the raw seafood quickly without missing too much of the evening.
  • I gently warmed the sourdough bread bowls so that they kept the stew warm a little longer, things cool down so quickly in the winter.
  • I used a mixture of Wild Argentinian Shrimp, Bay Scallops, Mussels, and Chopped Calamari for this dish but white fish would also work beautifully.
  • If the thought of adding cheese to a fish dish offends you, please omit it. The original recipe called for cheddar but I did not wish to add red cheese to discolour the sauce. The cheese adds a nice background flavour with a little body, it’s really not enough to make it stringy.
  • The smooth béchamel flavoured with the tarragon and thyme made a lovely background for the seafood. Our guests loved it, the homemade sourdough bread bowls helped! 😉
  • It’s a really heavy meal, I hollowed out the bread bowls so that there was only about 1 cm of the bowl all around, even so, most of us couldn’t finish it!

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The first time we tried gnocchi was in the late 80’s or early 90’s. It may seem a bit odd that it took so long living in a multi-cultural city like Toronto, particularly since Toronto had the largest Italian population of any city outside of Italy (in 2016, we had the fourth largest Italian population), but back then the restaurant scene was really bad. Italian food was more or less American Italian (not to imply that it’s bad food, just limited), serving spaghetti, lasagna or pizza, nothing quite as exotic as gnocchi graced the menus. High-end restaurants were generally decorated in a men’s club style, dark and dingy and the waiters were often grumpy old guys in dark pants, white shirts and short aprons. Then, for some reason it all changed. JT read a lot of real estate articles and one such article was about a restaurant in mid-town that spent a million dollars in creating one of the best Italian restaurants in the city; imported décor, a well-paid chef and a menu that used traditional Italian ingredients described in Italian words. Of course, we had to try it and we were not disappointed. It still took a few more years for the rest of the industry to up its game but we were certainly on the right track.

When I told my Mom that I’d ordered gnocchi and what it cost, she was appalled! She called it peasant food! Of course, my generation had no idea what that was and maybe that’s why the restaurant industry changed, we were willing to pay for it! And we were hooked! Those soft little pillows drenched in a rich sauce were stuff dreams were made of, so I began experimenting with recipes after seeing Biba Caggiano make it (Biba’s Italian Kitchen) on the very early Food Network. She made it look so easy, and it was! JT proclaimed that he would no longer be able to order gnocchi in a restaurant because he would be disappointed after eating mine! Then came the low carb movement and we put those dreamy little pillows on the back burner. Fear not though, they are making a comeback albeit in moderation.

In our effort to eat less animal protein and more plant-based proteins, I created this gnocchi recipe using lentils. I’ve made them a few times because they are quite easy to make and super tasty, and they have the same light, fluffy consistency of traditional gnocchi. We like the contrast of texture by pan-frying the little pillows until one side is crispy, but you don’t have to. This recipe would be quite lovely with a sage and butter sauce or any sauce for that matter.

Pan-Seared Lentil Gnocchi with Blue Cheese Sauce

Makes about 40 gnocchi, about 2-4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 50 g red lentils
  • 90 g “00” flour
  • 10 g freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 20 g unsalted butter, divided
  • 125 mL milk or cream
  • 50 g gorgonzola, divided (any blue cheese will do)
  • parmesan for serving

Directions:

  1. Cook the lentils until soft (about 1:2 ratio) in enough water to cover. Blend in a processor until very smooth.
  2. Add the flour a little at a time and blend. Add the cheese and pulse to combine, then remove and knead gently with your hands until a smooth dough is achieved. Roll into a 1 cm roll and cut about 1.5-2 cm lengths. Roll each pillow up the tines of a fork or a gnocchi paddle to get the grooves.
  3. Boil water with a little salt and cook the gnocchi until they float to the top. Strain the gnocchi and set aside until ready to serve.
  4. Melt butter in a frying pan and sear the gnocchi until a little crispy on one side. Remove from the pan. Add 5 additional grams of butter to the pan and sprinkle about 10 g of flour on it. Cook the roux and add about 125 mL milk or cream. Add some of the gorgonzola into the roux and allow it to melt (reserve a little gorgonzola for garnish).
  5. Add the gnocchi back to the pan and stir to coat. Serve immediately with freshly grated parmesan and dot each plate with remaining gorgonzola.

Notes:

  • I use my trusted gnocchi paddle that I bought in Florence to make the grooves in the little pillows and recently I discovered that using a very small round measuring spoon to press the gnocchi up the paddle creates perfect groves on one side and a nice little divet on the other (without ruining my mani). The more grooves and divets the more the sauce will stick to it, and who doesn’t love sauce?!
  • I used gorgonzola cheese but you may use any blue cheese. Gorgonzola is slightly milder but creamier than blue cheese.
  • Traditional gorgonzola sauce uses heavy cream instead of a roux, but I prefer to use milk and a roux. You may do it either way.
  • I never add egg to my gnocchi because that is the way Biba Caggiano made it (Biba’s Italian Kitchen). My gnocchi binds well and has never fallen apart in cooking.

JT and I just completed refinishing our kitchen floors, don’t they look lovely? (and yes, that means renting a belt sander and working our ancient butts off!). The best light was on the floor, they are clean!

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I remember seeing these tasty morsels a few years ago and was intrigued by the tapioca flour ingredient but I soon forgot about them. Recently, we were watching America’s Test Kitchen and by fluke, they were making a batch which reminded me how much I had wanted to make them. These days, more and more of our friends have become gluten intolerant or simply wish to reduce their gluten intake so this recipe comes at the right time. Plus the weather is perfect for cocktails on the back deck while the sun moves across the sky for its exit. I’ve made a few adjustments to the original recipe and have converted it to metric weight measures because that is my preference for baking.

We loved these little cheesy dough balls and you can bet that I will make them again and again. I hope you try them too.

Would you care for a few with your cocktail?

Brazilian Cheese Bread (gluten-free, lactose-reduced)

Makes 50-60 little balls. For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 390 g tapioca flour (starch)
  • 2 g baking powder
  • 10 g plus 2 g salt, divided
  • 2 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks, divided
  • 200 mL lactose-free milk
  • 25 g unsalted butter
  • 115 mL grapeseed oil (any vegetable oil)
  • 212 g sheep’s milk semi-firm cheese

Directions:

  1. Combine tapioca flour, baking powder and salt and mix well in the large bowl of your stand mixer.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat until just boiling the milk, butter and grapeseed oil.
  3. While mixing the flour on low spead, add the hot milk solution and beat well for about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time and beat for about 8 minutes or until dough is shiny and smooth.
  5. Add the cheese and mix for about 1 minute.
  6. Preheat the oven to 450° F. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with damp parchment paper. Put the baking sheet on top of another baking sheet (these little breads tend to burn on the bottom so insulating the bottom will help them bake more evenly).
  7. Scoop out 15 mL spoonfuls the prepared baking sheet. It’s easier if you dip your scoop into water each time. Shape into little balls.
  8. Combine the egg yolk with the 2 g salt and mix well.
  9. Brush the egg yolk mixture on top of each dough ball and bake until tops are golden and crusty 18-20 minutes. Turn the pan around for the last 5 minutes of baking.
  10. Refrigerate the dough while baking the first batch. Repeat making little balls of dough until finished.
  11. Cool for 10 minutes and serve.

Notes:

  • Check the saltiness of the cheese you use, and adjust the salt measurement accordingly. I found America’s Test Kitchen recipe was a little saltier than I like.
  • I used Starkey and Hitch goat’s milk gouda in this recipe.
  • America’s Test Kitchen found the dough too sticky to work with so they rested the dough in the refrigerator for 2 hours before baking. I did not find the dough too sticky so I skipped that step (it’s about the same as choux pastry) .
  • The recipe is as easy as making choux pastry but the texture is quite bready.
  • Freeze in a zip-lock baggy. To reheat frozen balls, bake them at around 275° F until defrosted and warm.

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We frequent a French bistro in the city, Le Select, in fact, it’s probably our favourite restaurant in the city! JT alternates from the menu items, but I like my favourites (French Onion Soup, Steak Tartare) and seldom stray from them. We tend to share an appetizer and the last time we were there, the table next to us could not say enough about the Terrine de Poisson Fumé, an airy terrine of smoked Georgian Bay whitefish served with grilled home-baked Foccacia so we had to have it. It was wonderful. Smooth, creamy, full of smoky flavour, we loved it so much, I had to make something like it for a dinner party. 

This is Le Select’s version, our inspiration.

Smoked Salmon Mousse with Dijon Sesame Bark

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 265 mL mousse

Ingredients for the Salmon Mousse:

  • 65 g smoked salmon, roughly chopped
  • 100 g cream cheese, cubed
  • 2 g anchovy paste
  • 2 g tomato paste
  • 1 g paprika
  • Pinch of smoked paprika
  • 100 mL whole milk
  • 120 mL water (see notes)
  • 2 g agar-agar (see notes)

Directions for the Salmon Mousse:

  1. Dissolve agar-agar in the water and slowly bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes or until the agar-agar is completely dissolved. Set aside to cool slightly.
  2. Meanwhile, add the salmon, cream cheese, anchovy paste and whole milk to a food processor (choose one that will emulsify the salmon to a smooth, creamy consistency (my Magic Bullet did a great job).
  3. Once the agar-agar has cooled somewhat, whisk into the salmon mixture until smooth.
  4. Prepare silicon your mould by spraying it lightly with water. Pour the salmon mousse into each mold evenly. Allow to set in the refrigerator.
  5. Serve with gourmet crackers or toasted baguette.

Dijon Sesame Bark

Ingredients:

  • 20 g sugar
  • 5 mL honey
  • 5 mL water
  • 30 g sesame seeds (black and white)
  • 5 g butter
  • 5 mL Dijon mustard

Directions:

  • Mix the sugar with the dijon, honey and the water and cook over medium heat until everything has dissolved. Allow to come to a boil and slightly darken.
  • Stir in the sesame seeds and continue to cook until it is about 300° F. Remove from heat and add the butter and Dijon mustard and stir well to incorporate.
  • Pour the content onto a Silpat sheet or buttered baking sheet and spread out thinly. You may wish to cover with parchment and roll with a rolling pin.
  • Allow to cool, break into smallish bits or shards to sprinkle over the salmon mousse.

Assembly of the Smoke Salmon Mousse Plate:

  1. Carefully unmould the salmon mousse and place in the centre of a plate. Sprinkle with the dijon sesame bark (or serve bark in shards as below) and serve with toasted baguette slices or crackers.
This is how I served the mousse for a recent dinner party.

Notes:

  • You may use the traditional smoked salmon that is thinly sliced but I used a Wild Pacific Salmon Side we hot smoked on the Big Green Egg. 
  • Any smoked fish would work, as long as you can purée it smoothly.
  • To replace the agar-agar with gelatine, omit the water. Use one sheet softened in in the mousse liquid, in a saucepan then put on low heat and stir until the gelatine sheet dissolves into the mousse, do not boil. One sheet is good enough for a loose set of 265 mL.

 

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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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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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Lime and Matcha Cheesecake

You may recall that last week I posted a recipe for homemade ricotta from buttermilk and sour cream, well this is what the ricotta became and it was delicious! It was a cake I made for our dear friends Rae and Mon when they invited us for dinner one night in June. Check out the notes, I give some very good tips on how to bake a cheesecake without it cracking!

Lime and Matcha Cheesecake

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes one 23 cm cheesecake

For the Crust:

  • 175 g graham cracker crumbs
  • 50 g butter, melted
  • 35 g coconut sugar
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 10 g unsweetened coconut
  • 1.5 g lime zest (about 1 lime)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Line the bottom of a 23 cm springform pan with parchment grease it well including the sides.
  3. Line the outside bottom of the pan with foil tightly. Cover the outside of another, slightly larger pan with foil so that it is water resistant.
  4. Combine all of the above crust ingredients and mix until well coated with the butter. This step may be done in a food processor.

Press into the prepared smaller pan and bake for 20 minutes. Cool completely.Decorate with lime zest, matcha powder, coconut and thinly sliced limes.

For the Cheesecake:

  • 150 g granulated sugar, divided
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 300 g buttermilk, sour cream ricotta (recipe)
  • 120 g sour cream
  • 3 g lime zest (about 2 limes)
  • 50 mL lime juice (~2 limes)
  • 15 g AP flour (check weight)
  • 5 g matcha powder
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325° F.
  2. Beat the egg whites with 50 g of sugar until stiff shiny peaks form.
  3. Beat the egg yolks with 100 g of sugar until they are thick and pale.
  4. Add the ricotta and greek yogurt to the egg yolk mixture and then add the lime juice and zest and beat until well blended.
  5. Sift the flour and matcha powder into ricotta mixture.
  6. Finally, fold the beaten egg whites into the ricotta mixture until well blended. Spoon into the chilled prepared crust.
  7. Set the pan into the slightly larger pan with the bottom covered in foil, and set both into a tall-sided roasting pan and pour just hot water into the roasting pan so it goes about half-way up the sides.
  8. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the centre doesn’t jiggle when gently shaken. Turn the oven off, allow to cool in the oven undisturbed. Once cool, refrigerate until ready to serve.
  9. Decorate with lime zest and matcha. Serve with lime infused whipping cream or with blueberries.

A deliciously flavoured, baked cheesecake.

Notes:

  • I always beat my egg whites first so that I don’t need to wash my mixer whisk attachment.
  • To prevent cracking while baking and cooling:
    • Set the 23 cm springform pan into a slightly larger, springform pan with the bottom covered tightly with foil to double ensure water-tightness and insulate the sides so that the outside bakes at the same rate as the inside.
    • Set both pans into a high-sided roasting pan.
    • Fill the roasting pan (not the larger springform pan) with hot water to about the middle height of the springform pans.
  • Step 3 and 4 may be done in a large food processor, which will result in a smooth cheesecake, otherwise, the ricotta curds will add some texture to the cake.

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In my line of work you inevitably garner leftover ingredients that no one else wants that are not standard fare in your pantry. This recipe is one of those happy examples. As you well know, I abhor tossing food so I searched the net for a tasty way to use said ingredients, whole milk, buttermilk and sour cream and found that you can make ricotta! How exciting is that? We were invited to dear friends for dinner, so I made a delicious cheesecake out of the ricotta (recipe to come next week).

Buttermilk and Sour Cream Ricotta

Makes 235 g Ricotta

Ingredients:

  • 500 mL whole milk
  • 500 mL buttermilk
  • 200 mL full fat sour cream

Directions:

  1. Heat the milk, buttermilk and sour cream over a medium heat in an enamel pot to about 82° C (180° F). Allow it to sit, undisturbed for 30 minutes.
  2. Pour into a cheesecloth-lined sieve and strain (covered) until relatively dry (overnight) in the refrigerator.

I would have thought the buttermilk and sour cream would have made a much tarter ricotta but it was fine.

Make additional ricotta out of the whey:

Makes an additional 65 g ricotta!

Ingredients:

  • 750 mL leftover whey from making ricotta above
  • 250 mL milk (higher fat is better, I used 1% because that is what I had)
  • 15 mL vinegar or lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Heat the whey and milk in a non-reactive pan over medium heat until it reaches 91° C (195° F). Remove from heat and stir in the vinegar or lemon juice. Allow it to sit undisturbed for 10 minutes.
  2. Strain through a cheesecloth-lined sieve. Strain for several hours for a firm ricotta.

Notes:

  • Use an unreactive pot like Le Creuset.
  • I did not salt the ricotta because I had a sweet application planned for it.
  • The buttermilk and sour cream curdle naturally when heated, so an acid is not required.
  • Reserve the whey for recipes that call for cooking with stock or water, it is healthy and flavourful.

Dear friends, I have finally made a website of my work. Please feel free to visit evataylorfoodstyle.com. The blog will not change, it will always be my ever growing recipe book, the website is for work. If you know of anyone needing a food stylist in Toronto, please send them to my website. As always, your comments are appreciated more than you can know.

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

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

Cheese Crêpes

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Recipe is for 2 Crêpes.

Please click here to print this recipe.

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Notes:

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

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On May 5, we hosted a Cinco de Mayo dinner party with a few friends. I’m not sure what I was thinking because I had already a very busy week planned, then my dear Mom’s widow became ill and had to be hospitalized so we were running up to the hospital he was in (about 45 minutes away) every few days (he is doing better but still in the hospital). I only had 3 days to prepare!!! I chose the menu based on foods that I can make ahead of time, knowing that they would only get better! In case you wondered, I made a variation of this dip as hors d’œuvres, this salad and for the main, this pulled chicken molé AND a Dolce de Leche tiramisu (recipe to come) for dessert. It was a bit decadent, but sometimes I really need to play in the kitchen!

This lasagna is a delicious combination of flavours and it’s worth making each layer yourself, if you must, choose canned beans to save a little time.

It’s a flavour sensation! I put a poached egg on top the next day for a very tasty brunch!

Mexican Lasagna

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 4 as a meal or 6-8 as an appetizer

Ingredients for the Pulled Pork:

  • 250 g pork tenderloin
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) stock (I used beef)
  • 250 mL (1 cup) passata (tomato sauce)
  • 125 g (1/2 cup) sweet onions, thinly sliced
  • 5 mL (1 tsp) cumin
  • 5 mL (1 tsp) coriander
  • 5 mL (1 tsp) Hungarian paprika
  • 1.25 mL (1/4 tsp) smoked paprika
  • 2.5 mL (1/2 tsp) salt
  • 1.25 mL (1/4 tsp) pepper

Directions for the Pulled Pork:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a slow cooker or crock pot and mix well.
  2. Cook on high for 4 hours or until pork is easily pulled using two forks.

Ingredients for the Lasagna:

  • 6 corn tortillas, cut in half
  • 250 mL (about 1 cup) shredded pork (recipe above)
  • 85 g (1/2 cup) dried black beans, cooked and either puréed or mashed with a fork
  • 80 g (1/2 cup) sweet onions
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) grilled corn
  • a handful (~1/4 cup) of cilantro
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) Salsa
  • 150 g (about 1 cup) Mexican cheese or mozzarella
  • cilantro, for garnish
  • loosened yogurt (in a squeeze bottle)
  • sriracha sauce mixed with loosened yogurt (in a squeeze bottle)

Directions for the Lasagna:

  1. Preheat the oven to 220° C (425° F).
  2. In a non-stick skillet, caramelize the onions, add the beans, mushing some of the beans (add some stock if necessary). Set aside.
  3. Spray a pate terrine with non-stick spray.
  4. Layer 2 half corn tortillas on the bottom of the pan, cover with 1/3 of the shredded pork, 1/3 of the mashed beans, 1/3 of the corn, 1/3 of the cilantro, 1/2 of the salsa and 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat for two more layers, leaving out the salsa on the last layer. Cover with a non-stick sprayed piece of foil or the top of the pan, if you have one.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes covered, then uncover and bake for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is bubbling and lightly golden. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.
  6. Serve garnished with a drizzle of loosened greek yogurt and sriracha sauce and a sprinkling of chopped cilantro.

Notes:

  • I was unable to find Mexican cheese so I used Manchego and Mozzarella.
  • If you cannot grill fresh corn, frozen is acceptable but you will miss the grilled flavour.

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Today is Victoria Day of the long weekend, which happens to be very important for Canadians because it is the May Two-Four Weekend: Queen Victoria’s birthday, cottage opening, garden planting, and the first outdoor BBQs and patios!! It is also the weekend that JT and I tied the knot! Yes indeed, we hitched up on the holiday Monday of a long weekend. Now, now, don’t get your knickers in a knot, the wedding ceremony started at 3pm on the holiday Monday, so people realistically could still get up to the cottage, open and get back in time for the wedding. Not everyone was happy about our decision, but it wasn’t really our fault, you see it was our first time and we had no idea how far in advance you had to book your venue for the reception (we found one venue that was taking bookings 3 years from the date), so when we found one available on the holiday Monday only 5 months after we got engaged, we went for it.

The weeks leading up to our wedding were lovely; gorgeous, warm, spring weather, three beautiful bridal showers, and the shear excitement every time a parcel arrived at the door! I had everything planned out, it would be a glorious day and everything would be perfect. I should have known things don’t always go as planned.

The night before the wedding, I tried on my dress and Mom and I decided we really didn’t love the neckline, it was far too high; fortunately, the dress was lace and I was able to trim away the bits we didn’t care for, using manicure scissors, and it worked out perfectly. I went to bed that night with my hair in rollers and I said a little prayer for my Dad who had passed in 1981 and crossed my fingers and toes that it would be a beautiful, sunny, spring day.

I awoke Monday, May 19 to a cold, dark and dreary, rainy day. I honestly thought I would be devastated but I wasn’t, I was absolutely fine. Things would go on with slight modifications. No big deal. And because the rain persisted ALL DAY, people were not that upset about having to leave the cottage early (we had a lot of cottager guests). After the ceremony, we were going to take photos in my In-Laws’ garden but since we couldn’t, we moved it inside (they had a lovely mansion), everything was just fine. The strange thing about that day was that it rained constantly, without stopping ALL DAY with the exception of the few times I stepped outside — to get into the limo from my Mom’s home, to get out of the limo at the Church, and to and from my In-Law’s home and finally to and from our reception! It stopped EVERY SINGLE TIME! I didn’t use an umbrella and I did not get wet! Thanks, Dad! We had a typical dinner for a wedding of that time (caesar salad, roast beef, Yorkshire puddings, and steamed veg) but considering the cool day, we sure could have used some soup and this soup would have been perfect. (click on the photo below for a short slide show). Please forgive me, the eighties were unforgiving style-wise!

To celebrate our 31st wedding anniversary (I was a child bride ;-)), we took a little road trip to Stratford, Ontario to see Guys and Dolls and stay overnight. Stratford is aptly named for the city in England and its primary mandate is to present Shakespearean plays but also includes a variety of Greek tragedies and Broadway-style musicals (wiki) to broaden its reach. It was a great weekend, although the weather went from 30° C (86° F) to 10° C (50° F) with high cold winds, we enjoyed walking around this pedestrian-friendly town with an excellent food scene. Here is a little slideshow of our trip.

As I mentioned, the weather turned on the morning of our trip (and our actual wedding day) and we were basically back in November! I had a huge soup craving and this one would have certainly hit the spot. I have made these grilled cheese croutons, again and again, they are excellent in a caesar salad too (use Parmesan instead of cheddar)!

Creamed Broccoli Pesto Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1 L or 4 cups soup

Ingredients:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 100 g (1 medium size) sweet onions, chopped
  • 300 g (2 stems) broccoli, including the stems, chopped
  • 20 g (3-4 cloves) garlic, roughly chopped
  • 45 ML (3 tbsp) basil pesto (I used this recipe but used ground almonds instead of pine nuts)
  • vegetable or chicken stock

Directions:

  1. Using a splash of olive oil, caramelize the onions, about 15 minutes.
  2. Add the broccoli and garlic and cover with stock and cook until softened (about 30 minutes).
  3. Add the basil pesto and cook for an additional minute.
  4. Using an immersion blender, blend soup until very smooth, adding more stock to achieve desired thickness (I did not need to). Press through a fine sieve.
  5. Serve with Grilled Cheese croutons (recipe below).

These are crisp, cheesy croutons.

Grilled Cheese Croutons

Ingredients:

  • 1 slice of seeded bread (we like this one)
  • 30 mL (2 tbsp) Mycryo
  • 50 g (1/2 cup) shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F (177° C).
  2. Cut the bread into bite-sized cubes and coat with the Mycryo. Bake, stirring often until bread has become dried croutons. Toss with the shredded cheddar and return to the oven and bake until cheese melts and caramelizes.
  3. To serve the soup, ladel soup into warm bowls and toss the grilled cheese croutons on top and serve piping hot.

If you love crispy cheese, you will love these croutons.

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I’ve been a little busy since we’ve returned from Arizona, you may have noticed my absence commenting and that I didn’t post last week. I was going to fret about it and try and throw together something but decided against it. Life happens.

One of our dear friends sold their home in the burbs and moved into their condo just before we left for holidays. JT and I helped them paint before the move, with the move, and a little organization. You see, their home was around 2,500 square feet and they moved into a 600 square foot condo. To say they down-sized is an understatement. I have to admit, I was a little jealous that they were able to rid themselves of excess, but I had to be honest with myself, and I’m not there yet. This past weekend, we went to visit and you know me, I never go empty handed, so I made these cheese crisps.

When I made the gluten free version of cheez-itz, I rolled them a bit thinner than usual and loved how crisp they baked up, so this time, I adjusted the gluten recipe and rolled them out in my KitchenAid pasta maker and the results were exceptional. Thinner crackers baked up so crispy, I was hooked. If you like cheese tuiles, then you will love these cheese-flavoured, light, crisp crackers, but be warned, they are quite addictive.

I added a little album of our trip to Arizona at the end of this post, if you are interested. Basically, it was the coldest and rainiest time in Arizona this year. We experienced -15°C (59° F) and snow in The Grand Canyon and although the sun did make an appearance from time to time, it never really warmed up. I wore layered leggings and tops, a winter coat, gloves and scarf and ear muffs, most of the time while we were in The Grand Canyon and Sedona. It rained so much in Sedona; Sedona gets about 38 cm (15 inches) of rain a year, in two days we had 4 cm (1.5 inches)! Oh well, it’s another reason to go back!

Cheese Crisps

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 350 g crackers (about 6 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 240 g full-flavoured, hard cheese, grated (see notes)
  • 45 g unsalted butter
  • 15 g vegetable shortening
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika (see notes)
  • 1 cup (125 g) flour, plus more for rolling
  • 2 tbsp ice water

Directions:

  1. Combine everything but the water in the large food processor bowl and pulse until fully combined.
  2. Slowly pour in the ice water and process until the dough comes together. It may not look like it will, but it will.
  3. Sprinkle a generous amount of flour on your surface and roll out small bits of the dough thin enough to get through #1 on the KitchenAid Pasta maker attachment. Run each sheet through three times on #1, two-times on #2 and two-times on #3. Return to your work surface and cut with a variety of cookie cutters. I chose smallish ones because I wanted bite-sized nibbles. They shrink to about 65% of the original size.
  4. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  5. Transfer crackers to a baking sheet (I line mine with parchment).
  6. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden and crispy! Be careful – there’s a fine line with these between golden brown and overdone – and it only takes seconds to burn!

Notes:

  • Use whatever full-flavoured cheese you have. This batch was made with equal quantities of sharp Cheddar, naturally-smoked Cheddar and Beemster.
  • I prefer to use the pasta maker to roll the dough because it guarantees the dough to be the same thickness throughout the batch. I wouldn’t go thinner than #3 though, really thin crackers will burn very quickly before they crisp up.
  • Change up the flavouring from smoked paprika to granulated garlic, finely ground dehydrated onions, finely ground dehydrated mushrooms, but be careful not to have too large chunks as they will get caught in your pasta maker rollers!

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glutenfreecheezitz_first

There are recipes that convert well into gluten free and this happens to be one of them and they freeze incredibly well too, but be warned, it will be unlikely that you’ll have leftovers to freeze! I rolled this recipe thinner than the glutinated recipe and the result was a crispier, cheese bite. I’ll probably do the same for the glutinated version, as I preferred the crisp texture. Plus, a thinner roll gives you more crackers and who doesn’t love more cheese crackers?

Gluten-free Cheez-itz

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 227 g (about 2 cups) sharp cheddar, grated
  • 45 g (3 tbsp) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 14 g (1 tbsp) vegetable shortening
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 67 g (1/2 cup) brown rice flour and 67 g (1/2 cup)  white corn flour (not corn starch) or 134 g (1 cup) gluten-free flour
  • 30 mL (2 tbsp) ice water

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients except the ice water in a bowl of a food processor. Pulse for 2 minutes to cream the mixture together.
  2. Slowly add the ice-water while pulsing. At first, it looks like you might need more water, patience grasshopper, patience, the dough will come together in a moment, continue pulsing until it does.
  3. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  4. Using plastic wrap, roll the dough into two logs about 1.5 inches or 4 cm in diameter. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or freeze for 15.
  5. Cut log into 1/2 cm or 1/4 inch thick slices and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet leaving about 2.5 cm or 1 inch between each cracker.
  6. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown and crispy! Be careful – there’s a fine line with these between golden brown and overdone – and it only takes seconds to burn!

Alternative instructions:

  1. Cut dough in half and pat the dough down into a disk, cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Place disk on parchment paper and put the plastic wrap on top and roll each disc to 2mm or 1/8 inch thickness (this is the perfect thickness).
  3. Using a cookie cutter of your choice, cut into shapes. I found that my 2.5cm square cut the perfect size.
  4. Transfer to a baking sheet (I line mine with parchment).
  5. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown and crispy! Be careful – there’s a fine line with these between golden brown and over done – and it only takes seconds to burn!
  6. Remove to cooling rack to cool.

Notes:

  • If the crackers become a bit soggy after you defrost them, toss them in the oven in a single layer on a baking sheet on low heat for 5-10 minutes to crisp them up.

glutenfreecheezitz

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CrispyMacNCheeseWaffleBites_First

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

CrispyMacNCheeseWaffleBites_4

Delicious Cheesy Morsels

Mac ‘n Cheese Waffle Bites

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

CrispyMacNCheeseWaffleBites_2

If you like crispy cheese, you will LOVE these.

Notes:

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

CrispyMacNCheeseWaffleBites_3

A view of the lake.

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

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

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AdultGrilledCheese_First

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

CottageView

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

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

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

Adult Grilled Cheese

Serves 2

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Notes:

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

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

ZucchiniLasagna

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

ZucchiniLasagna_plated

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

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

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

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

Ingredients for noodles and cheese:

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

Ingredients for the ‘Béchamel’:

Makes 300 mL or 1 1/3 cups ‘béchamel’

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

Directions for the Béchamel:

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

Ingredients for the ‘Meat’ Sauce:

Makes 500 mL (2 cups) Sauce

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

Directions for the Meat Sauce:

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

Assembly:

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

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

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

ZucchiniLasagna_Unbaked

Just before I popped it into the oven.

Notes to make this a Vegan Lasagna:

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

Notes:

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

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

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

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

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

This is an epicurious recipe based on 6 servings.

This is a Food Network recipe based on 6 servings.

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GarlicCheeseRopeBread_First

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

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

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

Cheddar Garlic Rope Bread

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

Ingredients:

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

Ingredients for the cheddar, garlic butter spread:

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

Directions:

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

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Arancicu_first

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

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

Arancini_2999

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

Arancini di Riso (Rice Balls)

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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Arancini_3000

The cheese melts on the inside and becomes deliciously gooey!

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

HappyHourLake

We might have had a few of these!


Paddleboating

Paddleboating on a very warm day.


Fishermen

Our lake apparently has good fishing.


TheFirstFigs_1

Figgy finally made us a couple of figs.


TheFirstFigs

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

 

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TurkeyChiliFirst

JapaneseCherryBlossoms

The Japanese Sakura Cherry Blossoms in High Park

CherryBlossomTree

Our Cherry Blossom tree in the front yard

Cinco de Mayo Inspired Turkey Chili

A Kitcheninspirations Original Recipe

Serves 8-10

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried red kidney beans, soaked overnight in water
  • 250 g sweet onions, chopped
  • 25 g garlic, finely chopped
  • 300 mL tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 500 mL water and or chicken stock
  • 900 g ground turkey breast
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chili
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 5 g dried ancho chili (seeds and veins removed)
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 30 mL tequila (a nice smokey one)

Garnish:

  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced thinly
  • 10 tbsp Greek Yogurt (approx 150 mL)
  • 10 tbsp mozzarella cheese
  • handful of Cilantro, or to taste
  • 3-4 Green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 red chili pepper, finely sliced

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat slow cooker on high. Rinse beans and add to the slow cooker along with the onions, garlic, tomato sauce, tomato paste and the water and/or stock and give it a good stir.
  2. Brown the turkey meat in a very hot cast iron pan in batches. Add the browned turkey and juices into the slow cooker in batches. Once you have browned all of the turkey, remove the pan from the heat and deglaze the pan with the tequila, scraping off all the delicious turkey bits from the pan. Add this liquid into the slow cooker.
  3. Give the chili a good stir. Cook on high for 4-5 hours or until the beans are fork tender. If the chili is too liquidy, then remove the lid for the final hour of cooking.
  4. Serve hot garnished with sliced avocado, a tablespoon of yogurt or sour cream, cilantro, chopped green onion, shredded mozzarella cheese and finely sliced peppers.

Based ib 10 Servings

Based on 10 Servings

It's heavy on the points but high on flavour.

It’s heavy on the points but high on flavour.

TurkeyChili

A delicious Mexican Flavoured Chili

Ladies Night May 2015

Ladies Night May 2015

LadiesNight2

I should have set up the tri-pod for an all in shot.

 

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KaleChips_first

A few years ago we purchased a reasonably priced (read cheap) awning for our cocktail patio; I never loved the fabric, it was a pinkish/beige stripe that weathered into a more horrible pinkish colour over the years, but it was about 1/10th the price of one of those swanky awnings that you can order with custom fabric, so I compromised. It wasn’t bad enough that the colour sucked when it was new, it sucked even more over the years and the birds loved to bathe in the water that collected in the divot when it was closed and they also loved to peck little bugs that drowned. Sadly, their pecking caused many tears and eventually the awning looked so tattered and torn that we hadn’t unrolled it in two years!

Old Awning

This was the last time we unrolled the awning at my benchmark birthday party a couple of years ago. That’s my lovely SIL, Wendy. The colour just gets better and better.

Fast forward to 2015 and my cousin and his lovely wife are coming for a visit from Europe in June. What is better than an actual deadline to get those nagging projects completed? So we are in fix it mode! The list is long.

Last year, I priced replacing the fabric with an awning company and discovered that it’s still out of reach (I’d rather spend the cash on a vacation than an awning!) so I checked Youtube and found a really good video on how to remove and replace the awning fabric (click here for the video) and even though our awning is a different manufacturer, the basics are the same. So off I went to purchase 11 m or 12 yards of fabric! And specialty thread (nylon in case you are interested), a specialty sewing machine foot and of course heavy duty leather sewing machine needles! If you’re interested, I can post instructions on how to sew the awning, but it’s a cooking blog so I won’t bore you with it now.

The worst part of sewing this type of project is finding the space to accommodate the enormous volume of fabric (3.2 m x 3.4 m or 125″ x 135″ finished size) so I ended up sewing it on the dining room table and pinning and cutting on the wood floors in our bedroom. Sewing on the dining room table and that I can see the awning from my kitchen window is my reason for using this post in Celia’s In My Kitchen series.

PinningAwning

I had to fold the fabric in half because that’s all the room I had!

It didn’t take me long to make the awning but I had to wait 3 days to install it because it was raining and hailing (in April)! The installation went smoothly but you really do need two people to help feed the ends into the hardware. JT was great and we got it working in less than an hour! Now we wait for summer. Hopefully!

Awning3

This is the view from my kitchen window. I guess I could have opened the window and removed the screen for the pic.

Awning1

We chose a light grey fabric.

Awning2

The awning actually extends all the way to the far end of the deck but it was too windy and I didn’t want to risk issues.

A couple of weekends ago, we had amazing weather and JT and I enjoyed lunch on the patio. I had a lovely bunch of fresh kale and I wanted to try something different so I baked Kale Chips! I know it’s been done to death, but these things were actually really tasty and if you’re looking for a healthy snack, I would suggest you try and bake some of these. I used Charles’ recipe which you can find here, the only thing I did differently is that I dressed the chips in some grated parmesan and sea salt. They didn’t last long.

KaleChips3

The olive oil gives them a gorgeous sheen and helps maintain the bright green colour.

Kale Chips

Ingredients:

  • 400 g Curly Kale
  • 2 tbsps Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1/2 cup fine grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions:

  1. Pre heat the oven to 93° C (200°F )(I used my convection (fan) setting).
  2. Wash kale and remove thick ribs. Cut into bite-sized pieces keeping in mind that they will shrink to about half their raw size.
  3. Drizzle olive oil over kale and toss to coat evenly. I gave them a quick, light massage.
  4. Spread on a cookie sheet so they are on one layer and not over lapping. Bake for 15-20 minutes tossing occasionally until crisp. Sprinkle cheese over hot kale and toss to coat.
  5. Serve immediately.

KaleChips2

They were crispy and very tasty.

 

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My best friend from University recently had an operation so I made two different kinds of soups and some gluten free cheese scones for her and her family so she needn’t bother with cooking during the first few days of recovery. The scones were a success and even JT couldn’t tell that they were gluten free. The first batch I made to give to my friend, they were true to this recipe and I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Flour which is mainly Chick Pea flour. I don’t particularly care for chick pea flour because it’s dense and has a particular smell, so I flavoured the first recipe strongly with a little sugar and some orange rind (orange and cheese go very well together!). The second time I made the recipe below and I didn’t need to add sugar nor the orange rind because I used a gluten free flour mix that I blended myself and I increased the gluten free baking powder because I wanted a flakier and a bigger rise out of them — it worked. I’ve put them in the freezer for the next time I see her because she has decided to recover in Florida, lucky duck.

GFCheeseScones_2193

These scones rose nicely and had a very flaky texture.

Gluten Free Flour Mix

Ingredients:

  • 6 parts brown rice flour
  • 3 parts yellow corn flour (not meal)
  • 1 part tapioca flour

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients above and mix well.
  2. Use as required in gluten free recipes.

GFCheeseScones_2192

I challenge you to taste that they are indeed gluten free.

Gluten Free Cheese Scones

Makes 12 scones about 5.5 cm (2 inches diameter)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour, plus more for sprinkling (for this recipe, I used 1 tbsp and 1 tsp in the ratios above to yield 1+ cups of gluten free flour)
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 3 tbsp nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1  tbsp gluten free baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard powder
  • 20 g unsalted butter, frozen and grated (please see tip)
  • 85 g + 2 tbsps sharp cheddar cheese, grated, frozen (please see tip)
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 75 mL milk, chilled (plus 2 tbsp more for brushing) 

Directions:

  1. Combine the dry ingredients and whisk until well mixed.
  2. Sprinkle the frozen cheese into the flour and mix. Sprinkle the frozen grated butter and cut into the flour using a pastry blender.
  3. Combine the milk and the dijon mustard and mix well.
  4. Create a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the milk and mix until it’s combined.
  5. Sprinkle a bit of gluten free flour on your work surface and roll out the dough to about 1 cm or 1/2 inch thick. Fold the dough over as you would fold a letter to go into a #10 envelope. I did this twice. You don’t want to over work the dough because then the butter will begin to melt and it won’t be as flaky. Using a bit more gluten free flour, roll out the dough to 2 cm or 3/4 inch thick. Cut with your desired cookie cutter (I used a 5.5 cm (around 2 inches) fluted round).
  6. Brush tops with the additional milk and sprinkle a pinch more of grated cheese on each top.
  7. Bake on a Silpat sheet or parchment for 16 minutes or until cheese not the tops is melted and a little browned (you may wish to broil for a minute).
  8. Serve warm with butter.

GFCheeseScones_2189

The butter just melts into the layers of deliciousness.

Tips:

  • I always buy my butter on sale and cut it into 1/2 cup portions and freeze. Grating frozen butter for pastries is the best way to keep the pastry flaky and light.
  • I also buy my baking cheddar on sale and grate it into a zip lock bag and freeze. If you take it out and separate the gratings as it freezes, you will have frozen cheddar flakes that are easily measured for baking and cooking.

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Sunday was my dear Dad’s birthday, he would have been 91, Happy Birthday Dad!

Mom and Dad 1959

Mom and Dad 1959

What does your grocery shopping map look like? Ours is called the Golden Horseshoe which means we shop the outer edge. Here in Canada it usually means that we enter the store in the vegetable section, round over through the deli/specialty cheese then bakery then fish/meats and finish off in dairy.
We don’t do a whole lot in the aisles. Recently I did a couple of assisting jobs that took me deep into un chartered territory: the middle aisles! I had to pick up groceries for a Canadian lifestyle TV show for two segments and I have to admit that it was an eye opener! What I found enormously frustrating was that a number of items that could be in more than one spot. Even the staff didn’t know for sure. Gluten free is a great example because a number of GF products are also organic, so now you’ve hot two completely opposite locations for the same product. Or if it’s flour and it’s a national brand, it could be in the normal baking section on the same shelf as the regular glutenated versions! Yes, it’s frustrating. What does your grocery store layout look like and do you shop the aisles?

I was making polenta the other day and as I was stirring the polenta and it began to thicken I was suddenly reminded of Pâte à Choux  just after you add the flour to the butter and water mixture, and the idea came to me so I spent the following day developing a gluten free Pâte à Choux that you could not tell was Gluten Free. I must tell you, this is it. Many Gluten Free recipes just don’t cut it for me, it’s either the weird flour smell (garbonzo bean flour), taste or the crumbly texture, so you know this recipe must have checked positive on all of these points.

My first attempt used superfine corn meal (I blitzed it in a coffee grinder a few times) and even though it puffed up as well as the glutenated version it was just too corn mealy (think corn muffin texture even though the corn meal was superfine) the texture wasn’t right at all and so the experimentation began. Perhaps if I had used corn flour instead of meal, it would have been a different story, but I’ll leave that for another time.

GF ChouxPastry_2158

This is the 100% cornmeal version, it’s just too corny, if you’ll pardon the pun.

After some research I decided a pastry made only with cornmeal was not the answer so I went searching for home made gluten free flour recipes so I didn’t have to waste time hunting down a GF flour in the grocery store. Many of them had similar ingredients but I was limited to what I had at home and the volume of each ingredient I had on hand which determined my home-made GF flour recipe; a combination of 6 parts superfine corn meal, 3 parts potato starch and 1 part tapioca flour was the result and I’m rather pleased how it worked out in this recipe. The texture and mouth feel of these choux resemble the texture and mouth feel of the glutenated choux cheese pastries that we know and love! I was so happy because my BFF is gluten intolerant and my brother has chosen to omit gluten from his diet to manage an illness. The last time I asked him if he wanted me to make a gluten free item for him he said it’s just not worth it. He’ll surely change his mind with these.

I tried making these the quick and easy way that my normal food processor choux is made (like this) but did not have as good luck with them, they were not as elastic as a good choux should be, so I reverted to the old fashioned way with the hand mixer and it worked out perfectly.

Gluten Free Cheese Choux Pastry

Makes 25, 4 cm or 1.5 inch puffs

GF ChouxPastry_2162

As the three bears put it, “this one is just right”

Ingredients:

  • 65 mL soda water
  • 30 g unsalted butter
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 40 g gluten free flour*
  • 1/4 tsp zanthan gum (see notes)
  • 1/4 tsp gluten free baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 30 g grated sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200° C/400° F.
  2. Combine the gluten free flour, zanthan gum and gluten free baking powder and stir well.
  3. In a saucepan with high sides, melt the butter into the water with the salt over medium heat. Add the flour mix all at once and cook this mixture until it clears away from the sides of the pan.
  4. Remove from heat. Using a hand held mixer, whip this mixture for about a minute. Add the egg and beat for about 2 minutes, add the cheese and beat the pastry until it is elastic and smooth.
  5. Prepare a baking sheet by measuring a piece of parchment to cover it, soak the parchment in running water and squeeze out excess water. Smooth the wet parchment over the baking sheet. (see notes)
  6. Using a pastry bag with a 2 cm (3/4 inch) nozzle, pipe very small rounds (see note) onto a the prepared baking sheet.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned.
  8. Serve warm or freeze once cooled and reheat in a warm oven at 177° C/350° F for 12-15 minutes from frozen.

*Gluten Free Flour Recipe

Makes about 120 g of flour, enough for 3 batches if these puffs

Ingredients:

  • 6 tbsp superfine corn meal
  • 3 tbsp potato starch
  • 1 tbsp tapioca starch

Directions:

  1. Mix well until combined. Store in an air tight container until required.

Notes:

  • Zanthan Gum is used as a binder in gluten free baking, if you omit it your baking may end up crumbly. It is also used as a thickener but I’ve never tried it that way. It has no perceivable smell or taste. The general consensus is that you add 1 tsp Zanthan Gum to 1 cup GF Flour so that is how I determined how much to add in my recipe.
  • I found that piping about 2 cm or 3/4 inch balls onto the damp parchment and slicing it from the piping tip made the task very quick and quite neat. It also regulated the size of the rounds so that they were more or less equal.
  • I used soda water because I thought it might make an airier pastry, not sure if it helped or not but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
  • Years ago I had read a recipe for choux that the author lightly wets the baking sheet in order to create a humid environment which helped the choux puff up even more. It was so long ago, I don’t know where I read it but my wetting and wringing the parchment is different enough.

GF ChouxPastry_2164

The outside is crisp while the inside is soft and airy like it is supposed to be.

Based on 2 per serving

Based on 2 per serving

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Happy St. Paddy’s Day all!

I’m sure you’ve heard that the North East has been experiencing one of the worst winters ever and the yoyo temperatures Toronto has been experiencing for example, last Thursday it was -15°C (5°F) with a wind chill that made it feel more like -27°C (-16.6°F)  and to make matters worse, last Wednesday we received about 20 cm (8 inches) of snow; you know the really heavy, wet kind? Made it really fun to shovel…NOT!

One of our elite political comedy hosts Rick Mercer had this skit on his show last Monday, I found it very funny so I thought I’d share it with you.

You could say I’m really late for Valentine’s day, or really early. I prefer the later. And as I said before, don’t limit yourself to one day to serve heart-shaped foods!

I’ve posted about these delightful cheese puffs previously (please click here and here) but when I saw Lorraine’s  (Not Quite Nigella)  heart shaped Pâte à Choux post here I knew I had to try to make them as small bite-sized hors d’œuvres! They were rather easy to make and even though they were a very tiny bit fussy to shape, it wasn’t as bad as I had thought it might be. Of course, you get fewer from one batch of pastry but it’s absolutely worth the extra effort with the ooooh’s and ahhhh’s! I took these to a lovely girls night in but you can make them in advance and freeze them in an air tight container and then pull them out one at a time as needed! I stuffed mine with a slightly modified version of this Hungarian Korozot recipe, but you needn’t stuff them at all because they are rather tasty on their own too!

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It’s never too late to say I love you with heart shaped cheese puffs

Heart Shaped Cheese Choux Pastry

Makes about 18 heart shaped puffs about 4 cm or 1.5 inches in diameter.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 200° C 400° F. Take a piece of parchment the size of your baking pan and saturate it with water, wring out so it’s still wet but not dripping wet. Flatten on the baking sheet. Set aside until you are ready to pipe the pastry.
  2. Place water, butter and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  3. Remove from heat and add flour, and stir until combined.
  4. Return to heat and stir cooking the flour mixture until it comes away from the sides of the pan and is a shiny ball. I find the heat of the pan is enough, I generally don’t put the flame back on.
  5. Place in a food processor with plastic blades and process for 15 seconds (give or take).
  6. Add eggs and process for 40 seconds (err on the longer side of give or take).
  7. Add cheese and process for another 5-10 seconds until smooth.
  8. Take a piece of parchment the size of the baking pan and wet it thoroughly under the running tap. Scrunch it up and wring out the excess water. Flatten it out onto your ready baking sheet.
  9. Transfer the pastry to a pastry bag fitted with a thick nozzle about 1 cm or 0.5 inches in diameter. Begin on the left bump of the heart and pipe one side, then without lifting the tip, pipe the right side of the heart. You may wish to smooth out the top with a slightly wet knife. To get the heart shapes defined enough, exaggerate the top bumps of the heart, other wise it will fill in as it bakes. Or you could use a heart shaped mould sprayed a bit with non-stick spray like Brooks did in this post on his lovely blog Cakewalkr. I just came across Brooks’ blog quite by accident but I am so glad I did, can’t wait to try this method!
  10. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.
  11. Serve warm or room temperature. Fill with your choice of delicious fillings!

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Surprisingly easy to make.

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These tasty Pâte à Choux are tasty even without any fillings

Based on 2 Korozot stuffed hearts per serving

Based on 2 Korozot stuffed hearts per serving

Based on two heart cheese puffs, not stuffed per serving.

Based on two heart-shaped cheese puffs, not stuffed per serving.

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Several years ago we dined in a lovely bistro in the heart of the financial district downtown Toronto called Forte Bistro and Lounge. JT had read about Chef Greg Argent in one of our foodie magazines and he knew right away we had to experience his cooking! Sadly, the restaurant is no longer around but the delicious memories of Chef Argent’s cuisine still lingers on.

A delightful combination of rich broth and caramelized onions in a perfectly bite-sized pillow.

A delightful combination of rich broth and caramelized onions in a perfectly bite-sized pillow.

One such dish was the unique French Onion Soup Dumplings ($11): a tender pasta dumpling filled with braised veal broth and gruyère cheese; what made this tasty dumpling so unusual was the surprise of the explosion of veal glacé that would fill you mouth with flavour after biting into the tender pasta, immediately reminding you of French Onion Soup! I have tried many times to recreate this wonderful dish without success and then Chef Argent revealed his ‘secret’ when I asked how he does it. Today I will share with you the secret of the tasty, unassuming little dumpling, but you must swear never to speak of it again! Although the recipe is laborious, I urge you to make a batch to serve as an amuse bouche or little hors d’œuvres at your next Super Bowl party (you may freeze uncooked dumplings on a parchment lined sheet lightly dusted with flour and then put them into a zip-lock bag), you will not only thank me for the wonderful compliments your lucky guests bestow upon you, you may even wish to send me gifts! 😉

Did you figure out the 'secret'?

Did you figure out the ‘secret’?

French Onion Soup Pillows

makes 60 single bite pillows

Ingredients for the broth:

  • 0.5 kg (about 1 pound) Beef bones or oxtail bones
  • 130 g (about 4.5 oz) sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp merlot salt (from my friend Kristy at Eat, play, love; our family food adventures)
  • 600 mL water, divided
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp cooking sherry
  • 3 g (a scant teaspoon) powdered gelatine (agar agar will not work here)
  • 1 cup caramelized onions (please click here for a great recipe)
  • Home made pasta dough or 60 square won ton wrappers (for a great pasta dough recipe, please check out Chicago John’s kitchen)
  • Gruyère cheese to garnish

Directions for the broth:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F 177°C. Put a 11.5 cm x 21.5 cm (4 1/2″ x 8 1/2″) metal loaf pan into the freezer.
  2. Sear the beef bones well on high heat. Remove from pan and set aside. Deglaze the pan with 1 tbsp cooking sherry or port. Add the onions to the pan and sauté for a minute or so on the residual heat from searing. Spread the onions out evenly on the bottom of the pan. Return the beef bones to the pan and nestle into the onions, add the merlot salt, bay leaf and 300 mL water. Cover with tin foil and roast in the oven for about 1 hour, checking occasionally to make sure the water hasn’t evaporated, top up as needed.
  3. Remove pan from oven and remove tin foil. Add an additional 200 mL water and boil on the stove top until liquid is reduced to about 150 mL (about 5 oz). Strain through a fine sieve and press as much liquid out of the cooked onions as possible.
  4. Set aside about 60 mL (1/4 cup) of the stock and cool. Keep the remainder stock on a soft boil.
  5. Stir the gelatine into the cooled stock until melted. Add the boiling stock and stir well. Allow to cool to room temperature and pour into the super cooled loaf pan. Refrigerate until set.

FrenchOnionSoupPillows_1960

You can develop a little assembly line to speed up the process!

An unexpected, rich, delicious soup explodes in your mouth when you bite into each pillow.

An unexpected, rich, delicious broth explodes in your mouth when you bite into each pillow.

Directions for assembling the pillows:

  1. Roll out the pasta dough to #4 thickness on the Kitchenaid Pasta roller (less than 1 mm or 0.125 inch). Using a 6-7cm (2.5″ -2.75″) oval cookie cutter, cut out the ovals to make both sides of the pillows.
  2. Remove the jelled broth from the fridge and cut into 0.5-1cm (0.25″-0.5″) rectangles.
  3. Onto each oval, more or less centred, add one jelled broth rectangle and about 1/4 tsp caramelized onion. Wet your finger and run a wet bead along the outer edge of the pasta oval. Turn up both sides of the oval and squeeze the edges together to bind — you don’t want these pillows to burst open when boiling.
  4. Lightly flour a parchment lined baking sheet and add each finished pillow to it so as not to touch each other. Freeze and bag frozen pillows into a zip lock bag or container. Use as many as needed.
  5. Bring an appropriate  amount of salted water to a boil. Add frozen pillows and boil until they float to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon onto a clean dish cloth to drain off water. Present on a Chinese soup spoon and garnish with a small amount of finely grated gruyère cheese. Brûlée the cheese until it is golden and crispy. Serve immediately.

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The Brûléed Gruyère cheese taste just like the burnt bits on a French Onion soup bowl.

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Hello everyone! I do hope you are enjoying the holidays. As you may have heard on the news Toronto was savagely hit with an ice storm last weekend and over half a million homes were left without power, some still don’t have power. I am very pleased to report that our power was only out for about  28 hours so it wasn’t that bad. We did have to rejig our Christmas plans as we were to host festivities on Christmas Day and not knowing how quickly the power would be restored we made arrangements to have it at JT’s sister’s place in Peterborough (the power company had indicated it may be 5 days!). My nephew Brian kindly offered us his apartment for warmth which was great because I had to prepare a few things to take for Christmas Eve’s dinner and Christmas Day dinner. It made me realize how fragile we are and how dependant we are on power, particularly in the winter. Fortunately, we didn’t lose food,  we put refrigerator things to keep cool outside and the freezer was cold enough and full enough to maintain the frosty temperature (thanks to Norma Garden to Wok, who kindly suggested to put buckets of ice into it if it wasn’t chuck full).
The house temperature fell to around 10°C  (50°F) so we turned the water off and put antifreeze in the traps and toilets. We didn’t have to do anything with our hot water rads, apparently they are good until the temperature falls below freezing for a couple of days. Of course, that’s just a wild guess and I am so glad we didn’t have to find out the hard way. Many of our dear friends reached out to us and offered a warm place to stay, which was incredibly generous, THANK YOU! We are indeed very lucky to be surrounded by such a wonderful group. Merry Christmas indeed.

As the holiday season continues and we are partying with gusto, I wanted to pass along a recipe I developed after Barb and I were introduced to a very novel hors d’œuvres at the KPMG Clara Hughes event in November. This hors d’œuvres was so unique and delicious I had wanted to try to recreate it for cocktails with Barb and her family on Christmas Eve, a tradition we’ve been enjoying for many years, but unfortunately we were one household of a 250,000 left without power for a few day after the ice storm last weekend so I put it off. It’s not complicated but it does require technique so you may wish to practice a bit before you serve it up at your party. You will need a slab of ice, easily made using a cookie sheet or roasting pan, or more authentically a good amount of freshly fallen, CLEAN snow. In the city, our snow is not very clean, so I opted for the slab of ice.

The sweet candied Maple Syrup provides a wonderful contrast to sharp cheese such as blue, extra old cheddar or even Parmesan (any double or triple cream cheeses will be too soft to do this with)..

Maple Cheese Popsicles

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1 slab of ice (or shaved ice*), made using a cookie sheet or rectangular roasting pan (you will need to make this 2 days or more in advance). Add sprigs of Christmas tree trimmings and bright red cranberries for a festive feel. I lined a 10″ x 13″ x 2″ roasting pan with plastic wrap to help me lift the ice out of the pan.
  • An accurate candy thermometer.
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup (any colour will do, but we used Amber).
  • A variety of cheeses (such as blue, extra old cheddar or even Parmesan) cut into 1 cm x 2 (1/2 inch x 1 inch) rectangles.
  • tooth picks.

Directions:

Prepare everything in advance:

  1. Bring the cheese to room temperature, place one tooth pick into each and set the little soldiers aside.
  2. Prepare a lovely serving dish by lightly spraying it with non-stick spray. You will set the maple cheese popsicles onto this dish and if it’s not sprayed, the maple candy will stick to it (at least that was my experience).
  3. To keep the maple syrup from setting up as you prepare these delightful bites, fill a cake pan deep enough to hold boiling water about half way to three-quarter the way up the small sauce pan sides. Place it directly at your work station.
  4. Place a dish cloth at your work station and put the slab of ice on it (decorate the edges with Christmas tree clippings or add cranberries and greenery to the ice when you make it so that it’s very festive. You may remove the pan or leave the ice it in, it’s up to you).

Now you are ready to begin cooking the maple syrup:

  1. When all of your guests have arrived, put the maple syrup into a heavy bottomed very small sauce pan (mine was ~1 cup (250mL) volume) and insert the candy thermometer, cook on medium to medium-high heat until it reaches 240° F (116° C) which is about 8-10 minutes depending on how cold your maple syrup was to begin with. Watch the syrup carefully as once it hits 250° F (121° C) it will begin to crystallize and it will be ruined for this application, but you can use it in coffee or tea, so don’t discard.
  2. When the maple syrup has reached  240° F (116° C), remove it immediately from the heat and place the sauce pan into the bath with the boiling water.
  3. Using a dry spoon which holds about 1 tsp, drizzle the maple syrup in a lace-like rectangular pattern on the ice slab long enough to roll the cheese in once. Almost immediately after you finish drizzling, using one of the prepared cheese bites on a tooth pick, begin at one end and roll up the maple candy around the cheese. Either hand it to a guest or place it on the prepared serving platter.
  4. Repeat until you have used up all of the cheese. If your kitchen is chilly, you may wish to replace the boiling water bath about half way through so that the syrup doesn’t set up.

These photos were from the second trial, the first trial didn’t work out!

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Although these aren’t as lacy as I would have liked, they did turn out better than I expected.

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It takes a bit of practice to get the technique right.

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The maple candy starts to melt, that’s why it’s good to spray your serving dish with non-stick spray. I made these about 30 minutes ahead and stored them in the fridge and they still melted a bit.

Notes:

  • If you forgot to make your slab of ice, you can take  about 10 ice cubes and in a good strong blender or food processor, pulse until you achieve a reasonable amount of shaved ice without big bits. The shaved ice will melt faster therefore it is a good idea to have more ice on hand to refill the shaved ice container. You will need to continue to work so have your kitchen helper shave more ice, or prepare it in advance and store it in the freezer on another cookie sheet or flat platter.
  • I prefer blue cheese as the pairing with the sweet maple syrup, but some people don’t like blue, so have some cheddar on hand.
  • Fry up some thick cut bacon that is cut into 1 cm x 2 (1/2 inch x 1 inch) rectangles and wrap the maple around it as an alternative option.

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