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Posts Tagged ‘comfort food’

Magic Apple Cobbler

 

We first tasted this wonderful dessert at a friend’s place where we had lunch, outside on a particularly chilly early fall day. I asked our host to give JT a bit more so I could have a taste, and I almost couldn’t stop. It is THAT good. And it’s so easy to make, I can whip it up in a matter of minutes. I have significantly reduced (about half) the sugar and butter content, but don’t turn away, it is plenty rich and delicious! The dessert works well with fresh fruit but also works well with frozen fruit (defrost and drain first so it doesn’t wet the batter too much).

What is really amazing (and delicious) is the way the batter caramelizes in the butter, it becomes so moreish! You will abandon all other cobbler recipes!!! I kid you not.

The very dark bits are where I put too much of the cinnamon sugar, it’s not burnt.

Magic Apple Cobbler

Makes one 17 cm x 27 cm (6 3/4 inch x 10 3/4 inch) pan of fruit-filled, caramelized cobbler

Please click here for the original recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 90 g unsalted butter
  • 150 g AP flour
  • 150 g sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, divided
  • 175 mL whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp almond essence
  • 2 medium apples, peeled and cubed

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter in a 17 cm x 27 cm (6 3/4 inch x 10 3/4 inch) pan (same pan you will use for the cobbler) as the oven is pre-heating to 375F. Remove the pan from the oven when butter had melted.
  2. Combine the flour, sugar (less 2 tbsp), baking powder, 1 tsp cinnamon and salt. Combine the milk, vanilla and almond essence and stir well.
  3. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and whisk until smooth.
  4. Spoon the batter into the melted butter, don’t worry that it’s messy.
  5. Sprinkle the cubed apples onto the batter and press them into the batter.
  6. Combine the remaining 2 tbsp sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon and sprinkle over the apples and batter.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the batter comes out clean.
  8. Serve warm but not straight from the oven.

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Way back in November, 2019, I made a version of this cake in Arizona. It seems a life-time ago. We don’t know when we will be able to travel again so it’s nice to have some food memories to be nostalgic about. I made this for an outdoor brunch last July for a gluten-intolerant friend.

Gluten-Free Reduced-Sugar Orange Olive Oil Cake

Makes one 23 cm (9 inch) cake

Please click here for the original recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 100 g coconut sugar, divided
  • 80 mL EVOO
  • 5 mL vanilla
  • Zest of 2 oranges
  • Juice of 2 oranges, divided
  • 150 g all-purpose gluten-free flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Icing sugar for dusting

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F
  2. Spray a 23 cm pan with non-stick spray and line bottom with parchment paper.
  3. Combine the eggs and 95 g coconut sugar and beat until light, fluffy and smooth.
  4. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and vanilla while beating.
  5. Add all of the zest and 45 mL of the freshly squeezed orange juice and beat until well combined.
  6. In a separate bowl combine the gluten free flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix well.
  7. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and beat only until combined.
  8. Pour into the prepared 23 cm pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick tests clean. Allow to cool.
  9. Meanwhile, combine the remaining juice and sugar and bring to a boil until the sugar has melted into the juice. Cool and add the Grand Marnier.
  10. Turn out the cooled cake onto a decorative plate and slowly spoon the orange juice mixture onto the cake allowing it to be absorbed.
  11. Decorate with sprinkled icing sugar just before serving.

The lovely syrup makes this cake lusciously moist.

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Fall has snuck into our lives. The air is crisper and the sun peaks out of the clouds on rare occasion. I am beginning to really worry about November; for the last four years, we have Novembered in Arizona, where it’s sunny. Every. Single. Day. November in Toronto is dreary at best, cold, grey and wet. Generally not very pretty. We have decided to postpone any travel plans for the next year or so until this COVID beast works itself out. So we will not be spending the month of November in Arizona. I am concerned.

November is a bear, but so can the odd day in September and October. One such dreary late September afternoon, we decided to watch a movie and I made this popcorn recipe. I did not make the fourteen cups that the original recipe called for, ours worked out to be about half which was too much for the two of us, but should suffice for three or four. To be honest, I’ve never had Ballpark Caramel Corn (but I have been to a couple of ball games). This recipe intrigued me because of the molasses addition which gives the corn a slightly anise-flavour.

This recipe is perfect for movie night or Halloween night. We have decided to heed government advice and not participate in Halloween, so we’ve opted out of decorating our house for the occasion but some people have gone all out. This house is about a 20 minute walk from our place on an adjacent street.

Ball Park Caramel Corn

For the original recipe, please click here.

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 100 g peanuts
  • 120 g kernels
  • 75 g butter
  • 165 g brown sugar
  • 60 mL molasses
  • 2.5 mL salt
  • Pinch of baking soda

Directions:

  1. Pop the kernels. Preheat the oven to 250° F. Prepare a large baking sheet by spraying with a non-stick spray.
  2. Combine all of the ingredients but the baking soda, popcorn and peanuts in a heavy-bottom pan, mix well.
  3. Heat until it reaches a temperature of 268° F, quickly stir in the baking soda, being careful as it could bubble over. Combine the popped corn and peanuts, mix well. Pour the molasses mixture over the popped corn and peanuts, working quickly to mix the molasses into the corn.
  4. Pour the coated corn and peanuts onto the prepared baking sheet and spread out, it doesn’t have to be in a single layer and clusters are preferred. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring once around 7 minutes.
  5. Allow to cool completely, then break apart into varying cluster sizes. Serve in ballpark popcorn containers.

Notes:

  • The original recipe suggests salted peanuts, we are trying to reduce our salt intake so I used plain peanuts.
  • This is a richer flavoured take on caramel corn, which I find equally as delicious.

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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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Some time ago, the wee menu on Facebook on my iPhone changed to include videos and a whole bunch of other garbage I wasn’t interested in. I figured out a way to customize it but I left in the videos because it made me look at suggested videos on my feed which was advantageous because I would have never come across Nigella Lawson’s recipe for Kedgeree. The ingredients and origin of the dish enticed me.

“According to “Larousse Gastronomique”, what we call kedgeree originated from a concoction of spiced lentils, rice, fried onions and ginger known as khichiri dating back to the 14th century and eaten across India. The early colonists developed a taste for it, as it reminded them of nursery food” (from The Economist, please click here for the link).

Nigella’s version was made with rice and some simple spices such as curry. On perusing the internet, I discovered that many recipes did not include curry powder but a variety of spices to make the flavours more interesting. We love cumin, coriander and turmeric so those were my spices of choice. I also found a few recipes to include raisins which brought me right back to Morocco. I thought I’d give the dish a go and it was very successful with the exception that it was a bit dry. I have amended my ingredients to include a little extra chicken stock to give it a bit more wetness, not quite like risotto but just this side of it.

The recipe is full of flavour and works well as a quick weeknight meal.

Kedgeree

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 150 g hot smoked salmon
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
  • 100 g sweet onions, finely chopped
  • 30 g butter
  • 5 g cumin
  • 5 g coriander
  • 5 g turmeric
  • 130 g basmati rice, rinsed
  • 300 mL chicken stock, plus more for wetness
  • 8 g puréed roasted garlic
  • 10 mL fish sauce
  • 25 g sultana raisins
  • Cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced

Directions:

  1. In a medium sauce-pan, sauté the onions in the butter until translucent, add the spices and cook until fragrant. Rinse the rice and strain. Toast the rice with the onions and spices until it’s fairly dry.
  2. Combine the chicken stock with the roasted garlic and fish sauce and add it to the rice cooker, mix in the sautéed onions, rice and raisins and cook as directed by the manufacturer. When cooked, stir in a little additional chicken stock to achieve the desired wetness in the rice.
  3. Flake the salmon and toss it with the cooked rice on a serving platter. Sprinkle with the cilantro and lime zest and juice. Garnish with the hard-boiled eggs. Serve at any temperature you wish.

Notes:

  • This is not an authentic kedgeree recipe, it is my version of several recipes after I discovered this dish on the web.
  • Most recipes use curry powder but I prefer the flavours of cumin, coriander and turmeric in this recipe.
  • As with many Indian foods, this is likely an English bastardization.
  • To make this dish vegetarian, or vegan, use coconut oil instead of butter, vegetable stock instead of chicken and tofu or beans instead of salmon.
  • We grilled our Pacific Salmon on the Big Green Egg which provided enough smoky flavour to the dish. If it’s not enough, add a little smoked paprika to achieve a slightly smokier flavour.
  • It seems that this dish can be eaten at any time at any temperature but we prefer it warm for lunch or dinner.

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In late August we had friends over for a wonderful outdoor dinner and I asked if they wouldn’t mind bringing dessert. I usually like to control the entire event, but summer is a lot more casual and dining al fresco has added more of a casual flavour to our entertaining, so I thought, why not. My friend made these chocolate brownies (with raspberry instead of cherry) from Donna Hay and I must say they were totally swoon-worthy. So rich and chocolatey and the preserves just added a lovely moist texture. I did not have raspberry jam but I did have a good handful of frozen cherries so I popped them into a pan with a drizzle of water and a spoon of sugar and cooked them, then I puréed them with my stick blender and further cooked them down to just less than 125 mL.

Just dollop the preserves on top and swirl a knife through to make this marble-like pattern.

Chocolate-Cherry Brownies

Makes 1 23 cm square pan. Original recipe by Donna Hay

Ingredients:

  • 114 g butter
  • 125 g unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3 large eggs
  • 375 g sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5 mL vanilla extract
  • 125 g all-purpose flour
  • 125 mL cherry preserves

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a 23 cm square pan with parchment and butter or spray with non-stick spray.
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate over low heat.
  3. Whisk together the eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla extract until smooth. Add the flour and stir in.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Dot with spoonfuls of cherry preserves on top. Run a knife through to make a marbled pattern.
  5. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until an inserted toothpick still has a few moist crumbs attached when extracted. Allow to cool completely in the pan and cut into even squares, I got 16.

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Recently, we have fallen in love with Cholula Green Pepper Hot sauce but it is very difficult to find in Toronto. Sure, everyone carries the original red version, but we can never seem to find the green one. It’s not quite as hot as the red one but it really livens up flavours, like our Huevos Rancheros! I decided I would try and make my own and so I shall share it with you.

Green Pepper Jalopeño Hot Sauce

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 400-500 mL hot sauce

Ingredients:

  • 15 mL olive oil
  • 440 g green peppers (about 355 g cored and seeded)
  • 320 g jalapenos (about 235 g cored and seeded)
  • 1 large shallot (about 65 g)
  • 15 mL puréed garlic
  • 300 mL water
  • 75 mL cider vinegar
  • splash of agave syrup
  • Salt and white pepper

Directions:

  1. Core, seed and remove veins of the peppers (to your taste) and toss with the olive oil.
  2. Roast the peppers until their skin blisters. Peel off the skin as best as you could. Roast the shallot so that it’s almost soft.
  3. Add everything but the agave syrup to a pan and cover with the water and vinegar. Simmer until everything is super soft, about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Purée the pepper mixture until smooth and press through a fine sieve. Add in a splash of the agave syrup, salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Transfer to sterilized jars and refrigerate. Will last a few months in the fridge.

Notes:

  • The quantity will depend on how fine a sieve you have. I generally run it through a fine metal sieve to catch larger bits, then I press it through a very fine, reusable coffee filter. It makes a beautiful, silky sauce.
  • If you prefer a hotter sauce, leave more of the ribs on the Jalopeños. I can’t tolerate the extreme heat so my sauce is only mildly hot.

 

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Way back in 2009, I blogged about this recipe from the LCBO magazine, Leek and Mushroom tart but I didn’t have a photo of it. It’s quite a tasty tart, particularly if you use puff pastry as the base. It’s definitely not something we eat often so I thought I’d splurge and reblog about it. It makes a lovely brunch dish.

LCBO’s Leek and Mushroom Tart

Makes one tart 35.5 cm x 11.4 cm x 2.5 cm (14″ x 4.5″ x1″)

For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 375 mL Evaporated Milk or heavy cream
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 large egg
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 30 g unsalted butter
  • 250 g mixed mushrooms (shiitake, porcini, cremini, oyster etc.), stems removed where necessary and thickly sliced
  • 1 medium wild leek cleaned well and cut into thin slices
  • 30 mL white wine
  • 2.5 mL chopped fresh thyme
  • One 35.5 cm x 11.4 cm x 2.5 cm tart shell, partially baked
  • 2 long slices of prosciutto, or 4 small rounds, cut or torn into smaller bits

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
  2. Place Evaporated Milk or heavy cream and garlic cloves in a large pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil then turn the heat down to low and simmer gently for 25 minutes or until milk is flavoured with the garlic and reduced to 250 mL and garlic is very soft. Set aside to cool. Remove garlic cloves, mash with a fork and return to cream. When cool add egg and beat until uniform. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat 15 g butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes or until browned. Season with salt and pepper to taste and scrape into a bowl.
  4. Add the remaining 15 g of butter to pan and heat over medium heat. Add leeks and sauté for 1 minute or until they are softened. Add wine and thyme to pan and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more or until leeks are limp and the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat.
  5. Arrange mushrooms and leeks in the tart shell and pour milk over top (making sure that mushrooms and leeks peep through the cream.
  6. Top with prosciutto (this will get very crispy).
  7. Bake for 30 minutes or until set and lightly golden. Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.

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We have been eating a lot more ice cream this year than any other year. In fact, I bet if I added up all the gelato and ice cream we have eaten since May, it will exceed my lifetime consumption! In one summer! JT has never been a big fan but for some reason, this year he is ravenous for it! I generally don’t like to keep ice cream or gelato in my freezer because it literally calls my name at all hours. Anyway, it doesn’t count if you eat it directly out of the container, standing up with the freezer door open. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Vanilla Bean Gelato

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 550 mL gelato

Ingredients:

  • 250 mL 2% milk
  • 250 mL 35% cream
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 65 g sugar
  • 16 g cornstarch
  • 10 g skim milk powder
  • 5 mL vanilla bean paste

Directions:

  1. Begin by mixing the milk and cream together. Reserve 65 mL of the milk mixture and make a slurry with the cornstarch, mixing until the starch is dissolved and the mixture is smooth.
  2. Combine remainder of the milk in a medium-sized saucepan with the egg yolk, sugar and the milk powder and heat slowly until it almost comes to a boil making sure the sugar and milk powder have completely dissolved.
  3. Stir in the cornstarch slurry and continue to cook on medium-low heat for 3 minutes, stirring continuously until thickened.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the cream to a bowl to chill overnight in the refrigerator.
  5. The day you wish to make the gelato, fold in the vanilla bean paste until thoroughly incorporated.
  6. Freeze the gelato according to directions on your ice cream maker.

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

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

Baja Mexican Beans and Lentil Dip with Lime Sauce and Salsa

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

For the original recipe please click here

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

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

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It’s been brutally hot in Toronto. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, because -20° C with windchill will be here soon enough, so I look for cooling and comforting dishes to help manage the heat. We’ve been entertaining a lot but only outside. Most of our friends are uncomfortable about being indoors at the moment (as am I) and then you layer having to wear masks on top of the anxiety of being indoors and it’s no longer fun. But outside is much easier to transition to (from Zoom) so, we’ve been entertaining outside a lot. At the time of writing this post (July 21) Toronto was only in stage 2 of opening and looking at the poor example some of our cousins in the south have set, our government is being extremely conservative in getting back to “normal”. So we are entertaining a lot, outside. (Repetition was intentional 🤪)

This delicious gelato recipe was created for dessert for dear friends, served in homemade waffle cones, which didn’t turn out as successfully as I had hoped so they are not being blogged about! I had asked JT what flavour of gelato he wanted and he immediately said Pistachio, oh good, not too difficult, right? I decided on David Lebovitz’s recipe with a few minor alterations. The result was exceptional. I was not able to find his preferred pistachio paste in the timeframe I needed it so I improvised and made my own. I had not made a gelato using cornstarch as a thickener before but I must say, it did work out very well. I added the skim milk powder to make it even creamier and it did not disappoint. Skim milk powder absorbs excess water and gives the gelato a creamier flavour.

Fortunately, my pistachios were a lovely green so I didn’t need to add any food colouring. It’s all-natural!

Super creamy and full of pistachio flavour.

Pistachio Gelato

Makes about 750 mL gelato

For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 250 mL 2% milk
  • 250 mL 35% cream
  • 65 g sugar
  • 16 g cornstarch
  • 10 g skim milk powder
  • ~200 g pistachio butter (see Notes)
  • a few drops of orange extract

Directions:

  1. Begin by mixing the milk and cream together. Reserve 65 mL of the milk mixture and make a slurry with the cornstarch, mixing until the starch is dissolved and the mixture is smooth.
  2. Combine remainder of the milk in a medium-sized saucepan with the sugar and the milk powder and heat slowly until it almost comes to a boil making sure the sugar and milk powder have completely dissolved.
  3. Stir in the cornstarch slurry and continue to cook on medium-low heat for 3 minutes, stirring continuously until thickened.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the cream to a bowl to chill overnight in the refrigerator.
  5. The day you wish to make the gelato, beat in the pistachio butter and a few drops of the orange extract.
  6. Freeze the gelato according to directions on your ice cream maker.

Notes:

  1. David Lebovitz suggests using Bronte Crema di Pistacchio which is made in Sicily. I was not able to source it so I made my own pistachio butter with 200 g of shelled pistachios with small amounts of water, a small dash of lemon juice and a pinch of salt, puréed until smooth using my Magic Bullet. You will need to scrape down the sides many times through the process.
  2. Next time I make this recipe, I will lightly toast the pistachios.

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When I was first dating JT, back in the eighties, his dear Mom would make a version of this salad for lunch. She wasn’t into cooking so this type of dish was perfect, few ingredients and easy to assemble. She would poach the chicken where I prefer to use leftover BBQ’d chicken because of the additional flavours the smoke of a charcoal BBQ adds, but leftover rotisserie chicken works wonderfully as well. The original recipe was heavy in mayonnaise, I like to lighten it up with a little yoghurt and a splash of lemon juice. The flavours and textures really hit the spot.

Waldorf Salad was created by Oscar Tschirky, in the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City in 1896. The original Waldorf was made with only apples, celery, and mayonnaise, it did not contain a protein or nuts. The latter two were additions made in the 20th century. I like to make this salad with chicken or canned tuna, both are equally satisfying.

Chicken Waldorf Salad

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 2 portions for lunch or a light dinner

Ingredients:

  • 100 g BBQ’d or rotisserie chicken, cubed or 1 tin albacore chunk tuna in water or stock 
  • 1/2 cup diced celery (dice all items similar size)
  • 1/2 green onion finely chopped
  • 1/2 apple, diced 
  • 2 tbsp walnuts pieces, toasted
  • squirt of lemon juice, more for taste 
  • 15 mL mayo (I used full strength)
  • 15 mL yoghurt (I used an Icelandic style)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Drain the tuna and set aside, if using.
  2. Add the apple to a small bowl and squirt a bit of lemon juice on it to prevent it from oxidizing.
  3. Add the celery, green onion, walnuts and apple to a bowl and combine well.
  4. Combine the mayo and yogurt with a squirt of lemon juice, salt and pepper and stir well. Add it to the vegetable fruit mix and coat evenly.
  5. Add the cubed chicken or chunk tuna and stir until equally distributed.
  6. Serve on a bed of salad greens, butter lettuce is particularly nice.

 

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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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During the lockdown, a dear friend and neighbour made this awesome banana bread and brought us a slice! We toasted it and added a wee dollop of butter and OMG! It was so good!

It’s difficult to believe that there is no flour in this quick bread.

Low Carb Banana Bread

Makes one 21.6 cm x 11.4 cm (4″ x 7″) loaf pan, about 12 servings

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray for the pan
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 large very ripe bananas, well mashed (375 mL)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp erythritol
  • 230 g blanched finely ground almond flour (see notes)
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a small loaf pan with parchment paper.
  2. Add all the ingredients to a food processor and pulse to blend.
  3. Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean, carefully lift out of the pan and cool on a rack.

Notes:

  • I use Kirkland blanched finely ground almond flour

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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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Season 20 of America’s Test Kitchen seems to be reinventing the wheel for the sake of reinventing the wheel. Case in point is this simple, yet flavourful recipe for steamed fish; ATK goes through some gyrations creating a foil sling to hold the fish and then wrapping the pan in even more foil. This presents two problems for me, it uses too much foil and the foil actually creates a barrier to the steaming ingredients. I created this dish the old fashioned way, en papillote, a tried and true envelope made of parchment paper and it worked perfectly. Although steamed fish can be boring, this one really brings it on so I would definitely recommend this as a dinner party main. It’s definitely a keeper.

The foil sling is a bit overkill, in my opinion.

Asian Inspired Steamed Whitefish

Please click here for the original recipe.

Serves 2 as a main.

Ingredients:

  • 15 mL black vinegar
  • 45 mL soy sauce
  • 10 mL Chinese rice wine
  • 7.5 mL toasted sesame oil
  • 7.5 mL sugar
  • 10 mL roasted garlic purée
  • .5 mL ground white pepper
  • 4 scallions
  • 10 cm ginger, divided
  • 200 g firm whitefish (see notes)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • a handful of fresh cilantro leaves

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450° F.
  2. Combine the black vinegar, soy sauce, rice wine, toasted sesame oil, roasted garlic purée, sugar and white pepper and mix well. Set aside.
  3. Cut two scallions in about 2 cm pieces. Finely slice the other two scallions and set aside. Peel and cut 3/4 of the ginger into about 2 cm pieces and add to the cut scallions. Slice the remaining ginger into matchsticks, set aside.
  4. Line a baking pan large enough to hold the fish in a single layer with parchment (making sure there is enough parchment to enclose the fish). Add the scallions and the roughly chopped ginger to the centre of the parchment paper.
  5. Add the Fish on top of the scallion and ginger base, pour the sauce over the fish, allowing to pool below the fish.
  6. Bring up the sides of the parchment, to form a tent and fold and twist to seal and hold in place.
  7. Place the pan on the middle baking rack and steam until the fish reaches 125° F to 130° F.
  8. Meanwhile, heat 30 mL of vegetable oil in a small saucepan and fry the matchstick ginger until crispy.
  9. Serve on sticky rice garnished with the finely cut scallions and crispy ginger drizzled with the steaming broth.

Notes:

  • Firm whitefish options are haddock, cod, tilapia, monkfish. We used cod in this recipe. It is important to use similarly thick pieces of fish so they steam evenly.
  • I use this awesome wireless thermometer.
  • This recipe would be beautiful sous vide.

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How are you? It’s a question that has gained more substance than it garnered in the past. We used to ask it in passing, often not even thinking about the answer, which was usually, “fine”. Our answers have become more thoughtful because now we are genuinely asking. Making sure everyone is “fine” is the only way of taking care of one another at this time.

I honestly miss cooking for my friends and family. Oh sure, I’ve baked a few care-packages, but it’s not the same as sharing a meal you’ve laboured over with love. Sharing your home, a meal, or a drink with people you love. This blog also allows me to share, I thank you for kind words and support during this unparalleled time. So how are you?

I’ve been cooking a lot. It makes my day more interesting and we really look forward to the meals which have become more of a focus these days. It also makes me think of all the wonderful times we’ve shared meals with friends and family.

Several years ago we met up with friends in Almeria, we were staying one night and then driving to my cousin’s flat in San José. We stumbled upon Joseba Anorga Taberna quite by accident and had one of many memorable meals that time in Spain. One of the tapas we ordered was a seared scallop in a creamy corn velouté and it was incredibly delicious. The unexpected combination of sweet corn and sweet scallops hit our tastes perfectly. I filed it in my recipe vault in my head and in 2018, I recreated the dish and it did not disappoint.

Scallop wrapped in Iberian bacon bathed in a corn emulsion

Fast forward to our 2020 Spanish adventure to one of our favourite tapas tabernas in Almeria where we had a marvellous creamy rice dish with mushrooms. It was delicious, creamy, cheesy and absolutely more-ish. Upon our return to Toronto, I wanted to recreate the dish but I had scallops and corn on my mind, so I reinvented it.

Creamy Mushroom Risotto from Casa Paquita in Almeria.

I had also filed a wonderful cauliflower risotto recipe that my friend David (Fine Dining at Home) posted in 2012. He recreated a Heston Blumenthal recipe where Heston made a really flavourful stock using the cauliflower end cuts and I wondered if corn-stock would have a similar effect on the risotto. It sure did! Of course, because my dish had scallops in it, I skipped the cheese and used the creamed corn velouté from the stock to add more creaminess to the disk. You could also add a splash of cream or butter.

Creamy Corn Risotto with Bay Scallops

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2 for a main course or 4 for an appetizer course.

Ingredients:

  • 200 g frozen corn see notes)
  • ~250 mL water
  • Pinch of salt
  • ~250 mL chicken bone broth (or the amount that would yield 500 mL corn broth in total)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 75 g sweet onion, finely minced
  • 10 mL roasted garlic purée
  • 120 g La Bomba Rice
  • 30 g clarified butter
  • 200 g bay scallops

Directions:

  1. To make the corn broth, bring the frozen corn, water and salt to a simmer for 15 minutes. Allow to sit for 20 minutes. Strain and reserve both the corn and broth separately. Reserve 70 g corn kernals, set aside.
  2. Add the chicken bone broth to the corn broth to make 500 mL stock and heat to a simmer.
  3. Purée the cooked corn (minus the 70 g) from the corn broth and press through a fine sieve. Reserve.
  4. Heat the oil in a medium Dutch oven and sauté the onions until translucent. Add the garlic. Add the dry rice and toast, stirring for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add the warm broth 125 mL at a time, stirring constantly, adding additional broth as the rice absorbs it. The rice should be tender with a small bite to it and it should be creamy but not soupy. This process will take about 25 minutes. Add the puréed corn and stir well. Turn the heat off, cover and set aside.
  6. Dry the bay scallops well. Heat the butter in a cast-iron frying pan, add the scallops to the pan but do not crowd, we want seared scallops not steamed!
  7. When the scallops have cooked fully, add to the risotto and stir. Plate.

Notes:

  • Grilled corn would have been better but we were still on lock-down when I made this dish. Grilled corn cobs would have made excellent stock.
  • Bacon would have been a nice addition, I had actually forgotten I had some in the freezer, next time.

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During our first major grocery shopping when we arrived in Spain, JT bought some frozen ready-made Tuna Empanadas. I was excited because we love tuna and we love empanadas and we had never had tuna empanadas. Sadly, we were extremely disappointed, the quality just wasn’t there. The filling was mainly tomato sauce with nary a taste of tuna. But I got the taste of empanada in my head and I knew eventually, I would need to make some.

I made most of our meals during our time in Spain. And when I did, I made double or triple batches so that we could have a quick lunch or dinner after a tiring day of exploring. The European refrigerator in our flat has three good-size freeezer drawers to store home-made meals. At home in Toronto, I make these traditional Chilean empanada made with beef and pork; years ago a friend and neighbour kindly showed my Mom how to make and it’s been family favourite ever since. But in Spain, beef is not as common so I decided to use Chicken. I didn’t grind the chicken (no meat grinder) but I roughly chopped it into smallish chunks so that you can still get a chicken texture as you eat the empanada. Another option would be to roast it and shred it.

The winds on the Med had increased to about 45 km per hour, which made sitting outside nearly impossible. In fact, I was worried the wind would pick up the empanada and steal it away!

Empanadas de Pollo (Chicken Empanada)

Makes 6 large empanadas

Ingredients:

  • 30 mL olive oil
  • 90 g onions, roughly chopped
  • 12 g roasted puréed garlic
  • 433 – 450 g skinless chicken breast, roughly chopped
  • 12 black olives, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 10 dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 200 g frozen mixed vegetables, defrosted and drained
  • 3 g cumin
  • 1 g smoked paprika
  • 3 sheets puff pastry, defrosted in the refrigerator
  • 1 egg, whisked with 30 mL water

Directions:

  1. Sauté the onions in the olive oil until translucent. 
  2. Add the chicken and stir to cook evenly. Cook all the way through.
  3. Add the roasted garlic, cumin and cook stirring until fragrant. Remove from heat and stir in the drained frozen vegetables, black olives and dates. Set aside in the refrigerator to cool completely.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each puff pastry sheet to 20 cm x 40 cm and cut in half, then cut each half into a 20 cm circle, reserve pastry ends for the fancy finish.
  5. Brush all around the edges with the egg wash. Fill one half of the round with 1/6th of the cooked, cooled chicken mixture leaving about 2 cm all the way around the edge and then fold half to create a crescent, pressing down the edges to seal.
  6. Brush the top of the empanada with the egg wash. Finish edges into a fancy design (I used the left-over pastry and made it into a rope design). Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate or freeze until ready to bake.
  7. Continue with remaining ingredients until you have 6 meal-sized empanadas. 
  8. Freeze for future use or bake at 400° F until pastry is golden.
  9. Serve with a lightly dressed salad.
The vegetables are also unusual for empanadas, but we like veggies so I added them!

Notes:

  • Traditional Chilean Empanadas are made with golden raisins but believe it or not, I was not able to find any type of raisins in our little village so I used dates. This is not a sweet dish, the dates or raisins just add a bit of sweetness so taste your dates or raisins and determine how many you will use depending on how sweet they are. The dates I used were not the same sweetness that the dates I buy in North America, so I used ten, but you may need to reduce it if you use the super sweet kind. 
  • I used puff pastry because my little kitchen in Spain is ill-equipped and very small. You can use this recipe for pastry but I am unsure of how well-fitting the proportions of filling to pastry will be. You can always freeze extra pastry in a ziplock bag.

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As our time in Spain was sadly coming to an end, I had developed a menu plan that utilizes the food we had in our pantry/refrigerator so that there was little to no waste (I didn’t have a group of friends here to have a pantry clean out party with). This was one of those meals.

As most recipes, this one evolved to the posted rendition. We’ve enjoyed this meal a few times in Spain and again during the weeks of isolation upon our return. Now my focus is rationing pantry items and getting a tasty, healthy meal out of a recipe. A few friends have kindly offered to grocery shop for us, for which we have been grateful because the online shopping/delivery services all seem to be a week out! But I don’t want to push their generosity, so I’m rationing the staples. Plus, this is a fantastic opportunity to clean out my Toronto pantry!!!

Mediteranean Tuna Casserole

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

  • 100 g dry Romano Beans, cooked
  • 125 mL greek yogurt
  • 5 mL roasted, puréed garlic
  • Sea salt
  • 100 g celery, sliced thinly
  • 10 black olives, roughly chopped (no pits)
  • 2 roasted red peppers, skinned, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 50 g green onion, thinly sliced
  • 45 g Feta cheese, crumbled
  • 85 g canned tuna, drained
  • Butter, for greasing casserole pan
  • 50 g cheese, grated
  • 50 g bread crumbs, toasted
  • Fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • EVOO

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Whisk the greek yogurt with the roasted garlic and salt. Combine the beans with the celery, black olives, red peppers, green onions, feta and tuna, mix well. Add the yogurt and mix well.
  3. Grease a small casserole with a bit of butter. Pour the tuna mixture into the casserole and spread evenly in the pan.
  4. Combine the grated cheese, breadcrumbs and parsley. Spread evenly over the tuna mixture. Drizzle with a little EVOO.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes or everything is heated through. Tent with foil if the breadcrumbs are toasting too quickly.
  6. Serve hot.

Notes:

  • This is a meal that I was trying to use up ingredients, if it strikes your fancy, throw caution to the wind and improvise with whatever you have in the fridge/pantry!
  • The first version had rotini pasta which was lovely but I prefer the beans.

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This is one of the last recipes I developed in Spain, before we returned to reality on March 12. We’re already talking about two months next year, provided things settle down and the world becomes safe again. JT and I left on the second last plane to Gatwick from Almeria, they cancelled the flights the next day! We are so fortunate in so many ways. We hope everyone is doing well under the circumstances.

I was inspired by Chef David Rocco’s Instagram post but didn’t have some of the spices he used so I improvised, in addition , this was the culmination of my kitchen clean-out. It turned out exceptionally well and can be eaten as breakfast, brunch or lunch. Heck, you can even have it for dinner. It’s quite easy to prep and you can use whatever vegetables you have on hand, perfect for veg that may not be at their best.

Eggs in Purgatory Indian-style

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 90 g onions, diced
  • 15 mL EVOO
  • 2 g garam masala
  • 2.5 g cumin
  • 1.5 g meat masala
  • 5 g curry powder
  • 250 mL passata
  • 125 mL water
  • 3 g freshly grated ginger
  • 5 mL roasted, puréed garlic
  • 230 g frozen vegetables, defrosted and drained
  • 50 g grilled peppers, diced
  • 2 g fresh Cilantro, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 eggs

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a frying pan and sauté onions until golden. Add the spices and cook until fragrant. Add the passata and water and mix well. Add the vegetables and cilantro and mix until combined.
  2. Prepare an oven proof dish by rubbing with olive oil or butter. Pour in the vegetables and spread out evenly. Make two large divets in the vegetables and crack on egg into each one.
  3. Bake in a 200C preheated oven for 8-10 minutes or until eggs are cooked to your taste.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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We rented a different house this year in Arizona and the kitchen was much better equipped so I had a lot more fun with it. Needless to say, we entertained a lot; three sets of friends came down from Toronto and of course, our two sets of friends in Encantarra were repeated guests. I’m guessing I was the first one to give the kitchen a good workout, even the BBQ had not been used in the two years the house had been rented!

I made this cake the first week we were in Arizona. I found the recipe in a very outdated Phoenix magazine. The recipe was created by a 14-year-old boy. I loved the use of olive oil in it, plus I just adore orange cake. I modified the recipe a bit so that it better reminded me of a cake my dear Mom used to make.

Orange Olive Oil Cake

This recipe originated in the Phoenix magazine, May 2015 but I couldn’t find it online. I’ve converted it to metric and made some alterations.

Makes one 23 cm cake

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 155 g sugar, divided
  • 80 mL EVOO
  • 5 mL vanilla
  • Zest of 2 oranges
  • Juice of 2 oranges, divided
  • 150 g all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 50 mL Grand Marnier
  • Icing sugar for dusting

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F
  2. Spray a 23 cm pan with non-stick spray
  3. Combine the eggs and 135 g sugar and beat until light, fluffy and smooth.
  4. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and vanilla.
  5. Add all of the zest and 45 mL of the freshly squeezed orange juice and beat until well combined.
  6. In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix well.
  7. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and beat only until combined.
  8. Pour into the prepared 23 cm pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick tests clean. Allow to cool.
  9. Meanwhile, combine the remaining juice and sugar and bring to a boil until the sugar has melted into the juice. Cool and add the Grand Marnier.
  10. Turn out the cooled cake onto a decorative plate and slowly spoon the orange juice mixture onto the cake allowing it to be absorbed.
  11. Decorate with icing sugar.

This is a highly flavoured and scented cake that is kept moist by a delicious orangy syrup.

Would you care for a slice?

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As you know, we spent just over a month in Arizona again, and our friends house-sat for us. I made these tasty treats for dessert the night before we left, they absolutely loved them. The cornflakes replaced the graham crackers and we didn’t even miss them. I have made these treats a few times since then.

I often get my dessert inspiration from my dear friend Liz, that Skinny Chick Can Bake; this tasty treat came from her but I modified it to be gluten free. Although I’ve never tasted the original version, I can tell you hands down that this one is a real winner! If you like peanut butter and chocolate, give this super easy, tasty treat a go.

Gluten-Free Reese’s Peanut Butter Squares

Makes one 20 cm pan

Please click here for the original recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 15 mL butter, melted
  • 120 g corn flakes, pulsed to a powder
  • 170 g icing sugar
  • 195 g natural peanut butter
  • 6 g sea salt
  • 190 g semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 15 g butter or vegetable oil

Directions:

  1. Combine everything but the chocolate chips and vegetable oil in the large container of your food processor and process until smooth and comes together.
  2. Press into a 20 cm square pan lined with parchment paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile add the chocolate chips and butter or vegetable oil to a microwaveable bowl and melt, stirring intermittently.
  4. Cool slightly and pour over chilled peanut butter pan, spread evenly. Refrigerate for an hour before slicing.
  5. Slice with a warm, dry knife, wiping between slices.

The winter light is quite evident here, but don’t allow that to dissuade you, these are very yummy.

The cornflakes add an incredible texture that make these taste just like Reese’s Peanut Butter Tarts, only better!

Notes:

  • I’ve used a variety of natural peanut butters (no sugar or salt) to make these, including crunchy, with no substantial difference to the outcome of this recipe.
  • To make this recipe vegan, try melted coconut oil. Although I have not tried using melted coconut oil, I’m certain it would work because there is not much in the recipe.
  • Once the recipe initially sets, you can bring the bars to room temperature to serve.
  • Try using other nut butters (such as Hazelnuts) to up the ante!

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