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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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vegetarianbutternutsquashchili_first

We had a bunch of dear friends for Superbowl a few weeks ago and I made this vegetarian chili. I know I’m a little late, but I wanted to capture the recipe for next year. It was delicious and it makes a huge amount (1 L or 8 cups). It has a lot of great flavours and textures, I’ll definitely add it to my repertoire for future Superbowl parties.

Vegetarian Butternut Squash Chili

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1 L (8 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 180 g (1 cup) dried red kidney beans (soaked for 12 hours)
  • 1 small onion, diced (100 g)
  • 1 small carrot, diced (100 g)
  • 1/2 butternut squash, diced (150 g)
  • 2 celery ribs, diced (100 g)
  • 250 mL puréed tomatoes (200 g)
  • vegetable stock or water, to cover
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp red pepper paste
  • 2 tsp ground cumin, toasted
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp smoked sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup Pearl Barley, cooked
  • 1 avocado, for garnish
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, for garnish
  • chopped cilantro, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Put the beans in a pot, cover with 2 inches of water, and bring to a boil. Boil for ten minutes. Drain.
  2. Combine beans with everything but the frozen corn, cooked barley and the garnishes in the bowl of a slow cooker. Add enough water to cover. Cook for 8 hours on low or until beans are tender. Add frozen corn and cooked barley about 30 minutes before serving to allow to heat through.
  3. Serve with garnishes or plain.

vegetarianbutternutsquashchili

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applepreserves_first

This is a naturally sweet applesauce, no added sugar or chemicals, just the beautiful sweetness of the apples!

Since JT and I have embarked on our diet, I have been expanding a recipe collection because there is nothing worse than eating ‘diet food’. JT can attest that our food has been the furthest from ‘diet’, at least, our perception of ‘diet food’. We’ve had:

  • Chicken Schnitzel with cauliflower mash
  • Zucchini spaghetti and chicken meatballs
  • Mushroom and cauliflower crêpes with lentil béchamel sauce
  • Apple and Dijon glazed pork tenderloin
  • Pulled pork tenderloin crêpe with homemade BBQ sauce
  • Navy bean mushroom ‘risotto’
  • Pacific Salmon with cauliflower dill sauce on wilted spinach
  • Chicken Tikka Masala on cauliflower ‘rice’
  • Pork tenderloin on braised red cabbage
  • Pork tenderloin with mushroom sauce on sautéd veggies
  • Tilapia en papillote
  • Bouillabaisse

The real challenge is finding alternatives that fit into the diet parameters so I created this apple preserve (or butter) as a condiment, but also as a sweetener in some of the dishes named above. I try to vary the meals so that we don’t get bored of the same thing.

The other thing that I’m finding quite helpful is weighing everything to make sure we are not having more than we should — I’ve fallen off that bandwagon a few times, so it’s great to get back to it. Measuring is a great tool to keep you on track and it keeps you from inching up the volume (which I can be guilty of)! I measure out 100 g  (3.5 oz) portions of any protein we purchase and freeze them individually. I know each baggy is 100 g (3.5 oz) which is exactly the portion size we should be eating. It doesn’t take long to get used to the smaller volumes particularly since we have to drink a lot of water. And the veggies are quite generous (230 g 8 oz per portion), in fact, JT has a difficult time eating the allotted volume of veggies sometimes (I do a lot of wilted spinach…makes for a smaller amount!). Fortunately, we can season to our heart’s content so the food isn’t bland. The other thing about 100 g or 3.5 oz portions is that it makes the budget go further! I’m not going to post a lot more about my regimen but I will share the odd recipe I think you might enjoy. Plus, we have a few cheat days planned (Super Bowl for one!) so I’ll share some of those tasty treats. Thank you for allowing us to indulge in our resolutions, while I enjoy your wonderful recipes from afar, for the time being.

Unsweetened Apple Preserves

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 750 mL (3 cups) preserves.

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg (about 2 lb) red delicious apples, peel and core included*.
  • 1 L (about 4 cups) water
  • 6 cinnamon sticks
  • 10 g (about 3 tbsp) freshly grated ginger
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. In a medium Dutch oven, add chopped apples, water and cinnamon sticks and cook on medium heat until apples have broken down and thickened and most of the water has evaporated, about xx minutes.
  2. Add freshly grated ginger and pinch of salt, stir well.
  3. Pour into prepared containers and seal with new lids. Store in the freezer. Use refrigerated preserves within a month.

Uses:

  • Use to sweeten sauces and dressings instead of sugar.
  • Pour over unsweetened yogurt or ice cream or gelato.
  • Use as a condiment for pork.
  • Combine with a little Dijon Mustard as a glaze over pork tenderloin.

*The peel and core add natural pectin to the preserves which help to thicken and preserve it.

applepreserves

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saltedcaramelsemifreddofirst

Here in Toronto, we have a lovely grocery store chain called Loblaws; you may have heard of them through their widely distributed President’s Choice (PC) products, a high-end food product range created by Dave Nichol. What has this got to do with my recipe today? Patience grasshopper…

In recent years, Loblaws has rebranded themselves and have created a truly upscale grocery shopping experience; their stores are beautiful and inspiring. The Toronto flagship store is the Loblaws at the old Maple Leaf Gardens and they merchandise product in a visually appealing way, so much so, that a long-time shopper like me, ends up adding a few extras into my grocery cart when I shop there! In addition to an inspiring shopping experience, Loblaws offers cooking classes! Some of the cooking classes are demonstration-style and for $10 (Canadian) we watch a real Chef cook a couple of recipes to make a meal, and at the end of the demonstration we get to eat the results! And, because they promote several PC products, we are given a $10 Loblaws gift card to use at our leisure! Win/win in my opinion.

In December, they offered a special cooking class focusing on a few new premium Black Label PC products, but they only advertised it to regulars at the cooking classes. It was a bit more expensive ($15 Canadian) but SO WELL WORTH IT! I went with a bunch of friends and we made an evening of it. We cooked up some pretty amazing things that evening, Crispy Sesame Rice cakes with PC® Tuna Tataki, PC® La Belle Rivière Cheese, Cranberry and Pear Stuffed Roasted Turkey Breast with Peri Peri Kale with PC® Hollandaise Sauce. I enjoyed the turkey and Kale so much, I made it for JT for Christmas Day dinner. The pièce de resistance was the Avocado Lime and Coconut No-Bake Cheesecake, but our Chef decided to make it a semifreddo instead and he won me over. As you know, I am not much of a dessert eater, but the semifreddo was too difficult to resist, I polished off my entire slice! I have since made the semifreddo version of this tart and sweet dessert without the crust and it was very well received. Just after the holidays, I had an avocado on its way out so I thought I’d recreate the dessert using a caramel sauce I made for a Christmas party and froze the leftovers, the recipe below, Salted Caramel Semifreddo with Skor Bits is the result. I served it for a dinner party last week. It’s not much of a calorie saver (duh, caramel sauce!) but it’s a nice treat from time to time, plus did I mention it has Skor® bits?

saltedcaramelsemifreddo

This small slice bangs a lot of flavour.

Salted Caramel Semifreddo with Skor® Bits

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 500 mL (about 2 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 160 g cream cheese (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 ripe avocado (mine was on the smaller side but larger will work too)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 85 g (about 1/3 cup) caramel sauce (or to taste)
  • sea salt
  • 2 tbsp Skor® caramel bits

Directions:

  1. Combine cream cheese, avocado, lemon juice and caramel sauce in the small bowl of your food processor (I used my Cuisinart Smartstick mini processor attachment).
  2. Prepare your freezer-safe containers by spraying them with non-stick spray and lining with parchment if possible (round containers may prove difficult).
  3. Evenly sprinkle sea salt and Skor® bits on the bottom of each container and pour the cream over. Cover and freeze overnight.
  4. Using the parchment to lift out the semifreddo (or dip ever so slightly into warm water), put it on a cutting board and slice or plate. Drizzle with additional caramel sauce and sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Serve immediately.

saltedcaramelsemifreddo2

I used gold sea salt to make it more festive!

Note: I was not renumerated in any way for this post, it is simply my opinion of an entertaining event in Toronto that is not too expensive.

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marmalade_first

My dear friend Lorraine recently launched her new travel company, focussing on unique food and travel experiences, traveling in the style and class that she has grown accustomed to! Her first journey is to Peru, a gastronomical hot-bed, who knew? Do take a gander to her new site Experiential Traveller and check it out.

It so happens that I have had Peruvian cuisine only a couple of times, in New York City, of all places! A few years ago, JT and I were sitting in our hotel lobby waiting for our dear friends Paul & T to arrive when this very animated woman, Melony comes in holding a bag of freshly baked bagels. She comes bounding over to us with such excitement and says, “I bet you’ve never had a Brooklyn bagel!” We said we’ve had bagels in New York but she interrupted and claimed with no uncertainty that they were most likely not authentic Brooklyn bagels and that today was our lucky day because she just bought a bag of the city’s finest and we MUST try them. It’s not like we had a choice, so we followed her into the attached hair salon (she was the manager) and she proceeded to hand us authentic Brooklyn bagels. Well, you can’t just eat someone’s authentic Brooklyn bagels without some small talk, and that’s how we found out about the BEST (THE BEST, Jerry. THE BEST) Peruvian restaurant in the city (Mancora in The Lower East Side)! And on the plus side, it wasn’t a wallet-breaker either! We had one of the best lunches there with our dear friends Paul and T! You see, I did come back around to Peru!

Orange marmalade goes so well with Brooklyn bagels so when I had a few oranges left over from a gig late last summer, I decided to make orange marmalade! I chose an Ina Garten recipe that took two days as we were heading up to the cottage and I didn’t have time to finish it in the city. Having to do it again, I’d probably go with a long cooking jam instead of macerating the fruit as I didn’t feel it gave anything different to the texture. But if you need a jam recipe spanning over two days, this one is for you!

This recipe is roughly based on Ina Garten’s Orange Marmalade

Easy Orange Marmalade

Yields: 500 mL (~2 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 2 large oranges (ends removed and sliced very thinly, yields about 575 g)
  • 2 cups water
  • 300 g sugar
  • 45 mL lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Combine thinly sliced orange slices and the water in a non-reactive pan (I used my Le Creuset). Bring to a boil, stirring often.
  2. Remove from heat and add sugar, stirring until entirely dissolved. Add lemon juice and stir.
  3. Cover and leave overnight.
  4. The following day, bring the mixture back to a boil, stirring often. Reduce to a simmer and simmer uncovered for 2 hours, stirring often. Turn up the heat again and gently boil for an additional 30 minutes, skimming off any foam that forms. Cook the marmalade until it reaches 105° C (220° F) or when a small sample forms wrinkles as you run your finger through it on a very cold plate. At this point, I felt there was too much peel and not enough jam, so I took about half and processed it smoothly with an immersion blender and returned it to the peel and combined. It’s quite a lovely texture.
  5. Pour into sterilized jars and apply lids. Process for 10 minutes in hard boiling water.

marmalade_2

Notes:

  • The sugar was reduced to 300 g  (a little more than the 3:1 ratio).
  • I found the multi-process a bit much for the result, I will find a version that is not so labour intensive next time. You may wish to try Helene’s family recipe.
  • The platter was a gift from my cousin and his wife when they stayed with us for a little more than two weeks, summer 2015. I adore gifts like that, I will always think of them when I use the platter. It’s hand painted Herend Porcelain, a very famous Hungarian porcelain house.

This is a good article on the differences between a Brooklyn Bagel and a Montréal Bagel (my favourite). Updated Jan 10/17.

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creme-caramel_first

Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe we’re at the beginning of 2017! Wasn’t it just Y2K yesterday? Time flies when you’re having fun, as they say. And we did have fun in 2016! 

Crème Caramel has been on my bucket list for a long as I can remember. I seem to recall it being really popular in the 1980’s but I haven’t seen it on a menu in a really long time. It’s a light-tasting, creamy baked custard with a surprise when you turn it out on a plate: deliciously moreish caramel oozes over the out-turned dessert. It’s classy looking and it’s super easy and I’m going to bet that you will love it. I referred to this Martha Stewart recipe because, as luck would have it, I had two egg yolks that needed to be used. I also reduced the recipe to make 3 ramekins because that’s what I needed for a dinner party. Martha’s recipe makes 8 servings so if you need more, feel free to use her original proportions. I also used slightly larger ramekins (250 mL or 1 cup size) but filled each one about 120 mL or 1/2 cup of the custard.

Crème Caramel

Makes about 360 mL (about 1 1/2 cups) custard (3 or 4 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/8 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 350 mL (~1 1/2 cups) unsweetened cashew milk (I use this brand)
  • pinch of salt
  • teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325° F (165° C). Place a large, high-sided pan into the oven and fill about half way with warm water.
  2. In a heavy bottom saucepan, add 1/3 cup sugar, lemon juice and water and mix well. Place pan over medium-high heat and melt the sugar without stirring until it reaches a beautiful amber colour. Remove from heat and pour evenly into each ramekin. Set aside.
  3. In a double boiler, combine the eggs, cashew milk, salt and vanilla extract and whisk over simmering water until slightly thickened and warm.
  4. Pour into prepared ramekins evenly. Place ramekins into the pan in the oven and add more water so it reaches about two-thirds up the side of the ramekins. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the custard has set.
  5. Remove from the water bath and allow to cool. Place in the refrigerator so that the custard sets up (a couple of hours should do).
  6. To serve, carefully run a thin knife around the edge and place a plate face down over the ramekin and flip. You may need to give the ramekin a bit of a jiggle to release the custard. Serve as is or with raspberries and whipped cream.
creme-caramel

It’s a lovely, light-tasting dessert.

Notes:

  • I used cashew milk because I had some on hand from recipe testing, but in all honesty, I would do it again! Cashew milk is less than a quarter of the calories and less than half of the fat of 2% milk! And the flavour was spot on. 
  • Feel free to use almond milk or even coconut milk for taste variation, with same quantity.
  • If you use coconut milk instead, consider making coconut caramel by using coconut sugar (a simple substitution will work just fine or use double of this recipe).

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sliderbuns_first

Merry Christmas dear friends, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. JT and I spent Christmas Eve with my family in Toronto and then had a quiet Christmas Day on our own. We had planned on volunteering at a soup kitchen but left it too late and couldn’t find one that would take us! Who knew that would be a problem? We’ll try to get on it earlier next year. I baked a stuffed turkey breast with a baked potato and sautéed a little kale for dinner and then we enjoyed an avocado lime semifreddo. We ate by the fire and opened presents all night. The quiet was just what I needed as I worked a lot in December, still not complaining but man, I should have done my ‘standing job’ earlier and my ‘sitting jobs’ later in my career! Most studios I work at have cement floors, and they are cold and hard which is great for the camera but not so much for the feet and back.

I’ve also been doing some recipe videos:

And, last month I catered a party for sixteen at the new home of the marketing firm I work with. Catering is like cooking for a dinner party on steroids! Timing and organization is everything!

One of the dishes I made was pulled pork sliders; those small, moreish buns filled with slow cooked pork in a delicious BBQ sauce, topped with either a vinegar or creamy coleslaw! I’m licking my lips as I type! Getting the bun right is important as it is the delivery vehicle for the meat. I usually make pretzel buns but the finishing is a two step process and I was so tired, instead, I hacked a King Arthur burger bun recipe instead because it was much easier!

These buns will surprise you, they are light and fluffy but, they have a bite to them because of the egg, and they are not overly eggy. I chose to top the buns with a beaten egg and sesame seeds, you could go au naturel as they are quite tasty. Since I significantly reduced the sugar from the King Arthur recipe, I replaced the water with warm milk and I think it was the right choice. I would definitely make these again, they are delicious and not fussy to make.

sliderbunsSlider Buns

An adaptation of this recipe

Makes about 30 slider buns

Ingredients:

  • 265 mL (1 cup plus 1 tbsp) lukewarm 2% milk
  • 8 g (1 tbsp) instant yeast
  • 5 g (1 tsp) sugar
  • 500 g (3 1/2 cups) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 15 g (1 tbsp) sugar
  • 6 g (1 1/4) tsp salt
  • 30 g (2 tbsp) butter, at room temperature in small bits
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • Sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. Whisk the milk, yeast and 5 g (1 tsp) sugar together and allow to proof for a few minutes.
  2. Meanwhile sift the flour, 15 g (1 tbsp) sugar and salt together in the bowl of your stand mixer.
  3. Add the whole egg to the flour mix on low speed using the cookie dough attachment (I used the scraper attachment), then add the small bits of the butter to the egg-flour mixture until well combined (or rub in the butter with your fingers).
  4. Switch the attachment to the dough hook and while on slow speed, pour in the proofed yeast. Knead on medium speed for 5 minutes or until you achieve a silky, elastic and smooth dough.
  5. Form dough into a ball and put it into an oiled bowl covered with a clean tea towel and then set in a warm, draft-free location for 2 hours or until doubled in size.
  6. Punch down and knead the dough into a long roll. Divide the dough into 30 even pieces (about 35 g each) and knead each piece into a smooth ball. Set each ball into a greased pan (I did 5X6) and cover with a tea towel. Set in a warm, draft-free location for 15 minutes or until doubled in size.
  7. Whisk the egg yolk and brush the bun tops generously. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  8. Bake in a 176° C (350° F) oven for 20 minutes or until buns have golden tops.
  9. Cool slightly and serve.

Notes:

  • I also made 25 g mini-slider buns, 34 buns. Bake for 20 minutes or until the internal temperature is 85°C- 88°C (185° F – 190° F).

 

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