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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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We ate lunch at 4 Nudos at the Port in San José, Spain. You may see a trend here of luncheon restaurants in Spain, it is because we eat too early and nothing is ever open at 7:30 (17:30) in the evening for dinner (they open at 9-9:30 which is far too late for us to eat). We have eaten at 4 Nudos many times and it’s always busy because it is a local favourite and it’s a destination restaurant.

4 Nudos is known for its seafood; they don’t serve meat, period. The port side restaurant is tastefully decorated with a seaside theme but the main focus is the view of the port through the open wall, the inside just flows outside seamlessly. We have dined on their delightful Paella (takes about 20 minutes to make) and other seafood delicacies but for our most recent lunch, we ate Tuna Tartare and the Tuna Tataki.

They began our meal with a lovely amuse bouche of phyllo-wrapped torpedo shrimp with a creamy fresh cheese sauce (sorry, forgot to snap a pic) and some wonderful warm bread.

I ordered the Tuna Tartare (~20 €) which was beautifully presented and delicious. It was lightly dressed in a creamy mayo and tossed with avocado, celery and red onions, wrapped in thinly sliced cucumber. This one is a keeper!

A delicious combination of fresh tuna, perfectly ripe avocado, crunchy celery and crisp red onions; thinly sliced white onions cascade from the tower like a waterfall.

JT ordered the Tuna Tataki. To say this was a generous portion would be an understatement. It was at least 250 g or more! There were perfectly roasted vegetables served alongside with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. The lemon wedge brightened everything up. The tuna had the best sear I have ever seen, still leaving a good part of the insides rare. It was a perfectly executed dish.

The portion size of this dish was huge. I think we may share this next time. The photo is a bit misleading as the lemon wedge is huge too!

We also ordered a little dessert of Almond Flan (~6 €). It was my least favourite of the meal and didn’t have much almond flavour but perhaps it was my misunderstanding, it might have been only almond topped! But the presentation was lovely and I love how the plate reminds me of the Azur colour of the Mediterranean Sea that this lovely restaurant sits near.

I would definitely recommend 4 Nudos in San José, the servers speak just enough English that they understand what we are ordering (although, I do try to pronounce the Spanish menu items). But beware, they have an English menu but it is not up to date and they warn you that things on it may be different or unavailable. It’s best to pull out your phone and Google translate with the picture feature.

Overall rating of 4 Nudos, San José (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 4.5/5, 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.

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

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

This is the view from our flat.

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

The dip can be enjoyed with inferior views.

Tangy Butternut Squash “Cheese” Dip

Makes 500 mL dip

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

 

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

Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Makes about 250 mL dip

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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This unusual cake was a contribution of a dear neighbour we had over recently for a dinner party. We were so blown away with the use of quinoa that we had to give it a try ourselves. The recipe is super easy and oh-so-chocolatey! The original recipe isn’t vegan or dairy-free but I did substitute melted coconut oil for the butter and lactose-free milk for the milk. For Vegan, you could use soaked chia seeds for the eggs. Let me know how it turns out if you try the vegan version.

Be ready to hand out the recipe, this cake is that good. I was pleasantly surprised with the frosting, very rich and chocolatey; the mild avocado flavour was not off-putting (unless you hate avocados).

Care for a slice?

Chocolate Quinoa Cake

For the original recipe, click here.

Makes a double layer 20 cm cake

Ingredients:

  • 300 g cooked quinoa (3/4 cup dry yields about 300 g cooked)
  • 120 mL whole milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 5 mL pure vanilla extract
  • 170 g unsalted butter, melted
  • 140 g coconut sugar
  • 90 g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line 2 20cm round baking pans with parchment and spray with non-stick spray.
  2. Add all of the wet ingredients, quinoa, eggs, vanilla, milk with sugar, salt and cocoa to your large food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Add the baking powder snd blend until combined.
  3. Turn into prepared pans in equal portions and bake for 30 minutes-or until a cake tester comes out cleanly.
  4. Cool. Turn out of pans and frost with the frosting below.

Chocolate Avocado frosting

Click here for the original recipe.

Makes about 250 mL, plenty to frost the cake above

Ingredients:

  • 2 very ripe avocados
  • 45 g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 90-120 mL pure maple syrup
  • Splash of pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of sea salt

Directions:

  1. Add all of the ingredients into the cup of your immersion blender and blend repeatedly until entirely smooth.
  2. Frost cake as soon as it has cooled. Store covered in the refrigerator.

Notes:

  • If you blend all of the cake ingredients together for too long, you’ll get a brownie-like texture.
  • Flegg (vegan egg substitute) is ground flaxseed with water mixed until gelatinous.
  • For the frosting, I used 90 mL Maple syrup and it was sweet enough.
  • The original recipe suggests the icing will discolour if made too soon before serving but we didn’t think leaving it for a couple of days impacted the colour to a great degree after all it’s pretty chocolate-brown anyway!
  • Avocados must be super ripe to get the creamy texture of a buttercream. You may use frozen avocados.
  • The second time I made this recipe I used coconut oil instead of butter and it was lovely.

Well, the renovation is complete. What should have taken 4-6 weeks ended up almost 5 months! This was a better experience than the first; our contractor was younger and had excellent communication skills which made the process much smoother. Basically, we took about 1/3 of our master bedroom and added an ensuite and walk-in closet and we also updated the main bathroom. We contracted the cabinet maker to make the built-ins on the wall across from the bed. JT and I installed the crown moulding. The master bath has all the amenities: fog-free mirror, heated floor, heated towel rack, flush-mount rain shower and so on. I am still on the hunt for a carpet for the bedroom. Here is a short video of the project.

 

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Summer has finally rolled in along with the humidity that comes along for fun. I get tired of the humidity but I won’t complain, winter is just around the corner and I’ll be longing for the sunshine and heat soon enough. I am constantly looking for cool summer dishes that don’t need a lot of heat or kitchen time and this salad fits the bill. Shirataki noodles are an acquired taste, they have an unusual aroma straight out of the package and the texture can be a bit off-putting. But once you get the taste for it, it’s really addictive. I love the fresh ingredients that we toss in with the noodles, it’s a wonderful summer meal. And it’s very little effort other than marinating the noodles overnight. The marinating helps manage the strong aroma of the noodles.

Shirataki Noodle Salad

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2 as mains or 4 as sides

Ingredients:

  • 1 package shirataki noodles (about 200 g)
  • 30 mL dark soy sauce
  • 30 ml rice vinegar
  • 15 ml hoisin sauce
  • 25 mL sesame oil
  • Coleslaw
  • Salad shrimp
  • 30 mL rice vinegar
  • 5 mL honey
  • 15 mL toasted sesame oil
  • 15 mL soy sauce
  • Sesame seeds and green onion for garnish

Directions:

  1. Rinse the noodles 5-6 times in cold water.
  2. Combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar and hoisin sauce and mix well.
  3. Pour over the rinsed noodles and turn several times until well coated.
  4. Refrigerate overnight.
  5. Strain and stir fry the noodles in the hot sesame oil until most of the moisture has dried off, some bits can be crunchy.
  6. Allow to cool completely.
  7. Toss the noodles with the coleslaw and shrimp. Set aside.
  8. Make up the dressing by combining the second rice vinegar, honey, toasted sesame oil and soy sauce and mix well.
  9. Pour over the salad and garnish with sesame seeds and thinly sliced green onions.

This salad is quite versatile, in the photo below, I had some shredded spinach in the fridge so in it went!

This salad has a lite marinade and I used shredded BBQd chicken.

b

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

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

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

Thai Inspired Lentil Coconut Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 1.25 L soup

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Notes:

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

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