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Back in mid-July, after a full-day of working on our deck project, we needed some appetizers for cocktails one evening. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time making them because I was pooped. I saw local cantaloupe and I immediately thought of the simple, yet tasty cantaloupe wrapped in Proscuitto (we used Serrano ham from Spain). It totally hit the spot. When I was selecting the melon, I wasn’t able to smell it as I usually do because we are still mandated to wear masks so I just picked one and I was lucky, it was wonderful. We had about 1/8th of it, so I had to figure out what to do with the remainder (other than eating it for dessert). I came up with this fresh, tasty recipe to go with some fish I had broiled, it was delicious.

Cantaloupe Salsa

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 250 mL salsa

Ingredients:

  • 150 g cantaloupe, finely diced
  • 50 g cucumber, finely diced
  • 1/2 small avocado, finely diced
  • 1 green onion, finely sliced
  • Fresh Basil and Mint, in a chiffonade
  • 15-30 mL freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients, tasting and seasoning as required.
  2. Serve chilled with fish or barbeque.

 

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I have been meaning to create a recipe for a vegetarian Bolognese sauce forever, not because we’re vegetarians but because it’s good to mix it up with a vegetarian meal every so often. JT always asks me what’s for dinner with bated breath so he could look forward to it; when he asked about that day, he looked slightly disappointed. He actually said he was lowering his expectations so he wouldn’t be disappointed because he adores Bolognese and couldn’t imagine a mushroom version would/could be better. Boy was he wrong! Dinner was pretty silent that night, mostly because he couldn’t shovel the food in fast enough! After he finished he said that it was significantly better than he thought it would be. That’s one for the good guys.

If you’re vegetarian or vegan and you’ve been missing the rich, flavourful meaty bolognese, this recipe is for you. The mouth-feel is similar, particularly if you don’t pulverize the mushrooms and walnuts too much. But it’s the slow and low cooking that brings out all of the flavours.

Mushroom Bolognese

Serves 2 generously

Ingredients:

  • 30 mL EVOO
  • 1/2 carrot, finely diced
  • 1/2 celery rib, finely diced
  • 1/2 shallot, finely diced
  • 1 large portobello mushroom cap, finely chopped
  • 2 white mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 50 g walnuts, chopped
  • 125 mL milk or cream
  • 125 mL white wine
  • 10 mL puréed roasted garlic
  • 250 mL passata of San Marzano tomatoes
  • 15 mL tomato paste
  • 15 mL Hungarian Sweet Paprika Paste
  • Pinch of baking soda (see notes)
  • Pinch of sweet smoked paprika
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • Parmigiana

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a small, enamel skillet. Add the carrots, celery and shallot and cook until semi-soft.
  2. Add the mushrooms and walnuts and cook until most of the mushroom liquid has evaporated. Add the milk or cream and cook until it has evaporated. Do the same with the wine.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Pour into a slow cooker or crockpot and set to high and cook for 2-3 hours.
  5. Serve on al dente (homemade) pasta of choice garnished with freshly grated parmigiana.

Notes:

  • I used portobello and white mushrooms because that is what I had on hand, a mixture of wild mushrooms would be delicious too.
  • Baking soda chemically changes the PH of things, tomatoes become much less acidic (I even throw a pinch into my coffee, it literally changes coffee from acidic to alkaline!), I prefer to use baking soda than to add sugar, which many do.
  • I used a slow cooker because our stove is gas and I prefer not to have an open flame on for a few hours. If you don’t care or have an electric stove, feel free to simmer in the same pot on the stove but do simmer.
  • I’m not sure how non-dairy milk will flavour the dish so if you’re vegan, omit the milk or cream.
  • I used walnuts because I like their meaty texture and earthy flavour, pecans would be a good alternative.
  • I whipped together the pasta using 1 egg and as much flour that it can absorb, then I ran it through the Kitchenaid pasta maker from 1 to 7. Then I hand cut the pasta into irregular widths and lengths. The fresh pasta is really worth the effort, it’s so much lighter than store-bought dry pasta.

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Thai Basil Eggplant

Mid last month, I made a batch of Mulligatawny Soup and had some leftover eggplant, so I searched for a recipe for Thai Basil Eggplant that reminded me of a delicious dish served by a hole in the wall Ma and Pa shop when I worked in the corporate world. This one fits the bill.

Thai Basil Eggplant

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 250 g Japanese or Chinese eggplants
  • 45 mL toasted sesame oil, divided
  • 5 g roasted garlic puréed
  • 5 g toasted sesame seeds
  • Good handful of basil leaves, plus more for serving
  • 30 mL unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 10 mL soy sauce
  • 15 mL Sweet Thai Chili Sauce

Directions:

  1. Chop the eggplant into eighths. Heat 30 mL sesame oil in a large pan and cook the eggplant chunks until slightly golden and somewhat soft in the centre, about 6-8 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic purée and sesame seeds and toss to coat well. Add the basil leaves and cook until wilted.
  3. Stir the vinegar, remaining sesame oil and soy sauce into the sweet Thai chili sauce and mix well. Drizzle half of the sauce into the eggplant and cook stirring often until the eggplant has entirely softened.
  4. Serve hot with the remaining sauce drizzled over it and additional Thai Basil leaves as garnish.

I never said it was authentic Thai.

 

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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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We just love Asian flavours, particularly in the summertime. The food is light, fresh and easy to eat on these endless, hot, muggy, summer days. I’ve made quick-pickled daikon in the past as a garnish but this time I wanted something that will serve a few meals. I love Nami’s no-nonsense approach to authentic Japanese food so her blog Just One Cookbook is generally my go-to and this was no exception. I did make a minor change by omitting the heat and reducing the sugar (even though she warned against it). I love the fresh crunch of this daikon pickle. But be warned, the daikon odour will penetrate everything and it is potent! I put the Lamp Berger on every time I open the jar!

Pickled Daikon

For the original recipe, please click here.

Makes about 500 mL

Ingredients:

  • 454 g fresh daikon, julienned thinly
  • 45 g sugar
  • 30 mL rice vinegar
  • 5 mL mirin
  • 2 g salt

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a tightly sealable container (you may wish to double bag it because it really stinks up the refrigerator).
  2. Mix well. Seal the container and place in the fridge for 2 days.
  3. After 2 days, rinse well and strain. Sterilize a jar and add the daikon to the jar, seal and refrigerate. Will keep for about 1 month.

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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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Way back in late October, we went over to a friend’s house for dinner, outdoors of course. We’ve all been scrambling to make the outdoors as warm and cosy as possible not feeling comfortable enough to entertain inside. My friend went all out with a brand new gazebo (which we helped erect), heaters and electric blankets (even some for sharing). It was easy to enjoy this flavourful soup in large mugs, under infrared heaters, cosying up with electric blankets while gazing at a romantic wood fire. The soup was warming and soothing on a particularly chilly evening. I hacked the recipe because we liked it so much.

Thai Coconut Curry Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1 L soup

Ingredients:

  • 500 mL cauliflower purée
  • 400 mL coconut milk
  • 6 fresh kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, cut into 5 cm lengths
  • 1 nub of fresh galangal
  • 15 mL fresh lemon juice
  • 15 mL fish sauce
  • 10-20 mL green curry paste
  • pinch of baking soda
  • leftover cooked chicken or turkey
  • 150 g diced frozen vegetables
  • 1 green onion, sliced into 3 cm lengths
  • handful of finely chopped cilantro
  • Vegetable or Chicken stock (optional)

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients except the baking soda, chicken or turkey, frozen vegetables, green onion and cilantro and bring to a boil. Boil for 10-15 minutes or until the broth is flavoured with the aromatics.
  2. Scoop out the aromatics (kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass and galangal) and discard. Add the baking soda and mix it in well (it will bubble up for a minute or so).
  3. Add the turkey and frozen vegetables and stir to warm. Add vegetable or chicken stock if you find the soup too thick. Serve piping hot.

Notes:

  • Frozen vegetables, like this, are a staple in my freezer, they are perfect for quick soups!
  • I keep kaffir lime leaves in the freezer, they are so flavourful.
  • I prefer to keep the soup on the thicker side, particularly if you’re eating it outdoors, it tends to stay warm longer.

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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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We’ve been making a huge effort to cut out carbs from our diet. The one thing I have been really missing is bread. Not that we ate that much bread, but a sandwich every now and again is a nice treat so I have been trying to make carb-free bread and failing miserably until I came across a delicious keto bun at a local craft sale. It had a similar texture and crumb as flour bread, but made with almond flour and coconut flour. At the time, the lady would not share her recipe, so I made every recipe on the net trying to find her secret, sadly failing. Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago and I get an email from her out of the blue sharing her recipe! How serendipitous! It turned out that it was one of the first recipes I tried but obviously did not get it right so I had abandoned it. She had made a few adjustments to the original recipe and shared them with me, and I made further adjustments to make it my own. It’s easier to make than normal yeasted bread (really is more like quick-bread as you make it) and the result is quite surprising. It’s a lot more expensive to make this bread than it is to make regular flour bread (the recipe below is about $12 for 8 buns).

Those nooks and crannies are like real bread!

Most flour-free buns are usually eggy and super dense because of the nut flours used and the lack of leavening, but these buns are light and have a great spongy texture and fantastic crumb, they never disappoint, time after time! The original recipe had great texture but lacked the flavour that yeast imparts in real bread so I experimented and came up with this augmentation. If you don’t feel like messing with the yeast, just omit it along with the granules of sugar but keep the water the same. You will not be disappointed.

How many would you like?

The Worlds BEST Low Carb Buns

Makes 6 medium-sized buns. For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 100 g Almond flour (see notes)
  • 30 g Coconut Flour
  • 33 g Psyllium Husk Powder, finely ground (see notes)
  • 10 g Baking Powder
  • 6 g Sea salt
  • 10 g Cider vinegar
  • 100 g Egg whites
  • 8 g Instant Yeast
  • a few granules of sugar
  • 280 g Boiling Water, divided
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Sesame Seeds

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F (170° C). Prep a baking sheet by lining with parchment paper. Prepare a hand mixer ready to use and a timer.
  2. Combine the yeast with the sugar in 57 g of warm water (about 43° C or 100° F) and allow to froth.
  3. To a large bowl, add almond flour, coconut flour, psyllium husk powder, baking powder and salt and whisk to combine.
  4. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the cider vinegar, egg whites and proofed yeast and mix on low speed, for a short time, to combine evenly.
  5. Boil the remaining water (223 g). Pour the water all at once into the almond flour mixture and blend for 30 seconds to make a smooth dough (do not over blend).
  6. Divide the dough into 6 equal portions (mine worked out to be about 94 g) and roll into a smooth ball with generously wet hands. Slightly flatten each roll so it’s more like the shape of an English muffin (don’t worry, they rise enormously).
  7. Brush each bun with the egg yolk and top with sesame seeds and bake for about 50 minutes or until the internal temperature is 95° C (200° F).
  8. Cool completely on a wire rack, before slicing. Serve toasted or plain with your favourite topping.

Notes:

  • I use Anthony’s Premium Blanched Almond Flour which may be purchased on Amazon. I have heard that the Costco Kirkland brand also works, but I haven’t tried it. I will eventually try the finely ground almond flour Bulk Barn sells because Anthony’s is pretty expensive.
  • I use psyllium husk powder from Bulk Barn, but I grind it to a super fine consistency with my coffee/spice grinder.
  • 100 g of egg whites is more or less 3 large egg whites.
  • Many of these recipes call for room temperature ingredients, I have done both room temperature and right out of the refrigerator and they resulted in more or less the same buns.
  • When working with the dough, generously wet hands are imperative for a nice smooth crust.
  • Mixing the boiling water into the batter with a hand mixer for 30 seconds ensures that it’s entirely blended but not overworked.
  • For Christmas, I received a bottle of Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel seasoning and it is awesome on these buns!

Nutritional Breakdown:

Per 1 piece

  • Calories: 178
  • Net Carbs: 5 g
  • Protein: 7 g
  • Fat: 12 g

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This past July, we traveled to Wisconsin to visit friends at their gorgeous lake house; it was bittersweet because they were selling it to move down to Arizona for good. The weather wasn’t great so we only got in one very short boat ride but we enjoyed every last minute. We shall miss visiting this little gem in Wisconsin. But that just means we’ll be visiting Arizona even more!

While we were in Wisconsin, our dear friends introduced us to an incredible product: Rick Bayless’ Fonterra Grill salsa! It was to die for! The layered flavours of grilled vegetables and fresh cilantro created a complex salsa that was totally unexpected, so of course, I had to try to recreate it upon our return. I used our Big Green Egg which is the ultimate charcoal barbecue! It imparts the most incredible smoky flavours but if you have gas or propane, just fire up some wood chips on the side for a similar experience.

Grilled Vegetable and Cilantro Salsa

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Yields about 1 Litre of salsa (about 4 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 kg tomatoes, seeded (reserve seeds and pulp for tomato jam)
  • 2 sweet red peppers
  • 4 jalopeño peppers, seeded and veins removed or to taste
  • 2 nora peppers, rehydrated in warm water, skins and seeds removed (yields about 15 mL flesh), optional
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 1/2 garlic bulb, skin on
  • 2.5 mL smoked sweet paprika
  • Salt
  • Cilantro leaves, good handful or to taste
  • juice of 2 limes

Directions:

  1. Remove seeds and pulp from the tomatoes and set cut-side down on a cooling rack lined with parchment paper. Overnight is best, you want to dry out the tomatoes as much as possible.
  2. Roast the tomatoes, peppers, jalapeños and onion on an open flame (I used our Big Green Egg) until softened and slightly charred. Wrap the garlic in parchment and then foil and roast over the open flame until soft.
  3. Remove the skins from the tomatoes, peppers and garlic, discard skins. Add roasted veggies and cilantro leaves to a food processor and chop to desired consistency. Add salt and lime juice and pulse to combine.
  4. Add the scraped flesh from the Nora peppers to the processor and pulse a few more times.
  5. Fill sterilized jars with the salsa. If you are not using right away, you will want to process the jars in the typical canning methods. I processed my salsa for 15 minutes.

Tomato Jam

Yields a scant 250 mL (1 cup) tomato jam

Ingredients:

  • 370 g tomato pulp (all the seeds and pulp from the tomatoes that you plan to roast for the above recipe)
  • 100 g shallots, minced finely
  • 10 g garlic, minced finely
  • 15 mL EVOO
  • 50 mL cooking sherry
  • 15 mL white balsamic vinegar
  • 1.25 mL baking soda
  • basil, chiffonade
  • salt, to taste

Directions:

  1. Cook the onions and garlic until caramelized, deglaze the pan with cooking sherry. Add the tomato pulp, basil, season with salt and then add the baking soda, being careful because the baking soda will foam up.
  2. Cook for about an hour until most of the water has cooked off. About half-way through the cooking, add the white balsamic vinegar and stir well.

Notes:

  • I used a combination of vine-ripened tomatoes and Roma because that is what looked the best to me.
  • I have mentioned this before, baking soda neutralizes the acidity of the tomato and therefore there is NO NEED TO ADD SUGAR (yes, I yelled that!).
  • You could do whatever you wish with the pulp, I just don’t like throwing away food!
  • Since this post was written, I’ve made two additional batches of this salsa and the last batch was rush so I used the entire tomato instead of seeding it, it made for a wetter salsa so I strained it before canning. The seeds added a bit more texture that wasn’t unpleasant. But, I’d still go the extra mile and seed the tomatoes if I have the time.

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This is not your ordinary pancake. The mung beans add a certain richness and denseness to the pancake. It’s almost like an overmixed North American pancake! Having said that, it still has nice fresh flavour and can be quite addictive. Some recipes have you remove the skins and split the mung beans, I had neither the patience nor the time, so this recipe is a little green/greyer than most. I figured the skins had vitamins or at the very least, fibre. Use whatever veggies make you happy. Next time, I’ll add green onions because the chives had very little flavour.

Korean-Style Mung Bean Pancakes

This recipe makes about 20 appetizer portion pancakes.

To see the original recipe, please click here.

To print this recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 95 g mung beans, soaked in warm water for at least 2 hours
  • 250 mL water
  • 15 mL miso paste
  • 10 g coconut sugar
  • 65 g rice flour
  • 5 g ginger, grated
  • 45 g coconut, soaked in water then drained
  • 60 g each, frozen peas and corn
  • a handful of pea shoots
  • Chives
  • Cilantro

Directions:

  1. Combine everything but the peas, corn, pea shoots and herbs in the jar of a blender and blend until very smooth.
  2. Heat a non-stick pan and spray lightly with oil. Drop 15 to 30 mL batter onto the pan a good distance apart from each other (so you can easily flip them) and top with a sprinkling of the peas and corn, pea shoots and herbs. Cook until golden on one side, then flip and finish cooking for a very short time so that the herbs don’t burn.
  3. Serve warm with dipping sauce (recipe below).

Ingredients for the dipping sauce:

  • 30 mL rice vinegar
  • 5 mL soy sauce
  • 2.5 mL sesame oil
  • pinch of coconut sugar
  • pinch of toasted sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients and mix well. Serve with mung bean pancakes.

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I have been thinking about hacking a spring roll recipe to avoid deep frying and I believe I have found the answer. If you like crispy spring rolls with a flavourful filling and a delicious peanut dipping sauce, then you will like this recipe. JT is all about the deep fried spring roll and I adore fresh rolls (rice paper rolls that are not cooked). It’s easy to accommodate when we go out because we order what we want (and usually have leftovers for another day!) but at home, I prefer not to make two separate dishes so poor JT has to endure the fresh rolls (I also don’t like deep frying). It was the middle of the night when I came up with this idea: to use phyllo pastry as the roll paper! The idea festered in my brain for some time, I even bought the phyllo pastry and had it in the fridge for a week before I carved out some time to make them. To be honest, the first attempt was a bit soggy, the phyllo absorbed all of the liquid from the filling and didn’t crisp up and that’s when I put my thinking cap on and came up with this winner! The first set was made with half a phyllo sheet, this time, I used an entire sheet for one roll. I also brushed each sheet with sesame oil and sprinkled coconut flour over each sheet (coconut flour absorbs liquid quite effectively without much taste). The result was outstanding, JT approved with gusto. I will definitely make these again.

So crispy, you will never guess that they were not deep fried!

Crispy Baked Spring Rolls

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 6 x 20 cm rolls

To print this recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 60 g protein, your choice, finely minced
  • 5 mL each, soy sauce and hoisin sauce
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 30 mL sesame oil, divided
  • 45 mL grape seed oil
  • 20 g coconut flour
  • 6 sheets phyllo pastry
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • 1 mini cucumber, finely sliced
  • 42 g glass noodles, cooked

Directions:

  1. Heat 15 mL sesame oil in a small frying pan, add the garlic and shallot and cook until softened. Add the protein and cook through. Season with soy sauce and hoisin sauce. Cool completely.
  2. Combine the remaining 15 mL sesame oil and grape seed oil in a small container.
  3. Take one phyllo sheet and brush with combined oils. Sprinkle a small amount of coconut flour on the oiled sheet (I find using a small sieve makes this very easy).
  4. In the centre of one short end, spread some grated carrot, sliced cucumber and glass noodles. Add about 1 tbsp meat mixture and spread. Fold the bottom and top sides into the roll (about 1/3:1/3:1/3) and brush with a little of the oil mixture, sprinkle with coconut flour and begin rolling tightly from the filled end. The first layer of the pastry will crack, but don’t worry, it will be covered with several layers. Repeat until you have 6 finished rolls.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  6. Brush the finished roll with the remaining oil mixture and lay on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden, turning occasionally. Serve with peanut dipping sauce, recipe below.

Ingredients for the peanut dipping sauce:

  • 60 mL chunky peanut butter
  • 45 mL rice vinegar
  • 5 mL soy sauce
  • dash of honey
  • lime juice

Directions for the peanut dipping sauce:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients and whisk until well combined. Taste, adding sweetness or salt as needed.

May I offer you a couple of these tasty spring rolls?

Notes:

  • Protein choices: ground beef, pork or chicken. For vegetarian, try crumbled tofu or even tempeh.
  • The pastry thickness is essential to make a crispy spring roll, otherwise, the filling moisture overwhelms the pastry and it becomes soggy.

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I must apologize, my post did not post as I had hoped (perhaps it was because it was scheduled for Wednesday!). Better late than never!

Our summer began with the most perfect temperatures (for me), low 20’s° C (low 70s° F) with low to no humidity. You have to understand, Toronto becomes a sauna in the summertime, high temperatures and humidity and which makes it seem so much hotter and muggier than it actually is. It’s usually so soupy that a shower seems less wet than going outside! As soon as July hit, so did summer temperatures 34° C (93° F) and in rolled the humidity (making 34 seem like 42° C or 107° F). I am a sweater, I sweat thinking about physical effort, it’s really awful, so these hot temps force me to stay inside with the A/C cranked low and a fan blowing on me. It really is a curse.

I came up with this recipe for a lunch during a long-weekend that I was locked inside my house. I wanted something fast, light and easy with ingredients I had at home. Usually, I wouldn’t blog about this type of recipe but JT loved it so much, he literally asked for it again the very next day! This is day two, I didn’t have enough home-grown tomatoes so I added a vine-ripened tomato I had at home. I’ve made this salad a few more times! The bulgur adds a lovely texture, not quite chewy but not soft either. The tuna is a nice addition but it’s even tasty without it for a vegan recipe.

Mediterranean Red Bulgur Salad with Tuna

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

This recipe makes 4-6 servings

To make this vegan, omit the tuna.

Ingredients:

  • 200 g red bulgar
  • 2 cloves garlic, halved
  • 1 can tuna (flaked white albacore in water)
  • 10 cm cucumber, finely diced
  • a handful of parsley, chopped finely
  • 3-4 mint leaves, chopped finely
  • 12 or so kalamata olives, chopped
  • a handful or so of grape tomatoes, finely diced
  • Handful of chopped artichokes

Ingredients for the dressing:

  • juice and zest of 1 lemon (about 60 mL)
  • same quantity olive oil, or less
  • 10 mL tomato paste
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine the lemon juice, olive oil, tomato paste and salt and mix well.
  2. Add the garlic cloves to the bulgur water with salt. Cook the bulgur according to directions (mine said 500 mL water with 200 g bulgar). If all of the water did not absorb, strain. Discard garlic.
  3. Pour dressing over the strained, hot bulgur. Cool slightly.
  4. Combine everything for the salad and mix well.
  5. Serve immediately in a bowl or spoon into iceberg lettuce leaves.

Notes:

  • If you don’t have any tomatoes, use about 125 mL sundried tomatoes in olive oil, strained and chopped.
  • I usually buy chunk albacore tuna because we like it better than flaked but this recipe is better with flaked because it distributes more evenly.
  • If you dress the bulgur when hot, it will absorb the dressing more and evenly.
  • I would have added a little Greek Sheep’s Milk crumbled feta if I had some at home. If you do, omit the salt in the dressing.

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It’s quite funny how the universe works, isn’t it? Case in point, we were down in Arizona in March-April and my dear friend Theresa decided to introduce me to a Moscow Mule, a refreshing alcoholic bevy served in a classic copper mug. I had never had one before. It is made with ginger beer and vodka and lime juice, and it is very tasty and refreshing. Fast forward a couple of months, I’m minding my own business and to my surprise, I receive an unsolicited email from a Canadian company out west who imports and sells their very own, wait for it…Moscow Mule mugs! What a coincidence indeed! We spoke on the telephone and I suggested that I could do a post for them, focussing on a recipe that would be served in said mug. Of course, they sent me a couple of their mugs so I can post pics of the recipe in them. The mugs are beautifully hand-hammered by an artisan group in India, but most importantly, they are lined with nickel lining. Apparently, using mugs without nickel can cause a series of serious health issues (so if you have such mugs, check to make sure they have a non-reactive lining and you are not drinking directly from a copper mug). This blog post talks about the importance of nickel lining.

The Moscow Muled mugs are reasonably priced at $16.60 Canadian ($12.50 US) each and would make great hostess gifts or stocking stuffers during the holidays.

I added a couple of cute tea towels, but another great idea would be a gingerbeer kit, complete with vodka, gingerbeer and limes!

Moscow Mules were invented circa 1941 in LA in a British pub called Cock ‘n’ Bull by their head bartender, Wes Price. The story is quite interesting, so if you wish, you may read about it here.

Take the worry out of the mug, Moscow Muled mugs are made with “100% pure high-grade and food-safe copper with an inner layer of high-grade nickel.”* Plus they look awesome and will keep your bevy cool on hot summer nights! I knew I wanted to make the Authentic Ginger Beer recipe on their website, it’s relatively easy (just a bit of time) and you probably already have all of the ingredients at home. The only thing I did to this tasty recipe is half it (there are only two of us and it still made around 4 litres) and I converted it to weights instead of volumes.

Raise a Moscow Muled mug with this tasty and refreshing drink, Cheers guys.

I was gifted with two Moscow Muled Mugs for this post, the opinions listed are my own.

*moscowmuled.com

I made new zippered covers for the sectional in the background, so happy with the way they turned out.

Moscow Muled Ginger Beer

Makes about 4 L of ginger beer.

For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients, Step 1 Ginger Bug:

  • 250 mL water
  • 15 g sugar
  • 13 g freshly grated ginger

Directions:

  1. Combine the freshly grated ginger with the sugar and water in a glass jar.
  2. Stir until sugar has entirely dissolved with a non-reactive spoon, like a wooden spoon or silicone spatula.
  3. With a clean tea-towel, cover the glass jar and secure it with rubber bands and allow to sit at room temperature for a total of 5 to 7 days.
  4. During these 5-7 days, every day, add another 13 g of freshly grated ginger and 15 g of sugar and stir until dissolved. Cover the glass jar with a towel or cloth, and secure it with rubber bands.
  5. The mixture will form bubbles around 5-7 days and at 7 days, it should smell sharp with a strong yeast aroma.

Ingredients, Step 2 Ginger Beer:

  • 85 g ginger root, peeled and grated
  • 3.5 L of filtered water
  • 2 g of sea salt
  • 300 g sugar (white or brown, I used white because I wanted a clear ginger beer)
  • 42 mL lemon juice
  • 250 mL of ginger bug

Directions:

  1. on the 5th or 7th day, combine 2 L of water, ginger, sugar and salt in a large non-reactive pot, bring to a boil then allow it to simmer for 5 minutes, stirring periodically to steep the ginger.
  2. Remove from the heat and add the remaining water. Allow this liquid to cool completely. Once cool, use a very fine sieve to strain the ginger to make a clear liquid. Pour the ginger bug into the mixture (make sure that it is room temperature, about 23° C or 74° F, as you will kill the ginger bug if it is hot).
  3. Add the lemon juice and stir well.
  4. Pour into sterilized bottles, making sure they are only about 2/3 full because this ginger beer will actually ferment and produce carbon dioxide.
  5. Store bottles in a warm, dark place away from light and allow it to ferment for about 10 days. Carefully loosen caps from time to time to relieve the pressure from fermentation (I did this once per day).
  6. Refrigerate the ginger beer when it has reached your preferred level of sweetness. Refrigeration causes the fermentation to stall significantly. The longer the fermentation, the less sweet your ginger beer will be. We fermented our lot for 10 days and it produced a gingery, slightly carbonated beer that wasn’t as sweet as I thought it would be.

I know there is no orange in the Moscow Mule recipe, I just wanted a hit of colour.

Notes:

  • I used recycled screw cap wine bottles, properly washed, rinsed and sanitized.
  • Make sure you tighten the screw caps well so the ginger beer can ferment. Also, make sure you release the CO2 every day, by opening the bottles and allowing them to exhale, so the bottles don’t explode.
  • Even after the ginger beer has fermented and is resting in the refrigerator, it contains a lot of effervescence, so be careful. Open bottles over the sink. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
  • I suspect there is some alcohol in the ginger beer I made, but I don’t know for certain.

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In the Spring edition of the LCBO’s (our liquor store) Food & Drink magazine, they featured a Turmeric, Miso & Ginger Soup that immediately caught my attention. In mid-March, we were still craving soups, believe it or not, so I thought I’d give this colourful soup a go in my humble kitchen. The flavours were earthy, brightened by the lemon juice and sweetened by the peas and corn, everything one could want from the spring soup.

An Earthy soup to warm and ward off any spring colds.

Turmeric, Ginger, Miso Soup with Peas and Corn

Makes 1 L soup

For the original recipe, please click here.

To print this recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 15 mL EVOO
  • 70 g sweet onion (such as Vidalia), finely chopped
  • 50 g celery, sliced
  • 1 L vegetable stock, divided
  • 20 g ginger, roughly chopped
  • 2 g garlic, roughly chopped
  • 5 g turmeric powder
  • 20 g white miso
  • 15 mL freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 70 g each, frozen peas and frozen corn

Directions:

  1. In a medium stock-pot, heat the olive oil and add the chopped onion and cook until translucent. Add the celery and cook for a minute or so longer.
  2. In a small measuring cup fitted for your stick blender, add about 125 mL vegetable stock, the ginger, garlic, turmeric and miso and blend until smooth.
  3. Add the turmeric mixture to the celery and onions and cook for a few minutes, until you can smell the garlic. Add the remainder of the vegetable stock and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Add the frozen peas and corn and stir for a minute.
  4. Serve hot.

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I have had a bum shoulder for the longest time. I’m seeing a chiropractor and she does acupuncture and some massage techniques which have been quite successful but I thought I’d help it along by adding some turmeric to my routine because it is widely known as an anti-inflammatory. We had a couple of days with back to back dishes with turmeric and it seems to have helped. Although it isn’t nearly as cold out as it was in December and early January, it is still winter in these parts and soup is definitely at the top of my list of cravings.

Slow Cooker Lentil Tomato Soup with Turmeric

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 750 mL of soup

To print recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 100 g onions, roughly chopped
  • 20 g roasted garlic (about 3 large cloves)
  • 60 g red lentils
  • 350 mL vegetable stock
  • 200 g tomatoes
  • 10 g turmeric
  • 5 g sea salt
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves
  • 250 mL Coconut Milk

Directions:

  1. Combine everything but the coconut milk in the bowl of a small slow cooker and cook (mine only has one temperature) for 4 hours.
  2. Purée to a smooth creamy velvety soup, adding the coconut milk slowly. Press through a fine sieve. Reheat if necessary. Serve hot with a drizzle of olive oil, chili oil or toasted coconut.


It is a smooth and velvety soup.

Notes:

  • Because I blitzed the kaffir lime leaves into the soup, it is imperative to press the soup through a fine sieve to catch the hard bits. It will also result in a velvety smooth, creamy soup.
  • The coconut milk adds a bit of sweetness to the soup, but doesn’t make it sweet.
  • The lentils add creamy texture and protein.

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One of my New Year’s resolutions is to eat a more vegetable-based diet. I have no intention on going vegetarian but I would like to limit my intake of meat a bit more; currently, we don’t eat a lot of beef, but we do eat pork, chicken and lamb (we will continue to eat fish). In this effort, I searched out a meatless chickpea recipe with turmeric. Turmeric has gained some notoriety for its medicinal properties that I wanted to take advantage of. If you wish to read more about it, read this article. Turmeric is also quite beautiful and tasty too! I altered a Guy Fieri recipe to our taste.

Be careful as the turmeric discolours everything, even nailpolish!

Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpeas with Raisins and Turmeric

This recipe makes 4 medium servings.

For the original recipe, please click here.

To print this recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • pinch of cayenne pepper, if desired
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • zest of one orange, optional
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375° F.
  2. Pour the oil into a large mixing bowl, and then add the spices, ginger, garlic, cauliflower, chickpeas and onions, and toss to coat everything evenly. Toss in the raisins and zest and mix in evenly. Place on a sheet tray and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast in the oven until lightly browned and the cauliflower is tender, 30 to 35 minutes.
  4. Serve on a bed of sautéed spinach or baby kale, dressed with a light vinaigrette.

Notes:

  • I always used dried chickpeas, about 140 g dried chickpeas will yield the cooked amount required for this recipe.
  • If you have leftovers, simply warm up with some vegetable stock and purée into a smooth, velvety soup.
  • 1/4 cup olive oil seems like a lot, but it really just covers the cauliflower and chickpeas.

The turmeric shaded the cauliflower in a beautiful yellow colour.

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On a recent trip to visit friends in Delavan, we traveled to New Glarus, a very Swiss town in central north Wisconsin. After visiting the New Glarus Brewery (which was very cool), we were quite hungry for some lunch, so we went into town and had a very delicious lunch at Glarner Stube. They make a Rösti potato dish that is out of this world: they stuff it with Swiss cheese (something like Appenzeller) and it was awesome! I knew I wanted to recreate this dish at home, but I really needed to get back to healthy eating, so I parked the idea for another time.

We had a dear friend and her hubby for brunch at the house and I wanted to make a healthier meal so I decided to experiment in making zucchini rösti (similar to rösti potatoes, a traditional Swiss treat). My dear friend is gluten intolerant so I decided to use coconut flour instead of the gluten free flour mix as I was also trying to keep the carbs low. This is a very flavourful dish, however, I would be lying if I said it was like rösti potatoes because the zucchini does not crisp up like potatoes do, but it is still quite tasty (although, it might if you pan fried it in a small amount of oil instead of non-stick spray). I know I will make this alternative for myself when I make the potato version for the carb lovers!

A tasty alternative to Rösti Potatoes.

Zucchini Rösti

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes one Rösti about 20 cm or 8″ diametre.
Click here to print the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 430 g zucchini, grated (all the liquid squeezed out to about 350 g zucchini)
  • 80 g sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 20 g coconut flour
  • 5 g salt
  • 3 tbsp egg white (or 1 egg)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Directions:

  1. Combine grated and drained zucchini with the sliced onion and sprinkle with the coconut flour. Mix well.
  2. Combine salt, egg and minced garlic and mix well. Pour this mixture over the zucchini and combine well.
  3. Prepare a small frying pan with oil (or non-stick spray) and heat. Add the entire zucchini mixture into the hot frying pan and cook over medium heat, about 15 minutes. Flip and continue to cook for an additional 10-15 minutes until cooked through and golden on the edges.

Here are a few pics of our trip to New Glarus and the New Glarus Brewery.

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I have seen this beautiful sauce pop up over a couple of blogs I follow, like Karen of Back Road Journal and Maureen of Orgasmic Chef and since I was making a Spanish potato omelet for an appetizer for a recent dinner party, I knew I had to pair it with this luxurious sauce. Spaniards sure know how to make beautiful raw dishes like Gazpacho, this sauce is smooth and perfectly balanced, making it an amazing addition to chicken or fish or even a simple pasta or gnocchi dish. The toasted almonds become the thickener and the olive oil emulsifies everything to a smooth, creamy sauce. I omitted the bread because I wanted to make it gluten free and because our dinner party had two kids, I went light on the smoked paprika and garlic, feel free to ramp it up if you’re in the mood.

Spanish Romesco Sauce

Makes 375 mL  (1 1/2 cups) sauce

Original recipe, please click here

Ingredients:

  • 1 large fire roasted red pepper, skin removed
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup almond flour, toasted
  • 3 Campari tomatoes (see notes)
  • 2 tbsp Red Wine vinegar
  • Pinch of smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Mediterranean Sea Salt*, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Parsley, finely chopped

Directions:

  1. Add everything but the parsley to your immersion blender container and blend until creamy and smooth.
  2. Stir in the finely chopped parsley.
  3. Serve warm or room temperature over fish, chicken or pasta. You can even use it as a dip for raw veggies or crackers.

*This is the sea salt I used. I purchased it San José, Spain last year.

Notes:

  • You may use 1/2 cup passata if you don’t have campari tomatoes
  • I always forget the parsley so it’s not a big deal if you miss it.
  • I have also used smoked sea salt and it’s heavenly
  • I generally use roasted garlic purée which I have on hand because our stomachs can’t take raw garlic

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Mediterranean Sriracha Fish

Recently, I worked on an on-location two-day motion shoot. I was one of four food stylist employed for the two days. We worked from the compact, professional, mobile kitchen called Maindish, it was rather cosy! They were 15 hour days with few opportunities to sit down (who said food styling was glamorous?). I’m always amazed at the shear number of people it takes to make a commercial happen, 60, in this case! By the way, on location also means cramped, because you’re having to squeeze in everyone and everything into relatively small spaces, it really is quite the orchestration! 

I found this recipe on Epicurious; I chose it because I had most of the ingredients at home (along with an inordinate amount of sun-dried tomatoes). It was absolutely delicious, so I decided to document it for the future, plus, I made a few changes.

Mediterranean Fish in a Tomato Sriracha Sauce

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • splash of EVOO
  • 70 g (1/2 medium) sweet onion, peeled and finely sliced
  • 90 g (~1/2 medium) fennel bulb, finely sliced
  • 1/2 tsp sriracha sauce (add more if you like heat)
  • 250 mL (1 cup) tomato purée from fresh or canned tomatoes (I used homemade)
  • 30 g (~1/4 cup) sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 2oo g white fish fillets
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • A handful of baby spinach
  • Black olives (I used Niçoisse)

Ingredients for the topping:

  • 2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley
  • Small handful of spinach
  • 2 tbsp sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 small clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped or grated
  • Zest of 1 lemon, plus a squeeze of juice

Directions:

  1. In a medium-sized, frying pan (I used cast iron), heat a splash of olive oil and sauté the onion, fennel and sun-dried tomatoes for 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Combine the tomato purée with the sriracha sauce and stir well. Add the tomato purée to the frying pan and simmer for 4 to 5 additional minutes. Season to taste with a little salt and pepper.
  3. Place the fish on top of the tomato mixture, spooning a little of the sauce over the fish. Cover and simmer on medium-low for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the fish is fully cooked.
  4. Meanwhile, in the small bowl of a food processor combine the parsley, spinach, sundried tomatoes, garlic, lemon zest and juice and process until chopped and well mixed. Set aside.
  5. When the fish is completely cooked, carefully stir in the olives (putted and sliced, if you’re using larger olives) and baby spinach and warm through (spinach should wilt).
  6. To serve, place the fish on a spoonful or two of cauliflower mash or polenta and dollop the tomato sauce over the hot fish. Dot the herb topping over the fish and sauce to finish.

Notes:

  • This combination of vegetables and tomatoes would work very well with chicken, but you’ll need to increase your cooking time.
  • I used Tilapia for this particular recipe, but haddock, cod, sea bass or monkfish would also work well.
  • The first time I made this recipe, I did not have fennel so I substituted 2 stalks of celery, it was equally as delicious.
  • I used sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, you may use dry but you might need to soak them in water so they are not chewy.
  • To reduce calories, omit the olives and use non-stick spray instead of olive oil.
  • If you use ordinary black olives, pit them and cut them into thirds.
  • The weights I suggest in the recipe are not carved in stone, just gives you an idea of proportions for two.

 

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chickenschnitzel_first

We just got back from a two-week holiday in Arizona. I apologize for not commenting as much as I usually do, but you know the drill on holidays.

Regarding Arizona, I would love to say it was perfect weather, and perhaps it was, for Toronto weather but it was cold, sometimes snowy and rainy. Our time with dear friends more than made up for the lousy weather. Although we did have a few gloriously sunny days before the ugly, rainy days we spent in Sedona. Fortunately, our time at the Grand Canyon was clear, albeit cold (read: two layers of leggings, three long-sleeved Ts and a light winter jacket with hat, mittens and scarf). Once I get our photos sorted, I’ll post a few good ones on the blog, in the meantime, I thought I’d share one of my favourite ‘diet’ dishes, chicken “schnitzel” with roasted garlic cauliflower mash!

Chicken “Schnitzel” with Roasted Garlic Cauliflower Mash

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 460 g cauliflower
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, roasted
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 165 g chicken breast, boneless, skinless
  • 35 g egg white
  • 2 Ryvita whole wheat snack bread
  • 10 g whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup Herbes en Provence with granulated onion and garlic
  • few sprays of non-stick spray
  • chopped fresh dill for garnish

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 425° F.
  2. Break down cauliflower into equal-sized florets and set on a baking sheet lightly sprayed with non-stick spray. Roast until softened. Add a bit of water at the end to steam to perfect tenderness for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the cauliflower florets into a glass bowl and add the roasted garlic cloves. Blitz with the hand blender until creamy and smooth, adding a bit of water if necessary (I just added the left-over steaming liquid from the roasting pan). Set aside.
  4. Divide the chicken into two equal portions and butterfly each, cover the chicken with plastic and flatten it to about 0.5 cm or 1/4 inch with a kitchen mallet. Put them into the fridge.
  5. Add Ryvita to a small zip lock bag and smash into smaller but coarser bits. Add the Herbes en Provence and mix well.
  6. Add the egg whites into a large flat bowl and beat with a fork.
  7. Remove one chicken cutlet from the fridge and lightly dust each side with the whole wheat flour. Then dip it into the egg whites to cover both sides. Sprinkle each side with the Ryvita mixture to coat evenly. Repeat with second cutlet.
  8. Heat a non-stick frying pan. Spray each side of each cutlet and cook cutlets on both sides until nicely golden and the internal temperature is 185°F. Serve immediately with a slice of lemon and some fresh dill sprinkled onto it.

Notes:

  • The diet I use allows for two 100 g servings of protein per day.
  • If you don’t have roasted garlic on hand, simply put a few unpeeled cloves into a ramekin filled with a little water or stock and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake until softened.
  • Even though the chicken is very thin, it is so tender, it will knock your socks off.

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pickledradishes_first

I had an excess of radishes in my pantry so I decided to pickle them before they turned bad. They will make a nice garnish to pulled pork or a rich stew like bœuf bourguignon.

Pickled Radishes

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 250 mL (1 cup)

Ingredients:

  • 160 g (~1 cup) radishes, sliced thinly
  • 30 g (~5 cloves) garlic, sliced thinly
  • 250 mL (1 cup) white vinegar
  • 5 mL (1 tsp) salt
  • 5 mL (1 tsp) sugar
  • 5 g (~ 6 sprigs) dill sprigs
  • 250 mL (1 cup) sterilized canning jar

Directions:

  1. Combine vinegar, sugar and salt and heat until both salt and sugar have dissolved, stir well.
  2. Add the radishes and garlic slices to the jar and pour the hot liquid over to cover. Tap the jar a few times to burst any air bubbles.
  3. Pour the liquid over the radishes and tap the jar on the counter a few times to get the liquid dispersed evenly. Add the dill sprigs, making sure they are covered in the liquid. Screw on the lid.
  4. Use immediately or process jar for 10 minutes (or as required in your neck of the woods), allow to cool on the counter. Label. Store for 3 months in a cool, dark place or use within a month in the fridge.

pickledradishes

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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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gazpachogelato_first

One of the first courses we had at the One Star Michelin Restaurant, Alejandro, just outside of Almeria (in the quiet town of Roquetas de Mar) was a wonderful Gazpacho Sorbet. During our Paella Lesson in Madrid, we discovered that Gazpacho is a staple in most Spanish households. They make a few batches each week, drinking a cup-full when peckish or feeling down. It makes total sense, as it’s packed with raw vegetables and full of vitamins. I, too, have begun to keep a litre or so in the fridge, particularly now, with the seasons changing, and it’s so easy to catch a cold.

gazpachosorbet_alejandro

This is the original Gazpacho Sorbet at Alejandro’s in Spain. I didn’t care for the odd presentation in the glass so mine was more freestyle. It was garnished with a candied lemon slice.

You may use any old Gazpacho recipe, I used the one we made during our Paella Cooking Lesson at Cooking Point. The main difference is that the Spaniards add a slice of bread (for body) and a significant amount of olive oil to balance the acidity. The New York Times published a beautiful description of a good Gazpacho (see original article here), “The texture is always smooth and light, with a mouth feel similar to that of whole milk. It is not the watered-down salsa or grainy sludge often served in the United States under the name of gazpacho, but an emulsion of fat (olive oil) in liquid (vegetable juice and vinegar) that is light and fluffy on the tongue and a fantastic conductor of flavor, just like vinaigrette or hollandaise.”

The recipe below is perfectly balanced, I wouldn’t change a thing. There is just a hint of onion and garlic, you don’t want this to be too oniony or garlicky. And while I would normally shudder at the volume of olive oil in this recipe, you really need it to balance out the acidity and it adds that silky mouthfeel Eric Asimov of the New York Times described above. Turning it into Sorbet is a surprising, yet satisfying dish. Definitely bookmark for the warmer weather.

gazpachogelato_2Authentic Spanish Gazpacho

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 500 g ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 50 g green pepper (about 1/2 an ordinary sized pepper)
  • 40 g cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped (English is fine)
  • 30 g onion, roughly chopped
  • 20 g bread, crust removed
  • 1/2 garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • 15 mL sherry or red wine vinegar
  • 5 mL cumin
  • salt, to taste
  • 60 mL EVOO

Directions:

  1. Add all of the ingredients but the Extra Virgin Olive Oil to a blender or a large measuring cup. Blend or use an immersion blender to blend until smooth.
  2. Pass the liquid through a fine sieve. Return the liquid to the blender or large measuring cup and blend in the Olive Oil in a slow, steady stream to emulsify. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. Pour the soup into the bowl of your chilled ice cream maker and turn it on until it has thickened and frozen like sorbet. Serve immediately or store in an airtight freezer container in the freezer for no more than one hour, it will freeze solid.
  4. Garnish with herbs, or finely chopped vegetables. Alejandro served it with a slice of candied lemon.

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OatmealBreakfastCake_first

Many of you are shaking your heads right about now. Breakfast Cake? Has she gone completely mad? How can it be? A cake for breakfast? This is actually a recipe I tested some time back and I loved it so much, I’ve continued to make it on a regular basis, particularly for the cottage.

This one was baked at home on the BBQ because it was way too hot to be turning on the oven, even if it is for such a lovely breakfast cake. JT developed a wonderful contraption inside our Weber gas grill: he inverted a vegetable grill basket and set it in the centre, this allows the ‘cake’ to be lifted off the grill so that the I can keep the middle burner on low and the two outside burners on medium, maintaining the inside ‘oven’ an even 350° F! So next time you want to bake something and it’s too hot, try this nifty idea!

OatmealBreakfastCake

Would you care for some maple syrup with that?

Blueberry and Peach Oatmeal Breakfast Cake

Please click here for the original recipe. This recipe serves 8 or one 9″ x 9″ cake.

Ingredients:

  • 500 mL (2 cups) 2% milk
  • 250 mL (1 cup) egg whites
  • 250 mL (1 cup) applesauce*
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 270 g (3 cups) large flake oats
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1 peach, cubed evenly
  • A mix of strawberries, blueberries and raspberries
  • maple syrup

Directions:

  1. Combine wet ingredients and mix well. Add the cinnamon, salt and large flake oats and mix well. Allow to sit for several hours in the refrigerator or overnight (mixture will become very thick as oats absorb the liquid).
  2. Preheat the BBQ to 350° F.
  3. Add 1/2 cup blueberries and cubed peaches and mix well. Pour contents into a parchment lined pan and bake for about 50 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean from the centre. Serve warm with berries and maple syrup.

Oatmeal NutFacts

Serving size is based on 1/8 of the cake.

OatmealBreakfastCake2

Notes:

  • This recipe works particularly well with any type of fruit, so allow your imagination go wild!
  • I’ve also been known to serve this with whipped cream.
  • Kids may only want half a serving because it is very filling.
  • For truly Gluten Free, please choose oats that claim Gluten Free on the packaging as most oats are processed in non-gluten free factories and may be contaminated.
  • * the apple sauce was the leftover apple pulp from when I made this apple jelly.
  • This is not a sweet breakfast cake.
  • Replace milk with orange juice for another flavour.
  • Surprisingly, when I tested the original recipe, it also was very cake-like even though the picture on the original site shows more porridge than cake!
  • Nuts are also a wonderful addition but I wanted a nut free version due to an allergy.

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BananaBread_First

Summer has been very warm and humid in Toronto. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining because February comes all too quickly and the -25° C (-13° F) is still too fresh in my mind but I really don’t like to turn the oven on (particularly for a recipe that calls for one hour!) when it’s that hot outside (it makes the A/C work even harder). So I modified this recipe to be baked on the Barbie with ingredients I had on hand.

BananaBread_2

The top is swirled with cinnamon, but not too much to be overpowering.

Give this a light toasting to get even more flavour out of the loaf.

We’ve been spending a lot of time at the cottage this year, JT has some council meetings and we like to avoid the traditional weekend traffic so we go up Thursday and come back Tuesday or even go up Sunday and come back Friday. It’s been great, neither of us stresses about weekend traffic anymore! But having so much time at the cottage can be a bit boring, so I prefer to have projects lined up so I can amuse myself without spending a lot of time on the computer. I had been looking for a small cocktail table to set between two chairs in our living area but it had to be rustic and small and sadly I couldn’t find anything.

IMG_0028

A small table for two glasses between the chairs would be perfect.

I was inspired by rustic tables made of a cross section of a log with sticks as legs like this one:

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 3.32.43 PM

Inspiration table

But I was stuck on how to slice a log so that it’s perfectly even on both sides because we have limited tools. And then I found this log tea light at Winners (TJ Max) in the right diametre for a reasonable price and my little table was born.

Underside

Tea light spots will help anchor legs in place.

TableTop

Table top has just the right amount of petina.

JT and I sourced the legs in the forest, we had to make sure they were not too new or too old or had bugs in them (you know how I feel about that). I cut the legs to size in the city (I have a table saw) and then I assembled the table at the cottage while JT was at a meeting, just in time to receive our good friends for a weekend.

RusticTable_phase I

TabI hadn’t decided to paint the legs at this point.

Unfortunately, I turned around for a split second and my friend pulled the new table up to the movies on the shelf hoping to find something she hadn’t seen before and…yep…you guessed it…she thought it was a stool and sat on it! #notastool was the hashtag for the weekend. I ended up disassembling it and starting from scratch. Fortunately the table top was in tact so all I did was rebuild the legs.

BrokenTable

It’s an honest mistake.

When I perused the net for banana bread recipes, I noticed that many of them had a lot of sugar. A LOT! I was hoping for something less sweet so that it’s a bit healthier when I found Cookie and Kate’s recipe. I would have made it verbatim but then I realized that I was short of a few ingredients so I improvised. I liked the idea of whole wheat flour but I didn’t want 100% of it, so I divided the flour into 1:3/4 so the texture is a little smoother (plus I didn’t have white whole wheat flour on hand — what is that anyway?).  The bread is wonderful when it is lightly toasted and smothered with butter with a cup of tea. It will sooth away any bruises caused by using a table as a stool, that was not meant as a stool. #notastool.

BananaBread_3

Banana Bread

Original recipe, please click here. This recipe makes one generous 10 cm x 23 cm (4″x 9″) loaf

Ingredients:

  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) melted coconut oil
  • 60 mL (1/4 cup) honey
  • 60 mL (1/4 cup) milk
  • 60 mL (1/4 cup) water
  • 5 mL (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) roughly mashed ripe bananas (about 2 smallish bananas)
  • 60 mL (1/4 cup) dates
  • 128 g (1 cup) whole wheat flour
  • 94 g (3/4 cup) AP flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2.5 mL (½ teaspoon) ground cinnamon, plus more to swirl on top
  • 2.5 mL (½ teaspoon)salt
  • 70 g (½ cup) chopped almonds

Directions:

  1. Preheat the BBQ to 177 ° C (350° F) using only the front and back burners. Prepare a 10 cm x 23 cm (4″ x 9″) loaf pan by generously spraying with non-stick baking spray.
  2. In the large bowl of a food processor, add melted coconut oil, honey, milk, water, vanilla extract, eggs, bananas and dates and pulse until dates and bananas have been well incorporated into the liquid.
  3. Sift the flours, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Add all at once to the liquid and pulse a few times to incorporate. Stir in chopped almonds.
  4. Pour into prepared pan and set into a larger pan. Place pan into the centre of the BBQ so that the elements that are on are not below the loaf pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean (mine was perfect in 50 minutes).
BananaBread_4 It’s a dense bread that is perfect for breakfast or a small snack.

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UnfriedGarbonzoBeans_First

This recipe nothing new. You’ve seen it posted a million times on a million blogs (OK, maybe I exaggerate!). And I wasn’t going to post about it, but it turned out SO WELL so I kinda felt like I had to. I’ve made the oven roasted garbanzo beans (chickpeas) before and although they were pretty good, they didn’t have the crispy crunch that I had been lead to believe they would. Sure they were crisp on the exterior but the interior was rather pasty. These beans are crunchy through and through! In fact, if I hadn’t “unfried” them, I would not, could not, have believed that they were not deep fried. Yes, you read that correctly, my dear friend: they are UNFRIED.

Some time back, I cooked for a short testimonial-piece for the T-Fal ActiFry Express XL appliance (not published yet) where I had to cook twelve dishes in advance for an on-location motion shoot with a local celebrity. The great folks at T-fal gave me an ActiFry Express XL for the job. I started cooking at 5am so that food would look fresher than cooking it the night before and left just in the nick of time to get there (far end of town). We got the house at 12:30 and had to be out at 3:30! It was challenging, to say the least, particularly because the kitchen was the commercial set! I had to prep on the floor in the hall, and at one point, in the garage so that I could have access to an electrical outlet! That profession kitchen truck would have come in very handy!

JT and I are not big on fried foods, so this cool appliance is perfect for us and recently I needed a cocktail snack for the cottage and I wanted something healthy with protein and crispy garbanzo beans (chick peas) popped into my head. I thought the beans would be perfect for the ActiFry (see notes). So I purchased two 540 mL (19 oz) cans of low sodium chick peas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and dried them on a clean towel and popped them into the non-stick coated ActiFry. The result was magical, it did not dehydrate the beans (which sometimes makes them a bit leathery), it actually fried them in 1 tbsp oil! They are crunchy through and through! And the next best part? I didn’t have to turn on the oven because it was 30° C (86° F) outside and humid! And cleanup was a cinch (I vacuumed it and wiped it out with a soft cloth).

I know that this recipe will be a repeat for all parties from now on!

UnfriedGarbonzoBeanSnack

“Unfried” Garbonzo Beans (or chick peas)

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes ~250 g or 2 cups unfried garbanzo beans (chick peas)

Ingredients:

  • 540 mL (19 oz) cans of low sodium chick peas
  • 1 tbsp dehydrated onion powder (see notes)
  • 1 tbsp granulated garlic (see notes)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • dash of sesame oil

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the spices and salt and mix well.
  2. Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans (chick peas) and lay out on a clean towel to dry for 30 minutes).
  3. Add the dried beans to the ActiFry bowl and drizzle in the oils. Set the timer to 45 minutes and close the lid. Start, allow the paddle to rotate a full circle and open the lid and sprinkle about 1/3 of the spice blend onto the beans. Close the lid and allow the paddle to go around twice. Repeat until all of the spice blend is used up. Close the lid and wait for the magic to happen.
  4. Test the beans around 35 minutes and then about 5-minute increments. You want a crunch, much like the crunch you get when you eat potato chips. Keep it going until you achieve a great, crunchy bean.
  5. Pour the beans out onto a clean cookie sheet (with sides) and allow to cool. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge until needed (it was too humid to store in the pantry).

Notes:

  • I keep a container of Kirkland Signatur Chopped Onion and I combine it with Kirkland Signatur Granulated Garlic (not garlic powder) and blitz it in a coffee come spice grinder for this purpose (great on popcorn too!).
  • Be creative and come up with your own blend of spices, like garlic, ginger and sea salt.
  • I did not have time to use dried beans but feel free to soak, dry and ActiFry dried beans, I’m sure the result would be the same.
  • Although the ActiFry paddle moves around at a very slow pace, I find larger things get a bit beat up without the stationery tray but it’s perfect for these beans.

Disclosure:

Eva Taylor/Kitcheninspirations received T-fal ActiFry Express XL from Group SEB, Toronto; this recipe was developed by Eva Taylor for Kitcheninspirations, and the opinions expressed in this post are that of Eva Taylor/Kitcheninspirations.

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Gazpacho_First

Recently, my long-time blogger friend Liz, of That Skinny Chick Can Bake posted a delightful Gazpacho recipe which made me immediately crave this summer sensation! Liz’s recipe took her back to her childhood when her dear Mom recreated the recipe on a summer car vacation to Aspen after having it at a favourite restaurant. My recipe isn’t quite as romantic, in fact, it has no history nor does it conjure up childhood memories because cold soup in a Hungarian household is Sour Cherry Soup, a delicious soup made from European Sour Cherries in a lightly sweetened syrup, yogurt and cinnamon — it is delicious but it does not come anywhere near the complex flavours a Gazpacho has. Each vegetable contributes a certain aspect and my proportions are intentional. Some gazpachos are onion heavy so I used a very small French shallot, and I didn’t use garlic this time, I wanted a mellow flavoured soup with depth. Liz chose tomato juice or V-8 which adds a lot of flavour, I went with plain ordinary vine-rippened tomatoes and water — you could use a veg stock instead. I like a smooth soup so I press it through a fine sieve several times, I find the tomato seeds and the red pepper skin adds a little too much texture, and I do blend for several minutes a few times to get as much out of the pulp as possible. I loved Liz’s crouton garnish, because it adds such texture and interest but we’re going light this week and omitted it. Thank you Liz, your inspiration was perfect timing as we’ve been having 35° C (95° F) with high humidity.

To see more chilled soups that I created in the past, please click below:

Gazpacho

A full flavoured soup, perfect for hot and muggy summer days.

Gazpacho

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1.5 L strained soup (about 4 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 300 g Red Pepper (Capsicum)
  • 125 g celery
  • 140 g zucchini
  • 100 g radish
  • 120 g cucumber
  • 15 g shallot
  • 25 g avocado
  • 430 g vine ripened tomatoes
  • 500 mL water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • mint
  • basil
  • parsley

Corn Salsa

  • 40 g sweet corn
  • 40 g cucumber, finely cubed
  • 40 g celery, finely cubed
  • 5 g cilantro, chiffonade
  • zest of one fresh lime
  • splash of lime juice
  • sea salt

Directions:

  1. Chop everything roughly and add to a large 4 L bowl. Blend with a stick blender (immersion blender) until smooth.
  2. Press through a fine sieve and blend the remaining pulp with about 500 mL of the strained soup, press through a fine sieve again. I usually repeat twice to get the most out of the pulp. Discard pulp (or compost) and refrigerate strained soup for a couple of hours.
  3. Combine sweet corn, cucumber, cilantro, lime juice and salt, stir well. Top each bowl with 1 tbsp of the salsa just prior to serving.

Note:

  • I used about 2 large mint leaves, 20 basil leaves and 4 parsley sprigs.
  • Avocado would be an excellent addition to the salsa garnish.

GazpachoWW

Based on 4 servings without the garnish.

GazpachoCalories

Based on 4 servings without the garnish.

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CoconutCauliFriedRice
A Chicken Mole Enchilada is not a low calorie dish, it’s about balance so I decided that I wanted a lighter side, hence the Coconut Cauliflower “Fried Rice”. It’s really easy to prepare and goes well with Mexican and Thai dishes. The coconut flour absorbs moisture and helps the cauliflower “fry” instead of steam.

Coconut Cauliflower “Fried Rice”

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 1 L or 8 cups coconut cauliflower “fried rice”

Ingredients:

  • 2 heads cauliflower, washed and chopped roughly
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp EVOO

Directions:

  1. Add cauliflower to the bowl of your food processor (blender or emersion blender will not work), plus a few times until cauliflower resembles rice. Add the coconut flour and pulse to combine.
  2. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat the EVOO in a large Dutch oven, add the cauliflower rice in batches (we don’t want to steam it, just heat it and give it a rough fry, like fried rice). Continue until all of the “rice” has been fried. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Notes:

  • Coconut flour absorbs moisture so the coconut cauliflower rice actually retains a similar texture to rice.
  • Coconut flavour may not work with all dishes but it was absolutely wonderful with the Chicken Mole Enchiladas.
  • You may also add some spices to this dish, like cumin or coriander but the mole was flavourful enough, I did not want to confuse the palette.

 

CoconutCauliflowerRice NutFacts

Based on 15 servings.

CauliflowerCoconutRice

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GreenPea&BasilSoup_First

In my line of work, sometimes I acquire excess food from time to time — it’s just stuff that’s left over. The protocol is to offer it first to the client, then the photography staff, art director and lastly the food stylist (me). Recently, we were shooting a video ad for a popular small appliance on location in someone’s home, I had to shop and prepare about 12 recipes in advance and arrive only to do last minute plating and garnishes. It’s not the best situation for food because the food can look wilted and old very quickly, but it had to be done, so I persevered and it was done. It was an extremely professional group and the video team was equally as lovely (everyone came over to hug me after the job was done). Because the location was a private house, we had to vacate very quickly, packing up in warp speed — no time to wash anything, everything was put into bags to be washed at home. The leftover food was repackaged and everyone helped and carry everything to my car. Many of the items (everything on set) was garbage because we didn’t have proper refrigeration (like chicken wings and drumsticks that sat out at room temperature for about 4 hours) but some of the vegetables were entirely usable, including the ingredients in this recipe. The bag of frozen petite pois (small peas) had defrosted but were still very cold so they were fine and the basil was in tip top shape and so this soup was born. Peas and basil are a lovely combination and I urge you to give it a try, it really is so refreshing and moreish plus it is an absolutely gorgeous colour. You can serve this simple soup hot or cold, we had it hot for dinner with a nice dollop of goats cheese melting into the soup. Bon Appetite!

Green Pea and Basil Soup, chaud ou froid

Makes about 1 L of soup

Ingredients:

  • 750 g bag frozen petite pois (sweet peas), defrosted
  • 500 mL vegetable stock (preferably homemade like this easy, economical recipe)
  • 10-20 large basil leaves, to taste
  • 4 basil leaves, chiffonade
  • Sea salt, to taste

Directions:

  1. In a large glass container, combine the petite pois and vegetable stock with 10-20 basil leaves. Blend with an immersion blender until very smooth, taste and season accordingly.
  2. Press this liquid through a fine sieve (the pea skins are not a great texture in this soup). Serve hot or cold with a chiffonade of basil or a dollop of goats cheese.

GreenPea&BasilSoupNew

This simple yet versatile soup may be served hot or cold. Think about garnishing it with a caramelized scallop!

Notes:

  • This is a light soup, if you would like it to have more body, consider blending an avocado into it, starting with half and blend until smooth and taste for richness, blend in the second half if necessary.
  • If you are not fond of basil, try mint, it also pairs beautifully with sweet peas.
  • The beauty of this soup is its simplicity, no cooking, few ingredients.

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Dumplings_First

Fibre is always a good thing to add to your diet and as we age it becomes more and more important. With the weather being chilly (because it’s February and we live in Toronto, DUH!) I’ve been craving a lot of soup, and my favourite is a broth soup. Every week I make a large batch of compost stock (well-washed vegetable trimmings) and my dinner is usually the vegetable broth with chopped vegetables but sometimes I crave something more. Recently JT was away for some councillor meetings so I was able to experiment freely without judgement and I came up with these high fibre dumplings. The egg adds the protein and the dumplings add more than 3.5 times the fibre a regular dumpling would have. They remind me of matzo balls but a tad firmer, which I prefer anyway. So if you’re trying to add a bit more fibre to your diet, give these gems a go, I think they’re pretty tasty.

HighFibreDumplings_8460

The parsley adds delicious flavour so don’t skip it.

High Fibre Soup Dumplings

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup all bran cereal
  • 1/4 cup all purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 tbsp flax seeds
  • 2 tbsp water
  • a good fist of parsley leaves
  • 1 extra large egg

Directions:

  1. Add all the dry ingredients and parsley to the bowl of a small food processor and pulse until mostly powder.
  2. Add the egg and 2 tablespoons water and mix thoroughly and let sit 5 minutes to allow mixture to thicken.
  3. Drop by teaspoon-full into the boiling soup and cook thoroughly (usually when they rise to the top).
  4. Serve immediately.

DumplingNutValue

Based on 2 servings

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ChickenALaKingSoupDuring my childhood, we ate mostly Canadian-ized Hungarian food. And by Canadian-ized, I mean that Mom used yogurt instead of tejföl (sour cream), oil instead of lard etc. Every weekend we would have a roast of beef or pork (but mainly beef) and in the summer, Dad would BBQ steak and thick juicy bacon (szalonna). On weekdays Mom had her repertoire of chicken and fish dishes and I do recall the odd (when Dad wasn’t home for dinner) meatloaf, with the obligatory hard-boiled egg inside and various Hungarian stews like Lecsó and tok fózelék (a similar dish to creamed spinach but it’s on the sour side).

Around the timeI turned 14, I became interested in cooking recipes that I chose myself and my dear Mom encouraged me. One of my favourite resources very early on was the Milk Calendar, put out in full colour print for free by the Dairy Farmers of Canada. Every December, I eagerly awaited the Milk Calendar tucked away in the weekend edition of the Toronto Star. One of the first dishes I ever made on my own was Chicken á la King with leftover chicken (back in the day when a roast chicken fed a family of four AND had enough leftovers for another meal!)

I have to admit, I am unsure if the following inspiration came from the Milk Calendar (I’m leaning toward this) or my beloved Five Roses Cookbook (recipe page 233). What I can tell you with most certainty is that as I was making this soup, I instantly recognized the aroma and flavour of our beloved childhood Chicken á la King. The ingredients are quite unexpected and it’s pretty healthy to boot. If you love the flavours of a creamy Chicken á la King, you will LOVE this recipe.

When did you first begin cooking on your own and did you have a favourite recipe book that you used until it fell apart?

ChixALaKingSoup_7961

Chicken á la King Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes  3 or 4 servings 700-800 mL (3 1/2-4 cups),

Ingredients:

  • 180 g red lentils, rinsed and picked through
  • water to cover
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil, divided
  • 1/4 cooking onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 celery stalk, cubed
  • 1 carrot, cubed
  • 2 radishes, cubed
  • 2 tbsp frozen peas (optional garnish)
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 100 g chicken breast, skinless and boneless, cut into smallish strips
  • chicken stock
  • sea salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. In a medium, heavy bottomed pot, add 1 teaspoon vegetable oil and sauté the celery, carrot, and radish until soft. Add the chicken and cook through. Set aside in another bowl.
  2. In the same saucepan, add the remainding 1 teaspoon vegetable oil and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant. Add the lentils, stir and cover with water. Cook until lentils are very soft. Remove from heat and blitz with an immersion blender until very smooth, adding chicken stock until desired thickness is achieved (I left mine relative thick so it’s more stew-like). Add the apple cider vinegar and blitz until well blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Return the puréed lentils to the heat and slowly reheat, add the cooked vegetables and chicken and stir well. Serve pipping hot.
ChickenalaKingNF Healthy Chicken á la King Soup

WWPointChixalaKing 

Traditional Chicken á la King

 

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