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

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

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

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

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

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

Creamed Broccoli Pesto Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1 L or 4 cups soup

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

These are crisp, cheesy croutons.

Grilled Cheese Croutons

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheese Crisps

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 350 g crackers (about 6 cups)

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Notes:

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

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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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glutenfreecheezitz_first

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

Gluten-free Cheez-itz

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Alternative instructions:

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

Notes:

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

glutenfreecheezitz

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vegetarianbutternutsquashchili_first

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

Vegetarian Butternut Squash Chili

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1 L (8 cups)

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

vegetarianbutternutsquashchili

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saltedcaramelsemifreddofirst

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

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

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

saltedcaramelsemifreddo

This small slice bangs a lot of flavour.

Salted Caramel Semifreddo with Skor® Bits

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 500 mL (about 2 cups)

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

saltedcaramelsemifreddo2

I used gold sea salt to make it more festive!

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

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