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Smoked Ketchup

A while back, I was having an online conversation with Sissi (with a glass) about condiments (Sissi makes the most beautiful and delicious condiments I have ever seen, and soooo many of them)! Not sure how the conversation landed on ketchup but there we were. I have always thought that ketchup was one of the most basic of condiments and, to be honest, never really liked it. That dislike quickly turned to disdain and until now, I could honestly say, I hate it! Store bought ketchup has no connection to tomatoes other than its vibrant colouring, and even that is faked! Sissi confided that she felt the same way until she had begun to make her own. Now, why didn’t I think of that?In North America, ketchup is used on EVERYTHING! We slather our eggs with it, plunge our fries in it, and much to the chagrin of chefs, we drown our steaks,
hamburgers and tourtière in it. In grade school, my brother had a friend who even put it in his tomato soup! Really?!??? But Sissi was onto something, by making her own, she controls the sugar (the number one offender in store-bought ketchup), the herbs and spices. So, I took the plunge and made a small batch of gourmet, smoked ketchup to serve along side of our last Progressive Dinner, Tourtière! Thank you Sissi, for the inspiration!

You control the sugar.

Smoked Ketchup

Please click here for the original recipe.
Please click here to print this recipe.

This recipe makes a little more than 125 mL.

Ingredients:

  • 750 g tomatoes, roughly chopped (about 5-6 good size, vine ripened tomatoes)
  • 140 g sweet onion, chopped (about 1 small, sweet onion)
  • 5 g garlic, finely minced (about 2 cloves)
  • 30 g (2 tbsp) dark brown sugar
  • 15 mL (1 tbsp) tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) water
  • Pinch of baking soda

Directions:

  1. Combine everything but the baking soda in a thick-bottomed pan and cook on a medium boil for about 1 hour or until dark and thick.
  2. Add the baking soda and stir well (be careful because the baking soda will foam up).
  3. Press through a fine sieve or veggie mill and cool.
  4. Bottle for immediate use.

Notes:

  • There is not enough sugar or vinegar in this to preserve the tomatoes, use immediately or freeze.
  • The spice mix is personal preference, change it up if you don’t like something.
  • The baking soda neutralizes the acidity in the tomatoes, you literally only need a pinch.
  • The baking soda will fizz up, so be careful.
  • If you press the ketchup through a fine sieve (or a food mill), you need not worry about peeling and seeding the tomatoes.

 

Hey, look what was on my streetcar! This is part of the campaign I worked on for Tetley.

Close up of the lemon flower.

 

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I enjoy a slice of bread with my breakfast of hard boiled egg whites, a half of a smashed avocado, but I like to manage my carbs so often I go without the bread. Our local German bakery recently released a high protein/low carb bread so we bought some for the inconceivable price of $7.99 Canadian; it had about 8 thin slices! I didn’t mind the texture at first but then it really ragged on me, it was a dense, cardboard-like texture that was difficult to cut and chew. I started hating one of my favourite meals of the day! So I searched the net and found that there are several high protein/low carb bread options out there, starting with cloud bread (meh, it’s really just a fluffy egg white pancake) and then I found this recipe and I was intrigued.

Firstly, I had never baked with protein whey powder and the bread had so few ingredients, I really wanted to experiment. Of course, the first round, I stayed fairly true to the original recipe and it was fine but the second time I added herbs and sesame seeds and it was even better. This version has a bit more body to it with the addition of sunflower seeds and flax seeds.

What I like about this “bread” is that it slices like bread, toasts like bread and can be used for sandwiches but I like mine first thing in the morning, lightly toasted with 3 hard boiled egg whites and a tablespoon of salsa.

The bread has enough body to make a sandwich. But if you don’t like the taste of eggs, this bread is not for you.

High Protein “Bread”

Print High Protein Bread Recipe

For the Original Recipe, please click here.

Makes 1 loaf, about 10 slices.

Ingredients:

  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • 50 g (1/2 cup) protein whey powder (unflavoured)
  • 3 g (1/2 tsp) salt
  • 20 g (2 tbsp) sunflower seeds
  • 10 g (1 tbsp) flax seeds
  • 10 g (1 heaping tbsp) sesame seeds (I used black and white)
  • non-stick spray

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200° C (400° F).
  2. Prepare a 4″ x 8″ pan by lining it with parchment paper and spraying with non-stick spray.
  3. Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until fluffy and stiff but not dry.
  4. Add the egg yolks, whey protein and salt, beat for about 30 seconds or until well combined.
  5. Fold in the sunflower and flax seeds.
  6. Pour into the prepared pan and sprinkle with the sesame seeds on top. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.
  7. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, remove from pan and cool completely on rack. Slice into 10 slices. Freeze in a piece of parchment and store in a ziplock Baggy until needed.

Notes:

  • This ‘bread’ reminds me of a Genoise cake, it has body but is light and fluffy.
  • The bread toasts very nicely.
  • JT feels it is a bit eggy tasting to have with poached eggs but I like it.
  • Add a handful of chopped herbs as a flavour option.
  • I freeze this ‘bread’ because storing it in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator makes it a little soggy.
  • It’s important to line the pan with parchment and spray the parchment with non-stick spray because in my experience the batter sticks otherwise.

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It was somebody’s birthday last month and I wanted to bake a special birthday cake that was not too sweet or too heavy because it’s been ridiculously hot and humid in these parts. I had also just finished baking a mess of macarons so I was still in the meringue-making kinda mood. I found this recipe from Ricardo Larrivée’s of Food Network Canada and was intrigued. Years ago, a dear friend had brought a La Rocca Caramel Crunch Cake to the cottage and it was made with meringue instead of cake and I’ve never quite forgotten how moreish the texture was (think giant macaron!) so I modified Ricardo’s recipe a bit and came up with this decadent Chocolate, Chestnut, Coffee, Crunch Cake.

Decadent Chocolate, Chestnut, Coffee Crunch Cake

Makes one 20 cm (8 inch) layered cake.

Original recipe may be found here.

The Cake

Ingredients for the light cake:

  • 40 g (1/2 cup) almond flour
  • 65 g (1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 30 g (1/4 cup) icing sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • 95 g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 325° F (170° C).
  2. Cut four parchment paper circles, about 20 cm (8 inches) in diameter. Spray circles with non-stick spray.
  3. Combine almond flour, all-purpose flour and icing sugar in a bowl and mix well. Set aside.
  4. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form, then add the granulated sugar one tablespoon at a time until stiff peaks form.
  5. Add the almond flour mixture all at once and fold into the beaten egg whites, macrophage-style.
  6. Spread 2 circles with the batter right to the edge and bake for 30 minutes or until lightly golden and firm to the touch. If the batter sticks too much to your spatula, spray it with non-stick spray.
  7. Cool completely.

Ingredients for the chocolate cake:

  • 40 g (1/2 cup) almond flour
  • 65 g (1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 25 g (scant 1/4 cup) icing sugar
  • 5 g (1 tbsp) cocoa, sifted
  • 2 egg whites
  • 95 g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar

Directions:

  1. Combine almond flour, all-purpose flour, cocoa powder and icing sugar in a bowl and mix well. Set aside.
  2. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form, then add the granulated sugar one tablespoon at a time until stiff peaks form.
  3. Add the almond flour mixture all at once and fold into the beaten egg whites, macronage-style.
  4. Spread 2 remaining circles with the batter right to the edge and bake for 30 minutes or until lightly golden and firm to the touch. If the batter sticks too much to your spatula, spray it with non-stick spray.
  5. Cool completely.

Chestnut filling:

Ingredients:

  • 100 g (3.5 oz) peeled chestnuts*, roasted
  • 30 mL (2 tbsp) milk or cream
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. In a small, narrow container blend the chestnuts with the milk and pinch of salt with a stick blender, until smooth and creamy. Set aside.

Cake assembly:

Ingredients:

  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) Chocolate Buttercream
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) Coffee Buttercream
  • 200 g (7 oz) Belgian chocolate wafers
  • 30 mL (2 tbsp) heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Place the chocolate layer first and spread the entire quantity of the chestnut cream on top. Add the white layer and spread the coffee buttercream on it. Add the chocolate layer again and spread the chocolate buttercream on it. Finish the cake with the white layer but place it upside-down so the smooth side is up.
  2. Melt the Belgian chocolate wafers the heavy cream to make a ganache, pour over the cake and spread out on top and sides evenly.
  3. Refrigerate. Decorate with chocolate curls. Serve chilled (it’s been extremely warm in these parts and the buttercream would melt if served at room temperature!)

Like a Macaron, this cake is best if filled a day or two before serving so that the buttercream has time to soften the meringue cake.

Notes:

  • For buttercream, I always use this recipe.
  • For roasted chestnuts, I usually buy this brand.
  • Use a serated knife to make a clean cut of the meringue.

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When I was down in Florida with my dear friend, Kimberley from University, I mentioned that I had recently baked some killer cinnamon buns and she sighed. She is gluten intolerant but will splurge every couple of years on a Cinnabon with dire results, she explained that it’s never really as good to warrant the pain afterward. That is the precise moment I decided to create a gluten-free cinnamon bun that she would be happy to eat AND digest! This is the result of several tests, I hope you love them as much as we did!

Gluten Free Cinnamon Sticky Rolls

Print GF Cinnamon Rolls Recipe

Makes about 6 small cinnamon buns.

Ingredients:

  • 230 g (1 1/4 cup) gluten-free flour (I used this one)
  • 15 mL (1 tbsp) coconut sugar
  • 5 mL (1 tsp) cinnamon
  • 5 mL (1 tsp) baking powder
  • pinch baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 30 mL (2 tbsp) cold butter
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) buttermilk

Directions:

  1. Combine gluten-free flour, coconut sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix well.
  2. Using a fork or pastry blender, cut in the cold butter to distribute evenly (may be done in a food processor).
  3. Sprinkle in the buttermilk and using a fork, bring the pastry together quickly to get a sticky ball of dough. On a lightly floured (with GF flour) board, knead a few times, but not enough to heat up the dough. Pat into a rectangle about 23 x 20 cm (9 inches x 8 inches).
  4. Preheat the oven to 400° F (200° C). See directions for the filling.

Ingredients for the filling:

  • 30 g (2 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
  • 40 g (2 tbsp) brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon

Directions for the filling:

  1. Combine the butter, sugar, cinnamon and mix well.
  2. Spread the filling over the rectangle to all four sides.
  3. Roll up the rectangle into a tight roll. Cut into 6 small rolls.
  4. Place cut sides down into a lightly greased oven proof pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool slightly and remove with a spatula to a cooling rack.
  5. Drizzle with a little icing sugar and water mix. Serve warm or at room temperature.

A more biscuit-like pastry, these strongly-flavoured cinnamon rolls heat up beautifully and satisfy a cinnamon roll craving.

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Yesterday, my country celebrated its 150th birthday! The months and days leading up to this grand event have been epic. Sadly, we had planned to be away without even thinking about it. This is where social media really gets to shine because with all the awesome photos and videos everyone posted, it felt like we were right there! Plus, the friendly lake we were visiting decided to have their 4rth of July Celebrations on July 1st, but we really know they were helping us celebrate our 150th birthday! Thank you America!


In early May, I purchased some pears and then immediately forgot that I had them. Then on May 17, my friend Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella, posted that it was Cheese Soufflé Day and linked to her twice baked cheese soufflé recipe, and I immediately knew how I would use one of those pears!

When one reads a “soufflé” recipe, one might back out of the room, ever so slowly, so no one would notice, because cheese soufflées are known to be complicated and finicky. Let me assure you, this one is NOT. This recipe comes together quickly and easily, and I love that they can be frozen and rebaked when required, how easy is that? I also love béchamel sauce (that was my addition) so this is a win/win on all accounts.

Pear, Blue Cheese and Leek Twice-Baked Soufflé

This recipe makes 4 x 200 mL (7 fluid ounces) ramekins. For the original recipe, please click here.

Print Recipe Twice Baked Soufflee

Ingredients:

  • 30 g butter, divided, plus additional for buttering ramekins
  • 30 g/1.5oz plain all purpose flour
  • 250 mL (1 cup) milk, heated
  • 150 g (1 small) pear, finely chopped or cubed
  • 40 g (1/4 cup) leeks, finely chopped
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 60 g blue cheese, crumbled
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C).
  2. Butter 4 ramekins well, all the way up the sides. Boil some water.
  3. Melt 10 g of the butter in a saucepan and add the chopped pears and leak and cook on medium heat until softened. Season with salt and pepper. Pour out of the pan and set aside to cool.
  4. Melt the remaining butter in the pan and add the flour all at once. Cook the flour for a minute without burning it. Add the milk and whisk until smooth, it will be very thick.
  5. Add the pear and leek mixture and stir well until combined in the roux. Add the egg yolks and stir well to combine. Set aside to cool.
  6. Meanwhile, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Take about 1/4 of the beaten egg whites and stir it into the roux mixture to loosen. Fold in the remaining egg whites until well incorporated but not deflated.
  7. Divide the mixture into the four ramekins and bake in a bain-marie (this is why you were boiling the water) for 35-40 minutes or until tops are lightly golden (remember, they will be baked again).
  8. Allow to cool in the ramekins for about 5 minutes (they will deflate a bit), then gently loosen sides with a sharp knife and turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool until room temperature.
  9. Wrap each soufflé individually in plastic wrap and then bag in a large zip lock freezer bag. Freeze until required.
  10. To defrost, remove from the freezer the night before it is required and defrost in the refrigerator. The microwave is not suitable for this step.
  11. Prepare the béchamel finishing sauce.
  12. Lay the soufflés into individual oven proof dishes (I used cast iron) and prepare the béchamel finishing sauce.

Ingredients for Béchamel Finishing Sauce:

Serves 4

  • 5 g (1 tsp) duck fat, bacon fat or unsalted butter
  •  (1 tbsp) all-purpose flour
  • 250 mL (1 cup) milk
  • 5 mL (1 tsp) thyme leaves
  • 1 1/2 slices bacon, cooked until crispy, chopped
  • Salt

Directions for Béchamel Finishing Sauce:

  1. Melt butter in a small saucepan, add the flour and cook the roux without burning for about 1 minute.
  2. Slowly add the milk while whisking to creat a smooth sauce, cook until thickened.
  3. Flavour with the thyme leaves, bacon and salt.
  4. Pour over the defrosted soufflés in an oven-proof bakeware and bake about 25 minutes in a preheated 350° F (180° C), to heat it through.

A wonderful combination of sharp blue cheese, salty bacon and sweet pears with creamy baked béchamel. Is your mouth watering yet?

Notes:

  • You may use any cheese you wish, although I would stick to full-flavoured cheeses.
  • If you don’t like leeks, try caramelized onions instead (I always have frozen leeks in my freezer and come to think of it, caramelized onions!).
  • Lorraine poured about 300 mL (1 1/4 cup) heavy cream over her soufflées instead of the béchamel sauce.

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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 slivered almonds, toasted
  • 3 Campari tomatoes
  • 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.

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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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