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Cinnamon Swirl Bread with Raisins & Cranberries

February 11th, 2017

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Cinnamon Swirl Loaf

It’s been extra snowy of late, and rather than venture out into the cold today, I’m cozying up at home to bake this delightful loaf of bread. Laden with raisins and dried cranberries and swirled through with ribbons of fragrant cinnamon sugar, it’s the perfect antidote for a case of the mid-winter blues.

Cinnamon Swirl Bread with Raisins & Cranberries

1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup warm water (approximately 100F to 110F)
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 large egg
3 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup dried cranberries
2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp melted butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp orange zest (optional)

Warm milk until boiling. Remove from heat, and add 1/4 cup unsalted butter, stirring until butter is melted. Let cool at least until lukewarm.
In a large bowl, mix together water and yeast.
Add egg, sugar, butter, salt, vanilla, raisins, and cranberries.
Add the milk and butter mixture.
Add flour gradually, stirring and folding until flour is incorporated and the dough comes together.
Turn out onto a clean surface, and knead until dough is smooth.
Cover dough and let rise till doubled, approximately 1 1/2 hours.
Divide the dough in half and roll out each half to a 1/4″ thick rectangle.
Brush each rectangle lightly with melted butter.
Mix together sugar, cinnamon, allspice and orange zest (if using); distribute this mixture evenly over dough.
Roll up each rectangle, then with a pair of kitchen shears, snip the dough at 1″ intervals.
Arrange dough randomly into a greased loaf pan.
Cover dough again, and let rise for 1 hour.
Uncover dough and bake at 350F for 45 minutes.
Remove from oven, and brush the remainder of the melted butter over the top of the loaf.
Remove bread from pan after at least 20 minutes of cooling.

Cinnamon Swirl Loaf

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Pasta & Chopped Veggie Salad with Cilantro-Lime Dressing

January 2nd, 2017

Pasta & Veggie Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing

A year-round staple in my house, this marvelous make-ahead salad keeps wonderfully for picnics, BBQs and easy packed lunches. Topped with a handful of spiced pumpkin seeds from Truly Good Foods and chock full of veggies, dressed with a healthy and simple vinaigrette, it’s full of nutrients and flavour. Get the recipe here.

Pasta & Veggie Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing

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Ginger Pots de Crème with Black Tea Gelée, Grapefruit & Crushed Meringue

December 19th, 2016

Ginger Pots de Crème with Black Tea Gelée, Grapefruit & Meringue

Ginger Pots de Crème with Black Tea Gelée, Grapefruit & Meringue

Happy Holidays, everyone! I’ve been looking for a decadent dessert to serve with a special holiday meal, and have decided that this would be perfect for New Year’s Eve. The sweet, creamy ginger custard which stars in this dish is beautifully offset with the bitterness of black tea, the grapefruit provides a refreshing, sour bite which cuts through the richness of the custard, and the crushed meringue adds a lovely textural contrast. Best of all, it’s wonderfully easy to make with the assistance of my trusted Instant Pot pressure cooker.

Ginger Pots de Crème with Black Tea Gelée, Grapefruit & Crushed Meringue
makes 4 servings

Ginger Pots de Crème
1 cup heavy cream
3/4″ piece ginger, minced
3 large egg yolks
4 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp white sugar

Bring cream & ginger to a gentle boil over medium-high heat.
Remove from heat, cover and steep for 20 minutes.
In a bowl, mix together the egg yolks and both sugars, whipping until the mixture forms smooth yellow ribbons.
Strain the cream, and stir into the egg mixture.
Divide the mixture into 4 ramekins, and cover the top of each ramekin with aluminum foil.
Fill the insert of an electric pressure cooker with 1 cup water, and add the steaming rack. Arrange ramekins in the pressure cooker and close the lid.
Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes, and allow a natural pressure release for another 10 minutes, before venting fully and removing the ramekins.
Take the foil off the ramekins and let cool to room temperature, then cover and chill thoroughly in refrigerator.

Black Tea Gelée
2/3 cups very strong black tea, warm
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp powdered gelatin

Mix together the tea, sugar, and gelatin until fully dissolved.
Let cool to about room temperature, then divide among the ramekins.
Chill thoroughly, at least 3-4 hours.

Crumbled Meringue
1 large egg white
5 tbsp caster sugar

In a very clean bowl with very clean beaters, whip the egg white until it forms soft peaks
Gradually add the sugar, and whip until the egg white forms stiff peaks and is glossy. Make sure that the sugar is fully dissolved (it should not have a grainy texture).
Spread thinly onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
Bake at 200F for 2 hours, or until dry.
Break into pieces, and crush gently.

To assemble:
Grapefruit sections from one grapefruit (yields about 12 sections)

Just before serving, arrange 3 grapefruit sections in each ramekin.
Add a large spoonful of crumbled meringue, and serve immediately.

Ginger Pots de Crème with Black Tea Gelée, Grapefruit & Meringue

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Cranberry Tequila Jello Shots

December 5th, 2016

Cranberry Tequila Jello Shots

Cranberry Jello Shots

Holiday party season’s upon us, and I can’t wait for the festivities! This recipe takes a delicious homemade cranberry sauce (you always make extra like I do, right?) and fashions it into a sophisticated chewable cocktail. If you enjoy hosting parties as much as I do, then treat your esteemed guests to some of these Cranberry Tequila Jello Shots. They are easily adapted to your usual jello shot cups if you don’t want to make the chocolate cup – but the chocolate certainly make a lovely and impressive presentation! You can also adapt these to be non-alcoholic by replacing the tequila and triple sec with ginger ale. Whatever you do, don’t omit the candied cranberry which adds even more punch to it, with its crunchy sugar coating and delightful ‘pop’ of sour cranberry juice.

For the recipe, click here.

Cranberry Ginger Jello Shots

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Aztec Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

November 21st, 2016

Aztec Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Aztec Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

We’re quickly gearing up to the holiday season, and if you’re wondering what to bring to the countless get-togethers your friends and family will undoubtedly be inviting you to, consider adding this decadent recipe to your rotation of treats! Full of rich chocolate and spiced with orange zest, cayenne and cinnamon, these tender cookies explode with flavour in your mouth and will earn you accolades everywhere you take them.

Chocolate Aztec Crinkle Cookies
makes approximately 3 dozen

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Sift dry ingredients together into a small bowl.

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter

Melt chocolate and butter together in a small bowl, either in 30 second increments in the microwave, or over a bain-marie (put the bowl over a pot of simmering water, my preferred method), until there are no lumps. Set aside to cool for 2 minutes.

1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1/2 orange
2 teaspoons espresso or strong coffee

Combine sugar, eggs, vanilla, orange zest and coffee. Mix in the chocolate/butter and stir until fully combined. Add dry ingredients in 3 increments, folding in gently until combined each time. Refrigerate for 20 minutes, or until dough is firm enough to scoop into balls.

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Scoop dough into approximate 1″ balls (you can use a cookie scoop or two tablespoons), rolling each ball first in granulated sugar and then in powdered sugar. Place on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone mats (to prevent sticking), spacing the balls about 3″ apart from each other.

Bake each tray at 325F for 12 minutes, and let cookies cool completely on baking tray before removing (they will be very soft when warm).

Enjoy!

Aztec Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

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Sweet Corn Risotto with Crab & Bacon

November 7th, 2016

Corn Risotto with Crab & Bacon

Corn Risotto with Crab & Bacon

Tomorrow is a big day. Not only will it be my birthday, but it will also be the US election – and with all the nasty rhetoric that’s been tossed around this campaign season, I’m looking forward to it all being over. But while we’re at it, I thought I’d cook up something suitable for the occasion. Last month, Wikileaks published a set of emails that were hacked from Hillary Clinton’s server, including this little gem of mundaneity that made me laugh – tips on making risotto from Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta. Since this recipe for corn risotto topped with crab and bacon had been brewing in my head for quite a while, and I thought it would be a good time to finally bring it to fruition.

The result is a delicious, creamy risotto, with flecks of juicy corn and crisp, salty bacon mixed throughout, topped with sweet, tender chunks of crab. It’s a perfect dish to eat while watching the election results roll in!

Sweet Corn Risotto with Crab & Bacon
Serves 4

Corn Broth
4 ears of corn, stripped of husks and silk
1 bay leaf
1 small white onion
4 cups cold water

Cut off and set aside the kernels of corn.
Cook on high pressure in pressure cooker on manual for 1 hour. Let pressure come down naturally for 10 minutes, then release any remaining pressure.
Remove corn cobs and set aside to cool slightly, then squeeze and wring out the juice that remains in the cobs. Return this liquid to the broth.
Strain the broth and discard the solids.

Corn Risotto
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, minced (approximately 3/4 cup)
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc is recommended)
2 3/4 cups hot corn broth
1 cup fresh corn kernels (from approximately 2 ears of corn)
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
Dash of paprika
Salt, to taste
5 rashers of bacon, cut into lardons (1/2″ pieces, cut crosswise)
cooked crab meat from legs or claws (I used 3 claws per person for a total of 12 claws)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
chives

In a pan, fry the bacon until crispy. Drain the fat, and set aside.
In a pot, melt 2 tablespoons of butter on medium heat, then aff the onion and sweat until onion is translucent.
Add the Arborio rice and stir to coat rice grains evenly with oil. Cook for about 2 minutes.
Add 1/4 cup of the white wine, stirring, until liquid is absorbed. Repeat with the remaining 1/4 cup of white wine.
Add 1/4 cup of hot corn broth at a time, stirring until the liquid is absorbed each time before adding more. (As John Podesta explains in his email, you do this because adding small amounts of liquid at a time and cooking it slowly coaxes the starches out of the grains of rice, resulting in a creamy risotto.)
When all the liquid has been used and the rice is tender but still chewy in texture, stir the corn kernels into the risotto, cooking for about 1 minute. You want the corn to retain some of its crunch and freshness here.
Remove risotto from the heat and add in the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, stirring well to combine. Add in the 2 tablespoons of cold unsalted butter and stir again. Finally, stir in the bacon.
In a small pan, melt the butter over medium-low heat, then add the crab meat and toss, cooking just until the crab is warmed through.
Portion out the risotto onto plates or bowls. Top with crab meat, and sprinkle with chives.
Serve warm.

Corn Risotto with Crab & Bacon

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Fruit & Nut Chocolate Cheerios Clusters

October 24th, 2016

Fruit & Nut Chocolate Cheerios Cereal Clusters

Fruit & Nut Chocolate Cheerios Cereal Clusters

Need some treats in a hurry? This quick and easy recipe will have you ready for visitors in no time. Earlier this year General Mills sent me a few boxes of the cereals they’d relaunched with all-natural colours and flavours, and this was the very first recipe I tried. It turned out to be a perfect combination of nutty, sweet and tart, and was such a breeze to make that we kept making batches of these delicious clusters.

Get the recipe here.

Fruit & Nut Chocolate Cheerios Cereal Clusters

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Lentil, Bacon & Squash Soup

October 10th, 2016

Lentil, squash & bacon soup

Lentil, squash & bacon soup

One of my favourite things to make when the weather gets cooler is large batches of hearty soup. Along with a slice or two of fresh-baked bread or a savoury popover, it makes for an easy and comforting meal. This recipe is perfectly portioned for 2, but can easily scale up for more. Even better, it’s full of healthy ingredients like lentils and squash – to keep you well fed and warm.

Ingredients for soup

Lentil, Bacon & Squash Soup
Serves 2

3 strips bacon, chopped into lardons (small crosswise pieces approximately 1/2″ wide)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 large red onion (3/4-1 cup), peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced
1 sprig thyme
pinch chili flakes
1 stick celery, trimmed & diced
1/2 cup butternut squash, peeled & diced
1/2 cup turnip squash, peeled & diced
1/2 cup potatoes, diced
1/4 cup dried black lentils
1/4 cup dried split yellow peas
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup water
Salt & pepper, to taste
fresh chives, minced

In medium/large pot, fry bacon until fat is rendered out and bacon is crispy.
Drain all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat from the pot, and add the olive oil.
Add thyme, chili, onion, garlic; cover and sweat until vegetables are soft and translucent.
Add celery, squash and potatoes; stir to coat with oil. Cover and cook 10 minutes.
Add lentils, stock and water. Cover and cook 35 min, until lentils are soft.
Remove and discard the thyme stem.
If a thick soup is desired, blend a few scoopfuls until smooth and mix back into soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if necessary.
Ladle into bowls and top with fresh chives.
Serve with bread.

Lentil, squash & bacon soup

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Chai Nectarine Loaf with Candied Ginger

September 21st, 2016

Nectarine Chai Loaf with Candied Ginger

Nectarine Chai Loaf with Candied Ginger

Today’s the last day of summer, so I thought I’d celebrate the last stone fruits of the season and take advantage of the no longer sweltering weather before our fall harvest, apples and pumpkin, begins to dominate grocery store aisles.

This loaf combines the fleshy, tangy sweetness of tangerines, and the aromatic, warming spices commonly used in masala chai, for a perfect summer-to-fall. You could try it with any other stone fruit – I imagine peaches and plums could be just as delightful – and if you’re feeling in the mood to celebrate fall, so would apples or pears.

Chai Nectarine Loaf with Candied Ginger

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground fennel
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp cold black tea
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
3 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 cup diced nectarines (skin on)
1 tbsp all-purpose flour (for fruit)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour a loaf pan (or use non-stick).
Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and spices together into a bowl.
Mix together the milk, tea and vanilla.
Cream the butter and both sugars in a large bowl with a hand mixer until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, combining well.
Add a third of the flour, then half of the milk, combining with the hand mixer on low for each step; repeat until all the milk and flour are mixed in. Do not overwork, or the loaf will be too hard.
Combine nectarines with 1 tbsp flour; this will help them to stay afloat in the batter instead of sinking to the bottom.
Fold the fruit gently into the batter.
Spoon into loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes; until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean.
Let the loaf cool completely before removing it from the pan.

Icing

1 1/2 cups icing sugar
2 – 2 1/2 tbsp milk
3 – 4 slices candied ginger, diced

Stir together icing sugar and 2 tbsp milk until well combined; add just enough milk to bring it to a spreadable consistency (the icing will spread more than you expect when applied).
Spread onto a fully cooled loaf, sprinkle overtop with chopped candied ginger, and let it set for at least 1/2 hour before serving.

Nectarine Chai Loaf with Candied Ginger

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Strawberry Puff Pastry Flowers with Lemon Mascarpone Whipped Cream

March 20th, 2016

Strawberry Puff Pastry Flowers

Strawberry Puff Pastry Flowers

Happy Spring Equinox! Though we’ve had a mild winter this year, I’m ecstatic that it’s finally the first day of Spring. To me, this is the season of new beginnings, of renewal and growth and optimism for what’s to come. And if you’re celebrating along, why not make a few of these incredibly easy puff pastry flowers? I whipped some up to go along with my afternoon tea, but they’d be wonderful at any time of day.

For the recipe, click here.

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