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~ Jean-Anthelme Brillat Savarin

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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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Figs with Goat’s Cheese, Pistachios, and Golden Grahams

March 7th, 2016

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For those of you who live in the States, today is National Cereal Day!! I’m a big fan of breakfast for dinner, and if you haven’t yet had cereal today, it’s not too late! General Mills has reformulated a bunch of their cereals in the quest to eliminate artificial flavours, artificial colours and high fructose corn syrup from all of their products, and my cooking club 37 Cooks is having fun creating dishes with some of the new product.

Of course, you could just reach for a bowl and a spoon as I often do, but I was delighted to find that even when you’re holding a cocktail party, you can use cereal to dress up some of your dishes. The crunchy, sweet nature of Golden Grahams lends itself especially well to figs and goat’s cheese, in an extremely sophisticated-looking but simple hors d’oeuvre. Go here for the full recipe.

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Apple Cranberry Croissant Bread Pudding (in the slow cooker!)

February 11th, 2016

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Ah, hibernation weather. We’ve had an incredibly mild – even record-breakingly warm – winter this year, but now it seems as though we’re finally hitting a cold snap! When that happens, I break out my slow cooker. Hamilton Beach was so kind as to send me one the year before last, and I’ve been making regular use of it with soups, congee, chili and all those other comforting foods that keep me cozy this time of year. But if you’re looking for something different, and just as heart-warming, give this easy croissant-based bread pudding a spin for brunch, coffee or dessert! Recipe here.

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“Baked Potato” Gougères

August 13th, 2015

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Is there any better, more versatile comfort food than the humble potato? Whether baked, fried, mashed or any of the other infinite ways to prepare it – potatoes are to me like the warm embrace of a favorite childhood blanket – and even better, they clean up nice enough to take to a fancy party! Take the classic French gougère, a marvelous, delicate pastry with a crispy shell and an airy interior – and stuff it with a comforting blend of mashed potato, sour cream, bacon bits and chives. Your friends will love you for it – if you can make it to their door without having them all to yourself.

For the recipe, click here: “Baked Potato” Gougères

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Quick Pickled Rhubarb

June 6th, 2015

Quick Pickled Rhubarb

Last year, I hired some landscapers to take care of one of my most-hated home tasks: yard maintenance. When they had completed the first yard cleanup, I came home to see how lovely and trim everything was. But wait a minute – something was missing!

It turned out I hadn’t informed them that I wanted to keep my rhubarb and tomato plants, and in their quest to do a thorough job, they had removed them from their carefully-appointed posts beside my house. If you’re thinking what I’m thinking (“Who wouldn’t want to keep their tomato and rhubarb plants??”) I am glad to not be alone! And if you’ve somehow inherited a robust rhubarb plant and don’t know where to start, what about trying this delightful, easy quick-pickle? Be forewarned however; you might find snacking on these crunchy, tart and lightly-spiced morsels so addictive that you’re soon in search of more rhubarb.

Quick Pickled Rhubarb

4 large stalks rhubarb (approx. 1/2 lb), washed and cut into pieces
1 tsp peppercorns
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp cloves
half cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
4 whole green cardamom pods
4 whole allspice
2 bay leaves
zest of 1 orange (in strips; I used a simple vegetable peeler)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Pack the rhubarb, spices and orange zest into a 32-oz canning jar.
In a pot, combine apple cider vinegar, water, both sugars and salt. Heat, covered, until the sugar is fully dissolved, and the mixture comes to a rolling boil.
Pour carefully into the jar (I used a wide-mouth funnel that fits perfectly into the mouth of a canning jar) and screw the lid on top.
Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 48h before serving.
Consume within 2 weeks. Trust me – it’ll be gone long before then!

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Marbled Beet Braid

April 21st, 2015

Beet Bread Braided Loaf
Some foods are humble. Some are simple. Some are down-and-dirty, reserved only for late-night satisfaction.

This beet braid is none of those things. It’s a dramatic loaf that loves to be the centre of attention. It will steal the attention of anyone around, and elicit multiple “What is it?”s. I’ve long loved the infectious nature of beets, and wanted to showcase their splendidly vivid colour in a loaf of bread. Cut into it, and you’ll be treated to a tender, delicious slice of pink-zebra-like goodness – perfect for spreading with butter, or making into a colourful sandwich.

Want the recipe? Click here!

Beet Bread Braided Loaf

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Smoked Duck Breast, Mushroom & Grape Flatbread

October 2nd, 2014

Smoked Duck, Mushroom & Grape Whole Wheat Flatbread

I’ve been on a flatbread kick lately. It’s the perfect easy meal – you can make the dough in advance, and keep it in the fridge for a few days until you need to use it. The topping possibilities are endless too, and can be adapted easily to whatever you have in the fridge. My favourites are always a balance of different flavours, such as this version with smoked duck. It’s lovely with the addition of earthy wild mushrooms and juicy, sweet grapes.

Thanks to my 37 Cooks group and our sponsor, Bob’s Red Mill, and their wonderful organic wheat flours, I’ve now perfected my cracker-crust whole wheat flatbread dough. It’s crispy, thin, and just enough to play a subtle, supportive base-line, letting the notes of your toppings shine!

Smoked Duck Breast & Mushroom & Grape Whole Wheat Flatbread

Dough
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp instant yeast
1/4 tsp salt
pinch of sugar
3-4 tbsp warm water (between 100-110F is ideal)
1/2 tsp olive oil

Measure out dry ingredients (including the yeast) into a bowl, making a well in the middle. Add 3 tbsp warm water and the olive oil, and mix with a fork until combined. If the dough is too dry to incorporate all the flour, add a bit more water.
Turn the dough out onto a clean, lightly floured surface, and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Place into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm place for an hour.
Wrap the dough in a piece of cling film and let it sit in the fridge for at least 6 hours (and up to 3 days). This helps the gluten in the dough to relax, making it easy to roll out thinly.
*NOTE: This recipe makes a perfect light lunch size flatbread for one. For a dinner portion, make 1.5 times the recipe or 2x the recipe per person, depending on appetite.

Toppings
Grated mozzarella cheese
1-2 sprigs fresh thyme
Smoked duck breast (I get mine from The Healthy Butcher; it’s seriously wonderful)
Wild mushrooms
1 tbsp Marsala wine
1 tsp olive oil
Red grapes, halved

Preheat the oven to 475F, with a pizza stone on the middle rack.
On a piece of parchment paper, roll out the flatbread dough to between 1/16″ and 1/8″.
Marinate mushrooms in the Marsala wine for a few minutes.
Place a pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add mushrooms and marsala wine and cover, cooking just until all the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat.
Sprinkle mozzarella evenly over the dough.
Remove the thyme leaves by running your index finger and thumb in the opposite direction of the leaves (from top to bottom of the sprig), and sprinkle the leaves over the cheese. Discard the stems.
Add the duck breast, mushrooms and grapes.
Transfer the flatbread (including the parchment paper) onto the pizza stone. Bake for 16-18 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and dough edges are golden.

If you want more flatbread variations, here’s a prosciutto, peach and queso fresco version – over on the 37 Cooks blog!

Prosciutto, Peach & Queso Fresco Whole Wheat Flatbread

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Earl Grey Financiers

August 11th, 2014

This past weekend was a busy one, full of visits with friends and dining out morning till night. I met a few old university friends (and one very adorable 3 month old) for afternoon tea at the Shangri-La. It reminded me that I have yet to share these sweets with you, and the photo has been sitting in my drafts for ages!

Earl Grey Financiers

I love using tea as flavouring – in rubs for meat, in sweets such as ice cream or cookies, and of course, in those beautifully marbled tea eggs. While these tea-infused financiers would be perfect for afternoon tea, they would be just as lovely as an after dinner treat, with a glass of fine aged rum in hand (I personally recommend Dictador, a wonderful 12 year old rum aged in port barrels, and available at the LCBO).

You could use a non-stick muffin tin to make these, but I just adore the dessert bar pan from Good Cook. For the recipe, click here.

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Roasted Garlic & Chive Compound Butter

March 30th, 2014

Roasted Garlic & Chive Compound Butter

Roasted garlic is easy to make, goes well in so many things and, perhaps best of all, while roasting perfumes your house with its allium essence. Once roasted, the flavour, once pungent and spicy, turns fragrant, mellow and almost sweet. I like to serve it as a burger topping, creamed into mashed potatoes, ground up with white beans for dip, and my favourite method – mixed into butter with chives to make a delightful compound butter. It makes the simple pleasure of fresh bread and butter feel just a bit fancy.

Roasted Garlic & Chive Compound Butter

1 large head of garlic
1 tsp olive oil
1 cup butter (salted or unsalted depends on your preference), room temperature
4 tbsp finely chopped chives

Preheat your oven to 325F.
Cut the top off the head of garlic, just so the cloves are exposed. Pour the olive oil over the cut head of garlic and wrap in tin foil.
Bake for 50-60 minutes. Let cool slightly, then extract cloves from the papery bulb (I use a cocktail fork).
Mash with a fork, discarding any hard bottom bits.
In a small saucepan, melt 1/4 cup of the butter over low heat until it bubbles. Add chives and stir. Mix in mashed garlic and let cool to room temperature. (note: this step is optional, but I have found it helps the butter to keep better. If you skip this step, then just use the entire cup of butter in the next step.)
Combine the remaining butter and the chive/garlic mixture by either mashing together with a fork, or creaming with a mixer until well combined.

Use within a few days (covered and kept in the refrigerator), or roll into a log with cling wrap and freeze (another option: pipe equally sized pats of the butter onto a wax paper-lined baking sheet and freeze until solid, then keep in a freezer bag until ready to use.

Other serving suggestions: toss popcorn or cooked vegetables in melted butter, top a steak with a pat of the butter and let it melt in, sautée shrimp or other seafood in it, serve melted with lobster or crab.

Roasted Garlic & Chive Compound Butter

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Fizzy Champagne Truffles

January 15th, 2014

Fizzy Champagne Truffles

We’re only at the beginning of 2014, but so far it’s been a lovely year. And contrary to general expectation, things haven’t slowed down at all since the holidays. I’m friends with many January babies which means countless celebrations, and I’ve just begun a new position at work.

As nature would have it, I mark special occasions with food. So here’s an especially celebratory treat – a simple champagne truffle that fizzes ever so slightly when consumed. In my partnership with 37 Cooks, our current sponsor, The Spice House, sent us some delightful treats to play with – one of which was a jar full of odd, white granules. Incorporated into these truffles, they leave a subtly sparkling effect on your tongue.

For the recipe, click here!

May you have much to celebrate this year.

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