Friday, June 30, 2017

Maple Mushroom Sauce

Now that I look at this picture of it, it reminds me of the fake mushroom sauce I had to make for my culinary olympic competition vegetable plate. I ended u using a garlic hoison Chinese dipping sauce with glucose and gelatin. But this is a lot tastier and looks just like it too!
Maple Mushroom Sauce
drippings left in the pan from searing a pork tenderloin
8 ounces white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons all-purpose (plain) flour
1-2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup butter
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the mushrooms in the drippings until browned. Stir in the flour until coated. Gradually stir in stock and simmer to reduce. When close to serving, stir in cold butter in small pieces. Then add syrup and season to taste, 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Creamy Potato Bake

I really love eating potatoes in many different ways. I love garlic as a flavoring ingredient. I particularly enjoy when potatoes are flavored with garlic. Add some butter and cream to the mix and you've got yourself some real tasty and easy side dish!

Creamy Potato Bake
2 large potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cups whipping cream (35%)
1/2 cup butter
5 large garlic cloves
salt and pepper, to taste

Put the cream in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to low, add the butter and garlic. Simmer until cream is reduced by half. Take out the garlic cloves and season the cream with a little salt and pepper. Place a layer of potatoes in a casserole dish and pour a little of the cream mixture over. Repeat layers, saving a little extra cream to pour over the very top. Cover casserole dish with foil and bake at 425F for about 40-60 minutes until potatoes are tender.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Forget-About-It Vegetables

My brother is on to something. He cooks a lot of vegetables at home and he has a genius way of doing it. We used to stir-fry chopped vegetables together for an easy side dish. Steaming also works.  But my brother cuts them up, puts them all in a bowl, tosses them in a little oil, salt, pepper, and sometimes other seasonings, and bakes/roasts them. Just places them all on a baking sheet and roasts them until tender. The higher the temperature, the faster they will cook.  But sometimes he cooks them at the same time as something else, such as chicken, and so the oven temperature is dictated by that. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Easy Pork Tenderloin

"Mmm, this pork is delicious, what did you put on it?" Uh, salt and pepper. And a little garlic and cilantro. And some love and sweat.
Pork tenderloin is already a really nice cut, 'tender' and not overly pricey. It doesn't need a whole lot of love to be awesome; although it is rather versatile and can benefit from a lot of different preparation techniques.When I think pork tenderloin though, I always think roast. You can go crazy with marinades and rubs and sauces if you wish. But I kept it simple this time and it paid off.
Easy pork tenderloin
Trim the pork tenderloin of any silverskin.
In a large freezer bag, put some salt, cracked black pepper, garlic powder, dried cilantro.
Place the tenderloin in the bag and shake to coat all sides with the spices.
Heat some oil in a large frying pan over high heat.
Sear the pork on all sides just until browned.
Transfer to the oven and bake to desired doneness. Even overcooked, it's still pretty good!

Monday, June 26, 2017

On The Fly Pork Dinner

Seared pork tenderloin, Creamy potato gratin, Roasted broccoli and zucchini, Crispy onions, Cilantro walnut pesto, Mushroom maple sauce.
All prepared within an hour using a small, limited kitchen and some random ingredients bought at the store plus a small pantry supply. It isn't complicated or time consuming to make some really tasty, balanced, meals at home. I will be sharing the individual components of this dish in the coming week.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Rhubarb Coulis

Here is my step-by-step procedure on how to make a delicious rhubarb coulis and also what to do when you mess up cooking rhubarb.

  1. Get really excited about the fact that your little backyard rhubarb patch is finally ready to harvest.
  2. Harvest the nicest stalks, being sure to discard the toxic leaves in the compost bin.
  3. Wash and cut the rhubarb.
  4. Steam it.
  5. Accidentally overcook it.
  6. Cry a little.
  7. Throw the overcooked pieces into a blender.
  8. Add a little sifted icing sugar.
  9. Puree until smooth and strain.
  10. Enjoy by the spoonful, because this mistake turned out to be delicious!
  11. If you still want actual rhubarb pieces, repeat steps 1 through 4.
  12. If you want more of this coulis because it's so delicious, repeat steps 1 through 10.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Vegan Lemon Pastry Cream

You don't need cream or any dairy or eggs at all to make a nice, smooth, tasty pastry cream.

Vegan Lemon Pastry Cream
1⁄4 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1 cup non-dairy milk
3 Tablespoons granulated (white) sugar
1 pinch salt
juice of 2 large lemons
1⁄4 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small saucepan, whisk together the flour with 1/4 cup of the milk. Whisk in the remaining milk, sugar, and salt. Cook the mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, for 5-6 minutes or until very thick. Add juice and vanilla, then cook again until mixture becomes thickened again. Pour into a bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface to avoid a skin from forming. Cool and chill.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Spiced Poached Rhubarb

Cooking rhubarb is always a little hit or miss. Rhubarb has some firm, crisp stalks when they are taken out of the ground. But somehow they manage to over cook very easily. You want the rhubarb to be tender enough to bite, but not mush, Rhubarb can be steamed, poached, or baked - but all methods require a careful eye and not much time. Having an ice bath on hand to stop the cooking process immediately is a smart idea. Here, I have gently poached my rhubarb in a poaching liquid consisting of water, granulated sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves to flavor the rhubarb. I whisked together the poaching liquid, then added bite-sized cuts of rhubarb, I brought the mixture to a slow simmer, and didn't walk away from it, testing the tenderness of the rhubarb every minute or so. Then I removed the rhubarb pieces with a slotted spoon and saved the delicious liquid.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Rhubarb Mille Feuille

Mille Feuille means "a thousand leaves" and refers to the layers of flaky pastry. A mille feuille generally has some kind of filling such as a pastry cream and fruit.
Rhubarb Mille Feuille = 
one piece of puff pastry (my homemade puff pastry squares, freshly baked)
+ vegan lemon pastry cream
+ poached spiced rhubarb pieces
+ rhubarb coulis
+ one piece of puff pastry, dusted with icing sugar and caramelized under the broiler
+ dusting of icing sugar
+ more rhubarb coulis

Recipes for the individual components will follow in the coming days.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Cake Mix Double Chocolaters

No, I'm not suddenly a boxed cake mix advocate, but check out how quickly and easily you can make yummy chocolate squares!!
Cake Mix Double Chocolaters
1 package (two layer size) devil's food chocolate cake mix
2 large eggs
1/2 cup butter or hard margarine, melted
1 package chocolate chips of choice (I used semisweet)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9x13 inch pan with parchment paper.
Mix all ingredients together well and bake for 25 minutes.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Back In The Workforce

I guess it's high time I announced my new job situation. After taking a much needed break at home following my challenging and demanding job abroad; as well as taking a little bit of time for travelling, I am back in the workforce. It was actually less than a month that I was home before I began looking for work again, I just don't like to be idle for long. I've decided I will stay close to home for at least the next little while. 

I found a nice, small-town Irish pub. It works from a scratch kitchen with a seasonal menu using as much fresh and local products as possible. There is a lot of room for creativity and fun in this kitchen. The environment is among the best I have ever worked in - supportive, understanding, and friendly. I like the people I work with and we all get along well. The hours are much more reasonable and flexible. The compensation is great. And the work is always fun. I suspect I will be happy here for awhile.

We are currently gearing up to launch a new summer menu, which I will have some input in. I am currently developing some summer dessert ideas!

Monday, June 19, 2017

DAD Cake

I'm a day late for Father's Day, which is what happens when you work in the industry, but today I made a Father's Day cake. I used yesterday's lemon cake recipe and cut one round in half to form two 'D's' and the other I cut into an 'A' shape. Then I placed them on a baking sheet. Rather than frosting around them all in in between all the little crevices, I opted for a 'polka-dot/star' pattern. I used my signature cream cheese frosting (goes really well on a lemon cake). I kept some white, added a little cocoa powder to some to make it chocolate, and tinted the rest in a few different shades of blue, my father's favorite color. Then I used star tips to pipe randomly onto the cake. I thought it was a fun, simple, and pretty way of frosting it!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Lemon Cake

Lemon Cake
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
1/3 cup oil
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated (white) sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour two eight inch round cake pans.
In a large bowl, stir together the first five dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together milk, vinegar, lemon, oil, and vanilla. Whisk in the sugar. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until cakes tests clean.

This cake turned out light, moist, and almost spongey in texture.
It can easily be made vegan by substituting a non dairy milk.

Stay tuned tomorrow to see what this lemon cake becomes!!!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Tea Biscuits

My grandmother's tea biscuits, take number two of the season.

This time I reverted back to my grandmother's recipes and chose the one I thought might be 'the most accurate'. Of course they STILL didn't turn out like hers but they are probably my best attempt yet. They are certainly close - light and high and yummy. My grandmother even approved of them though she said they weren't quite there yet. Hopefully I will figure it out one day!
Almost Nonna's Tea Biscuits
1 large egg, beat into a measuring cup
milk, add to make one cup liquid (I used skim because that's all I had on hand)
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
scant 1/4 cup granulated (white) sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter (I used salted)

Preheat oven to 425F. Line a double layer of baking sheets (to prevent bottoms from browning too quickly) with parchment paper.
Stir together all the dry ingredients and cut in the butter until pea-sized. Stir in the egg and milk mixture. Knead until smooth, Roll out on lightly floured surface to about 1/2 inch thick. Cut with a round cutter, Place 1/2 inch apart on prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly browned.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Not For Tea Biscuits

My grandmother's tea biscuits, take number one of the season.

My grandmother makes the best tea biscuits. Or used to anyway, but hasn't been able to recently. They are light and fluffy and buttery and so delicious they can be eaten plain and cold; but of course are better warm with butter! (See

She has given me a few different recipes over the years but although I have tried them all, I have never been able to get them quite as good as hers. Similar, yes. Tasty, definitely. Nonna's? Nope. I can't even pinpoint what the differences may be. We don't live far away from each other so we use the same brands of ingredients, same climate, even have the same or similar kitchen equipment to work with. Is she just missing something in one of her recipes? Does she have a special technique that just can;t be explained? Am I not kneading enough, too much, or too vigorously? Does my oven temperature run high? Is it a subtle difference in biscuit cutters?

It certainly doesn't help that her recipes are never specific. How long do I knead? How thick do I roll out the dough? How much is a 'scant' cup of sugar? What percentage of milk fat? Salted or unsalted butter?

This time around, I decided just to try my ow biscuit recipe I know has worked before and always produces a tender, flaky, and tasty product. But I tried to form them into more of a tea biscuit type. I'm afraid it didn't work out at planned and didn't come close to my grandmother't tea biscuits; but they were darn tasty!
Not high enough, not fluffy enough, not 'tea' enough

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Birthday Cake #3

Birthday cake number three was made back home, ready for my return from my trip, by my loving parents. They always try to make me a different kind of birthday cake every year, if I am actually home anytime near my birthday or I don't insist on making my own cake. This year they made me a chocolate pound cake with a simple chocolate frosting from one of my favorite cookbooks, "Chocolate Everything". Despite being a pound cake, the cakes is not too heavy or rich, but moist and chocolaty!!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Birthday Cake #2

Birthday cake number two actually came on the same day as birthday cake number one. Well, kind of. They were close to twenty four hours apart anyway. Number one I ate late at night technically the evening before my birthday where I was but actually my birthday back home. Cake number two I ate in the evening on my actual birthday where I was (but the next day back home). Confused yet? Doesn't matter, they were both delicious! This one isn't technically a cake, but when it's got a candle and a "Happy Birthday" inscription, does it matter?

I got this cake at a restaurant when my brother and his girlfriend sneakily mentioned to the waiter it was my birthday and I love chocolate! This is actually a  CHOCOLATE FEUILLETINE BAR: Chocolate Crumble, Peanut Butter, Salted Caramel, Vanilla Crème Fraiche. As well as fresh strawberries, chocolate piping, and a candle waxed directly onto the plate. Or as I like to call it, delicious!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Birthday Cake #1

I celebrated my birthday this past week and was lucky enough to receive three different birthday cakes - different kinds, different locations, made from different people. Funny enough though they were all chocolate so that made me very happy! I celebrated my actual birthday away from home and got another cake when I actually came home :)

Birthday cake number one was made by my brother and decorated by his girlfriend. They made me a simple vegan chocolate cake, but were clever in deciding to use a recipe I myself had posted on this blog. That way if I didn't like it for whatever reason they could blame it on me! (Not a foolproof plan, as execution counts big time, but apparently if one burns a cake, one can blame the recipe directions for not being descriptive enough. Anyway, this didn't matter because the cake turned out just the way I would have made it! They used miniature vegan chocolate chips to frost the top and spell out my name and add some decorations which I thought was totally tasty and seriously clever!
Check out the cute homemade card in the background as well!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Tart Dough

This tart dough I used for my apple tart. It isn't a flaky pie dough, nor a buttery shortbread crust, not a sweet sugar cookie dough. Is is somewhere in the middle of all three. It is easy to make and not so finicky as typical pie doughs. I prefer it to be rolled thick, but this recipe can also be rolled more thinly into two pie bases.

Tart Dough
125 grams unsalted butter, softened
60 grams granulated (white) sugar
1 large egg
250 grams all-purpose (plain) flour

Cream butter and sugar together well until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Stir in the flour. Roll into pie or tartlet crusts.
Bake at 350F for 10-20 minutes depending on size and thickness.
To avoid inflating, the crust may be weighed down with pie weights, but uncovered for the last five minutes of baking.
Bake slightly longer if the filling does not need to be baked.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Oatmeal Frangipane

Frangipane is a sweet, almond-based confectionery topping. It begins with a creamy butter sugar mixture, adds several eggs, and then almond flour which gives it texture. Sometimes a little flour is added for stability, but if not frangipane is gluten-free. Frangipane can also be flavored with lemon zest or an extract.

I wanted to find a similar alternative to frangipane that did not use nuts. I decided to use rolled oats and tested it out on my apple tart from yesterday's post. It worked quite well. Both oats and almonds pair well with apple so if preferred, substitute ground almonds for the oats in the recipe below for a regular frangipane.

Oatmeal Frangipane
170 grams salted butter
170 grams granulated (white) sugar
4 large egg
170 grams quick-cooking rolled oats

Cream butter and sugar together well until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in oats.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Dulce de Leche

Dulce de leche is a creamy caramel sauce, tradiationally made by cooking milk and sugar until caramelized. The slow heating of sweetened milk changed the color and flavor by a Maillard reaction. The easiest and most popular way this is made at home today is by cooking a can of sweetened condensed milk. However, there are several methods of doing this. You can cook the milk in the can, or take it out. Use the stove, oven or the microwave. In my opinion, the darker the milk is, the better (as long as it isn't burnt) but you can make a lighter caramel if desired.

  1. In the can, on the stove: Peel any paper labels off the can and place in a pot of water, ensuring the can is submerged. Boil for 2-4 hours. Several cans can be cooked at a time this way, limited only by the size of the pot. Ensure the water level remains so that the cans are submerged. If kept at a rolling boil, it will take closer to two hours. If simmering, it will take longer. However, the milk is not likely to burn quickly, so always cook longer rather than shorter. You can also always pop open the can to check the color.
  2. In the can, in the oven: Peel any paper labels off the can and place in a pot or pan of water, ensuring the can is submerged. Place in the oven and cook a few hours. A higher oven temperature will actually cook in less time than boiling.
  3. Out of the can, on the stove: Pour milk into a pot and cook over medium-low heat, stirring often until of desired color.
  4. Out of the can, in the microwave: Pour milk into a bowl, cook in one minute intervals on medium (50%) power, stirring each time until of desired color.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Caramel Apple Oat Frangipane Tart

Caramel Apple Oat Frangipane Tart
one freshly baked nine inch pie crust
one can or jar dulce de leche
6 medium cooking apples, peeled and cut into eighths
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 Tablespoon water
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
one recipe oatmeal frangipane (see tomorrow's post)

Preheat oven to 320F.
Spread the dulce de leche over the crust bottom.
Place the apples, sugar, water and cinnamon in a wide pot. Bring to a simmer and cook until apples are just beginning to soften. They will continue to cook in the oven. Drain well.
Arrange the apples over the dulce de leche.
Spread with oatmeal frangipane.
Bake for about 40 minutes until frangipane is golden and set and a toothpick inserted in the frangipane comes out clean.

Serve hot, warm, cooled, or even cold. If reheated, the oven is much better used than the microwave.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Heading Home

After almost three weeks of a great time travelling, meeting new people, exploring different areas, and eating some really great food; today I begin my trek home. As a little recap, here are some food shots from this past trip...just a small sample of all the food adventures I experienced!!

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Exploring The City

Today I did a big walking tour of the downtown city area. I got to see lots of sights - historical structures, buildings of interest, nature sights, shops, restaurants, businesses, cultural hubs, and so much more!
Mountains still in view

Big city hotel

View out the sky train window

home cooked supper

I also cooked dinner at the house tonight which was fun to use a kitchen I wasn't familiar with and had limited equipment/pantry. I kind of made the meal up on the fly using a few key ingredients and came up with this...
Seared pork tenderloin, Creamy potato gratin, Roasted broccoli and zucchini, Crispy onions, Cilantro walnut pesto, Mushroom maple sauce.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Exploring The Mountains

Another beautiful day today was spent exploring a university campus and park, all surrounded by mountains. Even dinner in a restaurant overlooking the mountains; the only word I have to describe today is 'scenic' so here are plenty of photos!!

LAMB CHOPS - sumac / garlic cream / harissa / cucumber & tomato / pita chips

WILD SALMON - grilled on our alderwood bbq / lemon, pepper & herb risotto