Autumn Apple Maple French Toast

Fall is such a gorgeous season. The weather begins to cool and leaves begin to turn wondrous shades of red, orange and yellow. I wake to a crisp, still morning air and fall asleep under warm, toasty covers. Each deep autumn breath carries the faint aroma of hot apple cider and warm cinnamon. It’s a season of harvest, coziness and sweaters; a season of warm ovens and warmer hearts. Each day is full of rich colour and the smell of hot bubbling pies, freshly baked and ready to be devoured.

This is my first official fall post this year and a perfect time to share this amazing apple brunch creation I made yesterday. I went apple picking near Collingwood, Ontario last week with my family and brought back a half bushel of McIntosh and Cortland apples with me. I’ve been spending the past few days thinking of ways to use them all. The funniest part about this is that I am slightly allergic to apples so I don’t really eat them myself (once in a while, if I can’t resist).

The classic French toast I was going to make on a Saturday afternoon, became something so much more delicious…and pretty. I took a couple of my fresh-picked apples and made apple maple French toast. Sauteing apples in butter and maple syrup turns them into a sweet, warm, caramelized apple topping to spoon over vanilla cinnamon French toast. Continue reading

The Best Kale Recipe: Fritters!

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Kale is the new black. (At least I think it kind of still is…) I’ve never seen a leafy green so in-fashion! A few years ago, when I first heard rumours of this new “thing”, everyone was talking about it. “Kale is SO good!”, “Have you tried kale?”, “Superfood!”, “Nutrients!”, “Kale saves lives!”. It was all around me. Kale salad, kale smoothies, kale chips, sauteed kale…everyone in the world, it seemed, was being kale-ified. Of course I had to taste this veggie for myself!

Kale is a leafy green vegetable that belongs to the Brassica family, a group of veggies including cabbage and brussels sprouts. I always say it looks like huge, curly spinach. It’s a little bit tougher, and some say it has a bit more of a bitter flavour. It has been called a superfood and one of the healthiest foods in the world. It is packed with nutrients and has a ton of health benefits, while also low in calories. Here’s a top 10 list of kale health benefits.

Kale can be eaten raw or cooked. I absolutely love it (although I don’t think there’s a single vegetable that I don’t love). The problem I had with kale was that I didn’t know a lot of kale recipes. I never knew what else I could do with it, other than sauteeing it with garlic or making a salad. I mean, I love kale salad, but there’s got to be other ways to eat this stuff… And I found out that there definitely are! Here is one of my new kale favourites! Delicious kale fritters! Flavourful and full of kale (and spicy if you want). They’re so hard to resist! Continue reading

Lobster Linguine With Saffron & Cream

I almost jump at every opportunity to use saffron in my cooking. I have an unexplained love for it’s delicate strands, gorgeous colour, and subtle earthy flavour. Saffron is harvested from the Crocus sativus flower, a member of the Iris family. Cultivated for thousands of years in Asia Minor, it is used in perfumes, dyes, medicine and, of course, for its wonderful flavour in food and drinks. There’s something so beautiful about the deep maroon shade of the strands and the rich golden yellow that comes from the tip of the thread (from which the saffron spice is derived.) It makes me smile from the inside out. 🙂

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“According to Greek mythology, handsome mortal Crocos fell in love with the beautiful nymph Smilax. But alas, his favors were rebuffed by Smilax, and he was turned into a beautiful purple crocus flower.” (about.com)

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Here is the crocus flower that saffron comes from. So pretty!

This dinner all began with a request for lobster tagliatelle. I didn’t know where to begin, so I began where I always do…the recipe hunt. I was looking for simple recipes that required ingredients I already had at home. (Minus the lobster of course.) I found a few seafood tagliatelle recipes that I liked, but stuck with this one as a guideline, making my own alterations here and there based on what I wanted to make and the ingredients I had available at home. The result was a lobster linguine in a light creamy sauce. Delicious! Continue reading

Keep It Simple, Silly! Simple Crepes For Any Occasion

Since I was a child, crepes have been one of my favourite desserts. I loved how sweet and egg-y my mother used to make them. I’d eat them faster than she could make them, and I wouldn’t stop eating until she stopped flipping them off the pan onto my plate. I’ve now come to realize, after having tried so many savoury crepes, that they don’t always have to be sweet. These delicate pancakes are simple, easy to make and extremely versatile. You can use any toppings you like! Sweet or savoury!

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I had a crepe craving last night and now that I don’t live with the legendary crepe-making mama, I decided to figure out how to make them (or something like them) on my own. I discovered that they are easier than I thought! The beauty of a crepe is in its simplicity. Simple ingredients and simple preparation. Sometimes enjoying something as simple as a plain sweet crepe is just what you need.  Continue reading

All You Need Is Love…And Taco Nights.

Nothing cures a…well, ANYTHING…better than a taco night! If you’re looking for an easy, quick and fun meal, tacos are a great idea. Meat (or meat alternative), shells, toppings, DONE! They’re quick to make and probably even quicker to eat, if you get as hungry and excited as I do.

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Taco nights have always been a guilty pleasure of mine…until I started realizing there was no reason for me to feel guilty. I had the idea, for years, that tacos were unhealthy. Totally not the case! What is a concern is the trans-fats that some store-bought taco shells contain. Many are made using hydrogenated soybean oil. There are ways around this! Some brands are better than others, check out the labels at your grocery store or try visiting your local health food store or organic grocery aisle for healthier options. You can even use soft tortillas or wraps. Continue reading

Burger Safety This Hamburger Season

As a microbiologist, I feel the need to share the importance of fully cooking ground beef. This sort of popped into my mind while I was writing about making ground beef tacos. It’s barbecue season: the season of the hamburger. This isn’t to scare you! It’s just to keep everyone aware of these safety tips on how to cook safe and stay healthy.

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You want to fully cook ground beef to avoid food poisoning. Food poisoning associated with ground beef is also known as Hamburger Disease. Beef can be contaminated with bacteria like E. coli. Ground beef, in particular, puts you at a higher risk for becoming ill. The most common ways of getting sick from ground beef

Continue reading

Parsnip Puree: A Mashed Potato Alternative To Die For

I love mashed potatoes! Garlic mashed potatoes? Even better. But I have to admit that sometimes while I’m mashing I feel like maybe there’s something a little more exciting or different I could be making. Something with the same texture and the same satisfying creaminess.

Well, I found the something! The something is REALLY GOOD. The something is PUREED PARSNIPS (plus a little potato). This is most definitely worth a try! It’s a slightly sweeter play on mashed potatoes, with the same satisfying richness. I seriously love this. Continue reading

Lobster & Shrimp Linguine in a White Wine Sauce

As promised, here’s the second half of the heavenly dinner I created last night. Of all the different pasta I’ve made, this is definitely one of my favourites. The recipe is really simple and outrageously delicious.

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I like to keep my pasta recipes simple. The fresher the ingredients, the less seasoning you need. Only add what you must. You want all the flavours to stand out, but also compliment one another. Keep it simple.

As we all know, I LOVE seafood. I was in the mood for shrimp linguine, but on my way to pick up the shrimp I noticed lobster tails were on sale. Why not make this pasta twice as good? I did.

Lobster & Shrimp Linguine in a White Wine Sauce
(Serves 2)

Ingredients:

  • 10 white tiger shrimps, peeled and deveined (I used 5 shrimps per person, you can use more or less. You can also use any type of shrimp you like)
  • 2 lobster tails, de-shelled and cut into 1-inch cubes (My tails were not too big. Again, use more or less if you like.)
  • 3 or 4 cloves of minced garlic (I like lots of garlic.)
  • truffle salt/sea salt
  • black pepper
  • 1/4 cup of butter
  • 1-2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine (I used a chardonnay…it’s what I had at home.)
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley (Use dry if you don’t have fresh.)
  • Linguine (enough for 2 servings)

I chose to cut my lobster tails in half, remove the meat, and then cut the meat into smaller cubes.

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In a large saucepan of boiling salted water cook the linguine until al dente. You don’t want your pasta mushy, it should be firm but not hard. You should add about 1/2 a teaspoon of salt for every 8 cups of water. Don’t get salt-crazy.

Melt some butter in a pan at medium low heat. This is to cook the shrimp and lobster in. I mentioned, in the ingredients, that you could also use olive oil for this step if you prefer using less butter, just make sure the pan is well coated. Add in your garlic and some pepper (to taste). Let the garlic saute for 1-2 minutes. Don’t burn it, just let it sizzle a bit.

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Next add the shrimp and lobster. Spread the pieces out in the pan.

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You want to cook the shrimp until they’re just pink. Cooking them for about 2 minutes per side should be enough, depending on the size. Shrimp cooks fast! Don’t overcook! The lobster will cook quickly as well. It will be firm, white, and opaque when it’s done.

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Once cooked, move them quickly from the heat of the pan to a bowl or plate. In the same pan, add the butter and wine. Add some salt (I used truffle salt :)) and more pepper to taste. Let this simmer until the sauce starts to thicken a little.

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Next, add your shrimp and lobster back into the sauce along with 2 tablespoons of parsley and stir a bit. Everything’s cooked, you just want to warm it up and get everything to the same temperature. Add your cooked pasta into the pan and toss it all together.

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Now plate your pasta, you can add a bit of extra parsley on top, and dig in!!! This recipe is so simple and it tastes so good! Let me know how it turns out.

Happy eating! xx

A Proper Caesar Salad.

Last night’s dinner was AMAZING. I’m so excited about how well it turned out I don’t even know where to begin. So I’ll begin with a photo…

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We decided it would be a Caesar salad kind of night. When I got to the grocery store, I decided it was also going to be a shrimp and lobster kind of night too! Lobster tails were on sale…I can’t say no to lobster.

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Have you ever wondered about the origin of Caesar salad? (I do wonder about these things.) No, Julius Caesar did not invent this salad in ancient times. The salad is named after Caesar Cardini, an Italian immigrant and chef in the United States and Mexico. The earliest documentation of these salads was in the 1940’s. Chef Cardini never used anchovies in his original dressing, the anchovy flavour came from the Worcestershire sauce. I love a good Caesar salad with anchovies. If you’re going to make a Super Caesar, it has got to have the little fishies.

I’ve always wanted to make Caesar salad dressing from scratch, but never really got around to it. I wanted to find the best recipe to use. Tonight, I found it! I’ve heard such good things about the Caesar salads at Jacobs & Co. Steakhouse (Toronto, Ontario, Canada.). They do tableside Caesars right at your table, dressing and all! If you’ve ever been there, you must know what I’m talking about. I was determined to find Jacobs’ recipe. During my search, I came across this fantastic video on YouTube. (Watch it.)

There were no exact measurements in the video for the ingredients so I used my own judgement, and the salad turned out exactly how I wanted it! It’s a garlic-y vinaigrette Caesar dressing. My favourite kind. You must try this for yourself, it’s terrific! Here’s my take on the Jacobs & Co. recipe:

How To Make A Caesar Vinaigrette & A Great Caesar Salad (Jacobs & Co. Steakhouse Recipe)
(Serves 4)

Ingredients:
(You can totally adjust the amounts of these ingredients to your own liking/taste. Adding more olive oil will make it a bit creamier.)

  • 1/2 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon sea salt
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • minced garlic (1 or 2 cloves, depending on how much you like garlic. I used 2 cloves.)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 or 2 splashes Tabasco hot sauce (out of the bottle)
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (I used fresh lemon juice)
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (some extra to sprinkle on top if you like)
  • bacon bits (I made my own using 2 slices of smoked side bacon)
  • 1 cup croutons
  • 1 head of romaine lettuce (Judge by your amount of dressing how much lettuce you want to use.)

If you’re going to make your own bacon bits, start by frying the bacon in a pan until it’s nice and crispy. Then chop it up. (It may even just sort of crumble if it’s crispy enough.)

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Wash, dry and cut your lettuce. Have it ready to mix into the dressing later on.

Use a large salad bowl. Start by grinding your pepper into this bowl. Next, add your sea salt, anchovies and garlic.

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Using a fork or spoon smash it all together. Your goal to mash the anchovies into a paste.

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Add in the 2 egg yolks, Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, red wine vinegar and lemon juice. Mix, mix, mix.

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Add the olive oil SLOWLY, bit by bit, while mixing. You want to emulsify all the flavours. The faster and longer you mix, the creamier the dressing will get. (If you’d like your dressing to be creamier, add more olive oil.) Mix in the 2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese, bacon bits, and croutons into the dressing.

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You did it! Now mix in the romaine lettuce and you’re done! Add more or less lettuce depending on how much dressing you have. Don’t overdress the leaves, but make sure they’re well coated. This is going to be the best Caesar salad you’ve ever had. You can add a little more parmesan on top of your salads once you’ve plated them.

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The lobster & shrimp linguine recipe shall follow! xx

Key Lime Pie In The Sky!

I made a spur of the moment decision that tonight was a good night to bake my first pie. And for some reason, right after I thought pie…I thought key lime. I didn’t even realize until just now how fitting it is to make a lime pie over the St. Patty’s Day weekend (limes…green…get it?). So I looked up the simplest recipes I could find, picked one that seemed foolproof, and picked up a few things from the store on the way home. I stuck to a simple recipe just to be safe. I always start simple when I’m trying something for the first time. Everything was going smoothly until I discovered that the recipe I was trying to follow, that was supposed to be for one pie, actually made enough filling for two. So I had to save half the filling and make a second crust. (Who wants a free key lime pie?!) Despite the fact that I try to be Chef Vanessa: Master Chef of the Universe in the kitchen, things don’t always go as planned. Most of the time they do not. But that’s what keeps things exciting, right?

A fresh chilled key lime pie is so refreshing. I love it’s tart, sweet, creaminess. Here’s how I made mine. Hope you find this recipe useful. It was really easy. You can do it! 

Key Lime Pie (makes one pie)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (I smashed them in a ziploc bag with a rolling pin)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons softened butter (1/2 a stick of the small butter sticks)
  • 1 (14 ounce) can of sweetened condensed milk (that’s about 420 mL…I couldn’t find a 14 oz can at the store)
  • 1/2 cup of key lime or regular lime juice
  • 1 whole large egg
  • 1/2 tablespoon lime zest
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (about half of those small half-size sour cream tubs…about 125 mL)
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar (icing sugar)

Let’s Bake!

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

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This part’s fun! In a bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter with you hands! Just keep squishing til the butter’s all mixed in. You’ll have a crumbly playdough kind of texture.

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Take this crust mixture and press it firmly into a 10-inch pie pan. Really pack it down. And then bake until the crust is brown, about 20 minutes.

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Crust done! Remove it from the oven and let it cool to room temperature. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

Now in a separate bowl, you will make the filling. Combine condensed milk, lime juice, egg, and lime zest. Whisk until well blended.

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Place the filling into the cooled pie shell and bake in the oven for 15 minutes (at 325 degrees).

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The pie won’t look any different then it did when you put it into the oven. The filling is baked and solidified now. Chill it in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. I chilled mine overnight because it was so late.

Once your pie is chilled, mix the sour cream and icing sugar and spread the mixture over the top of the pie with a spatula. I added a little lime zest on top to make it pretty. Serve chilled!

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Mission complete! So proud of my first pie! Happy St. Patrick’s Day! And happy baking! xx

(Maybe I’ll add to this post when I’ve eaten the pie later tonight.) 🙂

May your glass be ever full.
May the roof over your head be always strong.
And may you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.
—Irish prayer