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Friday, September 7, 2012

Quinoa bread with fresh figs, zucchini and sweet potato


   With the fall season just around the corner the bounty of the Canadian farming season is in full swing.  It is the best time of year here for using fresh, seasonal ingredients.  
Summer can end fairly abruptly here so my mind quickly turns to comfort foods to take the chill out of the air.  I was in the mood for a warm treat that I could have with a nice hot coffee or tea so I decided to bake ( which doesn't happen often).
   Tired of the same old cakes and muffins I decided to use the most recent seasonal ingredients to come to market to create a semi sweet treat that was healthy, satisfying and comforting.  This loaf is quick and easy to prepare and healthy enough that you don't have to worry about having a second helping.  
  
Ingredients
2 cups Quinoa flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking 
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (use real vanilla bean if you have it)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3/4 cup canola oil
3 large eggs
2 Tablespoons honey
1 1/2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup peeled, grated sweet potato
1/2 cup chopped fresh figs
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts

Preparation

Sift flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, salt and nutmeg into a large bowl.
Beat sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla in a separate bowl. 
Add grated zucchini, sweet potato and chopped figs to wet ingredients and mix well.
 Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until combined . Do not over mix.

Add chopped walnuts to batter and mix well.
Pour mixture into a greased and floured 9x5x3 loaf pan and place in a pre heated 350f oven.
Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes until golden brown and firm ( test with a toothpick in the center).  Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15-20 minutes . Cut loaf around the outer edges of the pan then turn it out onto a rack to cool slightly before cutting.
This treat can be prepared the day before, wrapped and stored at room temperature.
The natural sugars in the zucchini, sweet potato and figs really come out to infuse this wonderful bread into a wonderful accompaniment for coffee or tea or even a nice cold glass of milk.
The best part about this loaf is that it is kid and adult friendly and everyone will want to come back for more.
The quinoa flour can be replaced with regular all purpose flour if you don't need a gluten free alternative. You can also add or replace ingredients such as carrots, corn or whatever you like. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Limoncello White Chocolate Mousse

   Limoncello is produced in many parts of Italy especially in the southern regions where lemons grow in abundance.  This incredible after dinner drink is sweet and tart with the bold concentrated flavor of fresh lemon.  With its vibrant color and taste it is easy to see that Limoncello is the mother of all drinks made from lemon.
   The first time you try Limoncello your eyes will open wide and your senses will overload.  First off the intense lemon hits your tongue.  Next, the slightly bitter tanginess  of lemon rind fills your mouth followed by a concentrated sun kissed punch of sugar.  Somehow with all this bold sensory attack it all melds together to make a refreshing beverage perfect for sipping after a wonderful  meal.
   I wanted to capture this flavor explosion in a dessert that was as refreshing as the drink itself.  Creating this mousse required balancing ingredients enough to keep it light and yet allow the Limoncello to remain as the star of the show.
White chocolate is a perfect match for the bright flavor of lemon. Like Limoncello itself, white chocolate starts off smooth and delicious with the slightly sugary finish. Added to these two ingredients is mascarpone cheese which is smooth and creamy with the right amount of fat to cut the acidity and sweetness of the Limoncello and white chocolate.
You will find this mousse to be super light and airy. With the texture of a cloud and perfect amount of lemon and chocolatey goodness melting on your tongue it is a perfect dessert for any occasion.

Ingredients

2oz Limoncello Liqeur
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup of water
8 oz white chocolate
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup mascarpone cheese
6 egg yolks
zest of 1 lemon
1 cup whipping cream
Add water and sugar to a pot .
Bring to a boil for 3 minutes.
Beat egg yolks until fluffy and begin to lighten in color.
While beating eggs slowly add sugar and water mixture, beat for 1 minute.,
Melt white chocolate and butter together until smooth.
Add 2 oz of Limoncello, stir until well mixed.
Fold mascarpone into chocolate mixture.
Beat whipping cream until it is light and fluffy with stiff peaks.
Fold whipped cream and lemon zest into chocolate mascarpone mixture until well blended.
Pour mixture into ramekins or glass of your choice.
Refrigerate a minimum of 6 hours , preferably over night.
Garnish with some white chocolate and candied lemon or fresh berries and mint. Anyway you serve it will leave you and your guests floating on a lemony cloud of enjoyment.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Orange salad with grilled fennel and buffalo mozzarella

     I love grilled fennel.    My inspiration for this recipe comes from travels to Sicily and my favorite Sicilian cook, my mother.  Growing up, my mother always prepared orange salad as a side dish for many great summer meals. Refreshing and tangy with the right amount of bite from onion and the way the juices and olive oil combined to make a heavenly dressing, it is truly one of my favorite things to eat.
    The addition of grilled fennel and fresh mozzarella make a well rounded salad especially perfect for summer dining.  The result  is and incredible combination of flavors, textures and colors.  The caramelized grilled fennel is intense but not overpowering. The oranges and sharp red onions give sweetness and a good bite to the dish.  Basil and mint give freshness and the creamy, buttery rich mozzarella bring it all together for a flavor and mouth feel that is out of this world.  Of course, this salad can be made with raw fennel as well but I feel that grilling it is what brings this salad over the top. One bite and you will find it difficult to stop eating this refreshing and delicious salad.


Ingredients:
1 fresh fennel bulb
1 fresh navel orange or Sicilian blood orange peeled and cut in cubes, pith removed
1 fresh buffalo milk mozzarella
1/2 of a small red onion thinly sliced
3-4 fresh basil leaves
3-4 fresh mint leaves
good quality extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
 Cut fennel length wise 1/4 inch thick. Drizzle with olive oil and grill until slightly charred on the edges and nicely caramelized.  Set aside and allow to cool.
 Cut the mozzarella in thin slices and place on a plate or platter.
Layer the grilled fennel with oranges and sliced red onion on top of the mozzarella and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Tear the mint and basil leaves by hand and place over salad. Drizzle salad with extra virgin olive oil and remaining juice from cut orange.
 This salad can be enjoyed on its own for a nice light lunch or makes a perfect match for any grilled meat, chicken or fish dish.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Danny's Pizza Dough

    Pizza is one of my favorite things to eat.  It is also one of the most versatile foods in the world. The endless possibilities for topping makes it appealing to everyone because it can be made to suit your taste.
   The variations don't end at the toppings you can add to your pizza.  All around the world people enjoy pizza with different crusts, bases and breads. You can make a quick pizza on a baguette or crusty bread, on a pita, or on your favorite dough.  Some people like a thick crust with many toppings and some enjoy a thin crust with a few toppings.
I am definitely one of the people who enjoy a nice thin crust pizza.  Probably the most famous pizza worldwide is the Neopolitan style thin crust base which is usually fired in a wood oven and has a wonderful crispy and chewy texture.
   I have made many types of dough in my life but this recipe I have developed through many hours of experimentation is by far my favorite. It is also one of my best culinary achievements. You may say "culinary achievement"?.... YES! I believe when you work hard at something to get it just the way you like it, it is indeed an achievement.
   Using 00 flour for its fine milled smoothness paired with bread flour for its gluten developing  properties gives this dough a soft , silky texture with great stretchability. It is delicate, easy to work with and results in the closest thing I can compare to that wonderful wood fired pizzeria style pizza, that you can prepare in your home.
   You can choose to make this in your oven with or without a pizza stone and will obtain great results either way.  The combination of flours and the mixing process should be closely followed as well as overnight resting to achieve the greatest results possible.
I hope you enjoy this recipe as I post this from my heart, to your table.
Ingredients

3 1/2 cups 00 flour (double zero)
1/2 cup bread flour
1 1/2 cups plus 3 Tablespoons warm water
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dry active yeast
(Please be as precise as possible when measuring all ingredients.)

Add the yeast to the warm water and allow it to sit for 10 minutes until it begins to foam.
Using a stand mixer, add both types of flour and the salt to the bowl.
Once water and yeast is ready turn mixer on low speed and slowly add the water/yeast mixture.
Mix on low speed for 2 minutes until a ball is formed.
Let dough rest for 10 minutes.
Now mix the dough on medium speed for 5 minutes then reduce to low speed and mix an additional 2 minutes.
Place the dough ball in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a towel and allow to rise for 2 hours at room temperature. 
After 2 hours, punch the dough down, form a ball with your hands and then cut the dough into 4 equal pieces.
Once you cut the dough in pieces, gently form each piece into a ball. Stretch the top of the ball over the rest of the ball creating an outer layer.  Pinch this layer on the bottom of the ball and place it seam down in a floured container and sprinkle with more flour on top.
Dust dough balls with flour, cover and place in the refrigerator over night. This allows the dough to develop nice flavor and texture.  You will find the dough balls to be soft and light.
Remove the dough balls from the fridge 1 hour before you plan to use them.  This will allow them to become elastic and more stretchable.
On a floured surface, gently press down on the ball and pat it into a small circle.

If you are comfortable stretching the dough by hand it will result in a lighter and more bubbly crust  but a rolling pin can be used to roll the dough into about a 12 inch crust at about 1/4 inch thickness.
Your dough is now ready to use.  Feel free to top it with any ingredients you like to make your favorite pizza.
The result is a light, crispy, chewy pizza dough worthy of the best wood fired ovens in Napoli.  The dough browns nicely with wonderful bubbled air pockets that give the pizza a nice crunch and texture to each bite.
If you have a pizza stone feel free to use it, otherwise just place your dough on a pizza pan and bake it as you would any regular pizza.
The dough also stays nice and thin and slightly puffs up around the edges where there is no sauce or toppings. Enjoy !







Sunday, January 29, 2012

Decadent Organic Treats ( A review, by INDANNYSKITCHEN.COM)

    These days when you purchase baked goods or sweet treats it usually contains preservatives, chemicals and horrible things like high fructose corn syrup and glucose.  Color dyes and acids linked to life altering illnesses are also not uncommon.  When I was approached to try some 100% organic baked goods and chocolate treats by Nisreen Diab Hawley from GreenCuisineList.com I was ecstatic.
  Within a few days I received my sweet little box of treats at my door.  I carefully yet quickly opened the box and began to unravel the packaging and was immediately hit with intoxicating smells of chocolate, cinnamon, honey and pastry,  it was like walking into a bakery. 
I separated each of the items on a tray and stared at each individual treat, contemplating which one I would try first.
BAKLAVA

The first bite I had of the baklava nearly knocked me off my feet.  The crispy and flaky pastry crackled in my mouth and the filling was sweet and moist unlike any other baklava I have ever tasted.
Most baklava tends to be soggy and gummy after a few days but this was the total opposite. The secret in this 3 generation old recipe was in the layering of the phyllo pastry and that not every layer contained butter.  This allowed it to retain some of the crunch that I love so much.  The filling was so moist yet firm enough to hold together well and keep its shape.  A generous amount of homemade syrup and nuts added flavor and texture and really set this treat over the top.
The baklava is made with 100% Organic phyllo dough, Organic butter ( to ensure it's RBGH free ), Blend of Organic nuts, Organic sugar and cinnamon, and homemade syrup using filtered water,  Organic sugar and organic lemon juice.
The attention to detail in constructing this treat and it's careful selection of top notch ingredients is evident in the taste and it was truly the best I ever tasted.
COCOA BROWN BUTTER BROWNIES WITH CINNAMON AND CAYENNE

   After tasting the phenomenal baklava I expected nothing less from these incredible smelling brownies.  The deep, rich, chocolate and cinnamon smell quickly reeled me in for the first bite. Soft and moist, chewy and chocolatey, gently laced with cinnamon, these brownies did not disappoint. The real kick comes in the end by way of the very light dusting of cayenne pepper.  I know right now many of you are thinking, what is cayenne pepper doing in a brownie ?. In actuality there is very little cayenne pepper so its not an amount that will make it overly spicy.  The truth is, it works.
   The brownies are made from Organic butter, Organic fair trade cocoa powder, Organic vanilla, Organic eggs, Organic sugar, Organic flour, Himalayan crystal salt, Organic cinnamon and Organic Cayenne pepper.
  The sweetness of the chocolate and the fat of the browned butter are cut extremely well by the cayenne and the combination is actually incredible.  The overall effect is a wonderful sweet treat with a hint of spice. It is definitely a new taste combination for me and I enjoyed it immensely.

Keeping in mind that 100% organic food items may not have as long a shelf life as their chemically enhanced, preservative pumped versions these treats traveled 2500 miles and took 5 days and were in incredible condition. Knowing that they were made with love and 100% Organic ingredients makes indulging worthwhile. Not having to worry about ingesting something that will alter your health down the road is a bonus.
 
Other products available are :
                                     Chewy White Chocolate.Chip Macadamia Nut cookies
                                                   Ginger Snap cookie chocolate cup
                                                Peanut Butter and Blackberry Jelly cup

                            **** Look for more great 100% Organic treats to come !!!!****
Orders can shipped just about anywhere in The USA and Canada and can be placed by contacting Nisreen Diab Hawley from GreenCuisineList.com on Facebook.  Nisreen is a true ambassador to all foods organic and continues to search the globe for 100% Organic ingredients and restaurants that will ensure the well being of anyone interested in having a healthier lifestyle.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Nutella Semifreddo - Happy Valentine's Day


   My love, mio amore, mon amour, mi amor, habibe, moja ljubav, mijn liefde.... whatever language you speak, we all adore hearing someone call this out to us. With Valentine's day quickly approaching we start to think of ways to show our love to that certain special someone in our life.  I have always said in the past that giving material items is not my way of showing the love.  Instead, I choose to create something with my own hands to really show how much I care.  I  also believe that a way to a person's heart is through their stomach.  
   There is no better way to do this than create something with chocolate and strawberries which is the perfect combination for a rich, sensual dessert.  This recipe is fairly simple to assemble and is best made a day in advance, giving it time to set and develop the deep rich flavor.  Given the rich flavor , this dessert is surprisingly light and airy.  It is a great dessert to end a nice Valentine's Day meal and if you decide to make this for the one you love it will definitely show them how you feel.  
   This year, take the time to make something memorable and delicious, made with your hands and sent from your heart.
 This recipe uses Nutella which is available around the world.  I chose to make my own version and the recipe can be seen at the end of this blog.


Ingredients


1 1/2 cups Nutella , or ( see homemade recipe below)
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
4 egg whites
1 1/2 cups Mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup whipping cream ( 35%)
12 savoiardi cookies (can be substituted with cookie of your choice)
Dark chocolate for drizzling
Strawberries for garnish
 Combine the sugar and water in a sauce pot and bring to a boil.  Once the sugar has melted , remove from heat and set aside.
 Beat the egg whites until stiff and fluffy.
 Slowly drizzle the water and sugar mixture into the egg whites and beat until shiny (approx. 1 minute)

 Warm the Nutella until pourable ( do not over heat) and slowly pour it into the egg white mixture. Mix on low speed for 1 minute.
Add the mascarpone cheese and mix until blended with Nutella mixture and no lumps remain.

 In a separate bowl beat the cream until thick and stiff. 

Now gently fold the chocolate mixture into the whipped cream .  Mix until nicely marbled but do not over mix.

Crush the cookies making sure to leave some chunks intact.  Place them in a mold or baking tray lined with parchment paper.  Fill the bottom of the mold or tray until just covered with cookie.
 The semifreddo is similar to icecream but has a texture that resembles a chilled mousse.
 Cover the cookie with the semmifreddo mixture, wrap with plastic wrap and freeze overnight. 
Once frozen, remove from mold or cut desired shape out of tray and plate.
Drizzle with melted dark chocolate and strained puree of fresh strawberries.

Garnish with fresh strawberry and serve immediately.


Without a spoken word this dish says... I LOVE YOU!

Homemade Nutella Recipe

Ingredients

2 cups roasted hazelnuts, skins removed (roast in oven at 350F for 10 mins.)
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder ( good quality )
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 Tbsp skim milk
1/4 tsp scraped vanilla bean
 Place roasted hazelnuts in a towel and rub until the skins separate. Do not worry if some skins remain.

 Place hazelnuts in a food processor and blend until all the natural oils start to come out and it almost liquifies.


 
Add the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla bean and blend. Once it becomes very thick and stiff add the milk and slowly pour in the oil while mixing.

Pour mixture into a sealable container and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.



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