Monday, January 31, 2011

Cranberry and White Chocolate Rice Krispies Squares

My husband looked at me in disbelief as I met him at the checkout with my Rice Krispies in hand. Not only were they on sale, but they were also the solution to my quandary regarding the bag of tiny marshmallows sitting in my pantry since the holidays. I never did get around to making the Quebeçois version of fudge, the melt in your mouth "sucre à la crème". 
To redeem myself, I decided to add a few ingredients to the original recipe on the box. Sure enough, just adding some dried cranberries and white chocolate chips made these the ideal adult treat for the kid in me.

6 cups Rice Krispies cereal
2 cups dried cranberries
1 cup white chocolate chips
1/4 cup butter
5 cups small marshmallows or 40 regular marshmallows 
1 teaspoon vanilla


Add the cereal, cranberries and white chocolate chips into a large bowl.

In a large micro-wave bowl, add the marshmallows and butter. Microwave on high for 3 minutes. The package suggests that you stir the mixture after two minutes. Stir in the vanilla at the end of the cooking time. 

I ended using less than the suggested marshmallows ( I guess some "mice" got into the bag,.....funny but I have the same problem with white chocolate reserved for baking, yet the other food is pretty safe)...... the recipe turned out just fine.

Pour the mixture into the large bowl containing the cereal mixture and stir with a wooden spoon to combine.
Transfer to a 9"x13" buttered rectangular pan and pat down evenly with your hands or a wooden spoon. I find putting a small amount of butter on the palm of your hands works really well, as it prevent them from sticking when patting down the mixture. Cut into squares and serve.

No-Knead Tomato Focaccia

Before I get started on the focaccia recipe post, I would like to send out a special thank you to my blogging friend, Susie Ridler from Susie the Foodie blog, who introduced me to the whole "tagging" concept. Unable to post her own tutorial in time, Susie kindly redirected her loyal readers to my post. Known for her openness and her supportive assistance, Susie's generous gesture resulted in an influx of new traffic to my  no-knead bread post. As promised, Susie did  post her full recipe tutorial today. I do hope you get a chance to visit her wonderful blog at
Realizing I had small cherry tomatoes nearing their end but still edible, my plain rosemary and garlic no-knead focaccia was about to get a make-over. The topping is as easy as making a salad, and just as refreshing. 
Using the same no-knead bread recipe, and by just adding 3 tablespoons of light virgin olive oil to the basic recipe will give you a tasty and airy dough.

3 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons light virgin oil

Tomato topping:
 2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half  and juice squeezed out
1 garlic clove finely minced
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin oil
2 tablespoons grated parmigiano reggiano 
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 -3/4 cup smoked mozzarella,diced


The night before:
In a mixing bowl add the flour, the yeast and the salt. Using your hands or a wooden spoon, blend the dry ingredients.

Pour in 1 1/2 cup of water, 3 tablespoons of light virgin oil, and mix. Pull together the dough using your hands or a wooden spoon. 

Scrape any excess flour from the bottom and sides of the bowl, making sure the ingredients are well incorporated and form into a ball.  The dough will have a stringy texture.

Place a piece of plastic wrap on the bowl to avoid the dough from drying out. Allow to rise in a warm dry, and draft free place for at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours. The photo to the right is dough that has risen overnight.

The next day: 
Transfer the dough to a greased and floured 12 " pizza tray. Dust the dough  lightly with flour, and with your hands spread out to the edges of your pizza pan, forming a disk. Drizzle with oil and season with salt.  Sprinkle fresh or dried rosemary on the top.  Place in a draft free place to allow to rise a second time for 1-2 hours

While the dough is rising, prepare the topping by adding the prepared tomatoes in a bowl and tossing in the olive oil, parmigiano reggiano, the smoked  mozzarella, the minced garlic, oregano and seasoning with salt and pepper.
Once the dough has risen a second time spread  the tomato cheese topping gently on the focaccia dough.

Bake in a pre-heated 500º F oven for 15-20 minutes.

Do leave me a comment, I would love hearing from you.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pear and Ginger Chocolate Spice Cake

To paraphrase Clint Eastwood (from the 1971 movie "Dirty Harry"),......'You've got to ask yourself one question: do I feel lucky?' That's exactly what  popped into my mind when I decided to deconstruct a molasses spice cake recipe after realizing I didn't have marmalade, one of the main ingredients called for. I did however have fresh pears, crystallized ginger, white chocolate and why not throw in some Dutch dark chocolate cocoa into the mix. Missing from the original recipe was the sugar, which I assumed had been replaced by the sweetness of the marmalade. I really had no choice in this but to take a stab at the amount of sugar to be added to the recipe. Knowing full well that it's foolish to toy with the main ingredients when baking; I quelled any possible trepidation by thinking of the grand dame of cuisine. Even Julia Child had some less than perfect results on her earlier PBS episode.... so why not go for broke?  
Luckily the gamble payed off. The cake turned out moist and almost fudge-like but without being too sweet. The crystallized ginger gave every bite a little zing, complimenting the pears as did the chocolate, which of course marries well with cinnamon. Given all the rich ingredients, a simple dusting of icing sugar was all that was needed to enjoy it. So if you dare give it a try, I would love to hear your comments on how it turns out.

1 1/4  cup all purpose flour (sifted)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried ginger
1/2 cup dark Dutch cocoa
1 cup Bosc pear, peeled and diced
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, chopped
1/2 cup white chocolate disks (broken into pieces) or  white chocolate chips
1/4 cup melted butter1 egg
1/2 cup fancy molasses
1/3 cup boiling water

In a mixing bowl sift in the flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, baking soda and cocoa powder. Whisk the ingredients to blend. Toss in the the diced pears, crystallized ginger and white chocolate pieces. Stir with a wooden spoon to coat. In a separate bowl, beat the egg, whisk in the melted butter and 6 tablespoons of water. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon until blended. Do not over mix. Pour into a prepared 8" inch pan and bake in a pre-heated 350º F oven for 30-35 minutes. The cake is done when a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Lentil Potage

Sky Seasoning

A piece of sky
Broke off and fell

Through the crack in the ceiling
Right into my soup,
I really must state
That I usually hate
Lentil soup, but I ate
Every drop!
Delicious delicious!
(A bit like a plaster)
But so delicious, goodness sake
I could have eaten a lentil soup lake.
It's amazing the difference
A bit of sky can make.

by Shel Silverstein (from Where the Sidewalk Ends)

I remember reading Shel Silverstein's books to my children when they were young. So you could imagine how thrilled I was when  Geneviève and Steve took the trouble to quote him when commenting on my lentil soup post back in April 2010. I also recall Geneviève's reaction to the possibility of adding bacon to my mom's original recipe. Well Geneviève, my revised recipe is meant for you, it's my way of thanking you for all those wonderful comments which kept my spirits lifted during those early days of blogging. 
Given the extremely cold weather we've been experiencing in Montreal (-24º Celsius but according to the weather reports, felt like -32 ºCelsius) these last few days, I  added bacon, some minced pork and short cut pasta to the original recipe posted. More of a potage than a soup, this will surely "warm the cockles of your heart"

4 slices of bacon cut into 1/2" pieces
1/2 pound lean minced pork
1/4 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup tubetti ( or other short pasta)
1 1/2 cups green lentils
1 onion chopped
1 garlic clove finely chopped
2 carrots chopped
2 celery stalks chopped
1 cup canned tomatoes chopped
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove (whole peeled)
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper

Cook 4 slices of bacon (cut into 1/2" small pieces), until crisp. Transfer to a plate.
In the same hot saucepan, add 1/2 pound of lean minced pork, season with salt and pepper. Brown the meat. Add some extra virgin olive oil if needed. Add 1/4 cup of red wine, this will infuse the pork with a rich flavour. Continue cooking until the wine is reduced and absorbed in the meat. Transfer to a plate.
Using the same saucepan,but making sure it is dry to avoid splattering, add the olive oil, and heat on medium high until hot. Add the chopped onions and saute for 3 minutes. Add the chopped garlic, the carrots, celery, bay leaf and continue cooking another 4 minutes on medium heat.
Return the bacon and minced pork to the pan. Stir the meat with the vegetables.
Cook an additional 2-4 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and peeled garlic clove and continue to cook for 5 more minutes to infuse all the flavors together.
Add the lentils, the broth and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes until tender. 
Add 1/2 cup short pasta of your choice. Continue cooking until the pasta is done.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into soup bowls and for extra flavour, drizzle with some olive oil.

Photos from the April 2010  lentil soup post:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Ossobuco (Braised Veal Shanks)

Ossobuco ("osso" (bone)  "buco" (hole) ) is tradtionally made with white wine and served with risotto. The recipe that follows is adapted from one of my " ultimate" favourite  chefs, Florence Tyler.  I reduced  the amount of  liquids used, especially the wine. The recipe called for a whole bottle whereas from previous experience, I felt two and one half cups were more than sufficient.  The osso buco was then served with a silky semolina polenta, laced with caramelized onions and button mushrooms; great for sopping up all those heavenly juices created by hours of slow oven braising. This is perfect winter recipe for those lazy week-ends where, once prepped, you can sit back while the oven does the rest. It's great make ahead meal, for receiving guests. Much like any stew, it only gets better the next day...

3 veal shanks
2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion diced
1 leek (white part), diced
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
1  carrot, diced
1 celery stalk,  diced
zest of one small lemon (large slices of lemon peel )
1/2 cup  fresh Italian parsley, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 1/2 cups red wine
2 cups canned tomatoes 
1 1/2 cup beef broth
salt and pepper


Mise en place

Season your veal shanks with salt and pepper. In a bowl add the flour, and season with salt and pepper

Dredge the the veal shanks in the flour.
Shake off any excess flour from the meat
to prevent it from burning while
searing on high heat.
Heat the oil and butter, Add the veal
shanks and sear the meat


Brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate.
Add the chopped onions to the Dutch oven pot
and  saute until golden brown
about 4-5 minutes.

Toss in leeks and garlic.
 Add the carrots and celery.
Cook 5 minutes until the vegetables are 

Add the parsley, lemon rind and bay leaf.
Return the meat to the Dutch oven and
place on the mirepoix (vegetable mixture).


Pour in the wine and simmer for about 20 minutes to allow the wine to reduce by half.
Add the tomatoes and beef broth.

Cover the Dutch oven pot and braise in a 350º F oven for about 1 1/2 hours. Continue cooking with the cover off for an additional 30 minutes to allow the sauce to reduce further and thicken.

Served with semolina, carmelized onions, and mushroom polenta with a side of green beans amandine.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie with Jalapeño Dumplings Revisited

I first posted my chicken pot pie recipe in June 2010, but had few photos back then to wet your appetites. Not knowing what to make for supper the other night, but having  plenty of left over BBQ chicken (talk about the fast and easy way out) sitting in the fridge, solved my weeknight dilemma.  I decided on my quick chicken pot pie recipe to warm "the cockles of our hearts" in this cold weather. No crust please; who has the time especially when in few minutes I can pulse all the ingredients for dumplings (basically just a wetter tea biscuit dough version) in my Cuisinart?  Add some jalapeño peppers and wow you're in carb heaven! I've included the original recipe but let the ingredients sitting in your fridge be your guide.

Suggestion: If making the dumplings in a food processor use cold pieces of butter. When the dry ingredients resemble coarse cornmeal transfer to a mixing bowl and add the milk. Mix only until blended. For best results do not over beat. The dough will be thick and sticky. Once you have placed large spoonfuls on the chicken mixture, dot with butter before baking.

Chicken Filling
3 cups deboned skinless cooked chicken cut into large pieces
3 tablespoons butter
1 coarsely chopped white sweet onion
1 garlic clove finely chopped
1 cup sliced white button mushrooms
2 carrots sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
2 celery stalks sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup frozen corn nibblets
2 Yukon gold potatoes
1/2 cup white vermouth
2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup soft butter
2-3 tablespoons flour
salt and pepper to taste.

Boil the potatoes in water; when partially cooked add the carrots and continue until slightly crunchy. Strain the vegetables and set aside.
In a large saucepan on medium heat melt the butter.  Add the onions, garlic and thyme; cook until transparent for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking for an additional 3 minutes and add the celery.  Cook until transparent, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the vermouth and allow the flavor to infuse for about 1-2 minutes.  Add the bay leaf, peas, corn, carrots, potatoes and chicken pieces.  Pour in the chicken broth and simmer.  In a small bowl combine the butter and flour to make a paste and stir into the chicken mixture to dissolve.  Continue to simmer to allow the flour mixture to cook through. Meanwhile prepare the dumpling dough. Pour the chicken mixture into a casserole, individual ramekins or onion soup bowls and drop a large spoonful of the dumpling batter on top. Bake in a 375º F oven for about 15 to 20 minutes. The dumplings are done when slightly golden or a toothpick inserted in the dough comes out clean.
Jalapeño Dumplings
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup soft butter
1/2 or 1 whole jalapeño pepper seeded and finely chopped
(depending on the desired amount of heat use less or more) 
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup milk

In a mixing bowl add the flour, baking powder, salt and butter; work with your hands until the consistency of coarse meal. Stir in the thyme and jalapeño peppers into the flour mixture.  Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the milk.  With a wooden spoon mix to combine; do not over-work the dough. 


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Apple Cranberry Strudel

 I always seem to have some leftover phyllo after making spanakopita.  Determined not to waste the extra sheets of this paper thin dough, I  was inspired by my peach strudel post from last summer.  Using some granny Smith apples and dried cranberries, I concocted the perfect winter version of this light and flaky fruit dessert. The perfect last minute dessert!

Suggestion: When working with phyllo dough keep the the unused portions under plastic wrap or a slightly damp tea towel as the dough tends to dry out quite fast.
                   The Granny Smith apples can be replaced with any of your favourite cooking apples which will hold their shape. Add more sugar for a less tart filling.

8 pieces phyllo dough
1/2 cup melted butter
4 cups sliced  Granny Smith apples
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 heaping teaspoon cornstarch
juice of one lemon
1 cup roasted pecan nuts coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla

Add the apple slices, dried cranberries, sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch to a saucepan. Cook  on medium cook for 3-4 minutes to allow the apples to cook slightly and the cornstarch to dissolve. Stir to prevent sticking.

Remove from the heat and toss in the pecans. Stir in the vanilla.

Transfer to a bowl to cool while preparing the phyllo dough.

 Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Lay a sheet of phyllo dough on the parchment paper and brush some melted butter on the surface. 
Add a second sheet on top of the buttered phyllo dough and brush the butter on it. Continue the process until you have eight layers of buttered phyllo dough.

Place the apple/cranberry filling in the center of the phyllo dough, along the width of the sheets

Cover the fruit filling by folding the edges of the dough to cover the filling.
Take the ends of the unfolded edges and fold under to prevent the filling from spilling out during baking.

Generously butter the top

Sprinkle some Turbinado (or demerara sugar)  sugar on top.

Bake in a pre-heated 350º F oven for 35 minutes or until golden brown.