Saturday, 17 December 2016

Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

We like to visit the Distillery District in Toronto Ontario. SOMA Chocolates has a store there and their premium products are all tempting. I love the chocolate shortbreads which are made with a few basic ingredients including criollo cocoa.
I had some premium Callebaut cocoa at home which has a more intense, dark chocolate flavour so these cookies are not the same as SOMA's. These are delicious and easy to make. I modified a recipe found here.

  • 1/2 lb salted butter
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup good quality cocoa
  • 1-1/2 cups unbleached flour

Place butter in a food processor and process until it is light and well aerated. Add sugar and process for a couple of minutes until fluffy. Stir cocoa and flour together and add to butter/sugar mixture. Process until the dough comes together. 

Divide dough in half. Roll into a log (round or square) and chill in refrigerator for at least 1 hour. This is an essential step or the cookies will spread when baked. I made a roll about one inch in diameter as I wanted the cookies to be small. 

Heat oven to 325F. Slice cookies 1/4 inch thick and place on parchment paper on a baking sheet. Bake for 17-20 minutes. I found it easier to let the cookies set on the sheet as they are fragile when hot. You can carefully remove them to a rack with a spatula to cool. 

I don't know how many cookies this recipe made as we ate the ones that broke.  

Friday, 16 December 2016

Curried Peas and Tofu with Mushrooms

We have tried a number of salads and entrées from Farm Boy's take out selection. Their pea and tofu curry is delicious and I have recreated it at home. Served over rice, it is a fast and easy supper.
The ingredient list and proportions are approximate. I buy small cubed packages of extra firm tofu as the rectangular blocks are too large for our family. Use 1/2 of a larger rectangular block of tofu.


1-2 tbsp olive oil or veggie broth
2 cooking onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
6-8 oz mushrooms, sliced
2-3 cups frozen peas
6-8 oz extra firm tofu diced in small cubes
1/2 tin coconut milk (200 ml or 3/4 c)

1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp garam masala
cayenne pepper to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a wok or 2 litre pot and cook onions and garlic until softened. Add the sliced mushrooms and cubed tofu along with the spices. Cook, stirring often until mushrooms are done and spices are well mixed. Add frozen peas and coconut milk. Simmer until peas are thawed. Adjust seasonings if necessary. Like any curry dish, this is even better the next day

Serve over brown or white rice

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Non-alcohol Glühwein

We paid $9 for a bottle of alcohol-free Glühwein at the local Christkindl Market this month. It was delicious but a bit on the sweet side for my taste.

I looked for a recipe that was similar and tried a couple of online recommendations. This drink is similar to Mexican Christmas Punch without the added fruit. It is best when warm but is also good when chilled.

Here is a basic recipe that can be modified in many ways by changing the juice and spices.

  • 4 cups unsweetened 100% juice such as grape, cranberry blends, or apple cider
  • 2 cups tea- black, hibiscus, or other
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 4-5 cardamon seeds, lightly crushed
  • allspice seed, crushed
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • rind and juice of one orange- peel the rind off the fruit with a sharp knife
  • rind and juice of one lemon
  • 2 tbsp sugar if desired (I didn't add sugar)
Put all ingredients in a 2 litre pot and simmer for 30 minutes. Do not boil. Strain and serve.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Lentil Tourtière

Tourtière is a traditional savoury Christmas pie. There are many variations and the meat version we use is found here. I made this vegetarian pie today and it turned out very well. It was similar in taste and texture to the vegetable samosas we buy at the local Indian market.

Served with chutney, pickled beets and stir fried vegetables
1 double pie crust
4 cups cooked brown lentils
1 cup mashed potatoes
1 chopped onion (cooked)
1-2 cloves of garlic (cooked)
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground cloves
¼ tsp. allspice
½ tsp. cumin
other seasonings to taste- sage, thyme, ginger, dash of turmeric
Salt,  pepper

Cook lentils until soft or used canned lentils. Dice the onion and garlic and cook until softened in a little oil.
Boil 1-2 large potatoes in water until soft.

Mash lentils and potatoes together leaving some chunky pieces. Add onions and seasonings. Adjust spices to your preference. We like lots of spice in our food. I added a little more potato to make the ingredients stick together well.

Roll out pastry. Line the bottom of a 9" pie plate with pastry. Add filling and cover the top with pastry.

Bake at 425 F for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 F and cook for another 30-40 minutes until crust is nicely browned. 

All Butter Pie Pastry

This makes enough for 1 double crust pie or 2 single crust pies

1/2 cup cold salted butter, cut in cubes
1-1/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup ice water

Combine butter and flour in food processor until it is well blended and the consistency of coarse salt.
Slowly add 1/4 ice water- process until it comes together in a ball.

Chill if you are not using it right away. This pastry is very easy to work with.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Lentil Shepherd's Pie

This is a quick meal to put together after a busy day. Serves 4.

Peel equal amounts of white and sweet potatoes, cut in chunks, and boil in salted water until soft.

At the same time, cook 1 cup of green or brown lentils in salted water until tender or use 1 tin of prepared lentils.

In a wok or dutch oven, add a little oil and sauté;-

2 onions
2 cloves garlic
1 large carrot, diced
1 cup frozen peas
Seasonings to taste- i.e. oregano, herbes province, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper

You could add any other vegetables you want such as cauliflower, mushrooms, corn or green beans or just use a couple of cups of frozen mixed vegetables. Cut the vegetables in a uniform size.

Add some vegetable broth and simmer until vegetables are tender so you have a stew-like consistency. Add the cooked lentils and stir everything together.

Mash potatoes with milk of your choice, butter or sour cream if desired, and season to taste.

Serve the lentils over the mashed potatoes or make a casserole with a lentil base and potato topping.

Serve with grated cheese, sour cream, salsa if you want.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Masala Poutine

We visited Quebec City in September and were advised to try a restaurant called Le Chic Shack which is located just below the Plains of Abraham and Château Frontenac in the old city. It was September 13th, the anniversary of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham where the French and British troops fought in 1759. Le Chic Shack is locally famous for its poutine, a calorie-laden French Canadian dish of french fries with cheese curds and gravy.

 I chose masala poutine, a spicy East Indian version that did not disappoint! The potatoes were roasted, curry sauce was used rather than gravy, and the potatoes and curds were garnished with chutney, cherry tomatoes and hot peppers. The restaurant also serves burgers and chicken but I don't know how a person could eat the hearty poutine and a burger in one sitting.

This was a dish that had to be re-created at home. We ate the most successful version tonight, which is significantly modified from the original. It still features the complex flavours of curry and cheese with potatoes. I used this recipe from Kimchi Mom as a starting place for experimentation.  I found a mild Indian Curry Sauce at Farm Boy which is low in calories (50 calories per 1/2 cup) and very flavourful. It works perfectly for the gravy. My next experiment will be reproducing the curry sauce.

Spice Mixture:

1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garam masala
fresh ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or 1-2 cloves freshly pressed garlic (optional)

Preheat oven to 425F

Cut 3 pounds of potatoes in wedges or chunks and lightly toss with olive oil. I used half white potatoes and half sweet potatoes. Sprinkle the spice mixture over the potatoes and mix with a spoon until they are evenly coated. Spread potatoes on a baking sheet and roast until tender- about 30 minutes.

While the potatoes are roasting you can make this optional fresh chutney. If you want it to be hot, use the entire pepper, otherwise remove the seeds.


1 large bunch of fresh cilantro, stems and leaves (3 cups) washed and drained.
1 jalapeño pepper
zest and juice of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 ripe avocado (optional but delicious!)

Pulse the chutney ingredients in a food processor or blender until pureed. The chutney keeps for a week or so in the fridge and can be used as a condiment for other dishes.

When the potatoes are tender you are ready to assemble to dish. It can be made as spicy or mild as desired.


Grated "melty" cheese or curds
Curry sauce or gravy, heated
Cherry tomatoes, halved or chopped fresh tomatoes
Other vegetables- we added a few steamed brussels sprouts today
Sliced jalapeños, fresh or pickled
Sour cream
Fried onions

Enjoy! This is an ultimate, one dish comfort meal.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Lentil Mushroom Tacos

These are so delicious that you will never miss the meat. Even the household meat-lover agreed. We teamed up and made fresh corn tortillas while the lentils and other vegetables were cooking, and the meal came together in 40 minutes. The meal could be made in 20 minutes if you purchased tortillas and canned lentils.

1 cup dry green/brown lentils- I prefer the smallest ones I can find

Rinse the lentils. Add them to a saucepan with 4 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and boil until tender- about 30 minutes

In the meantime, sauté

2 chopped onions
1 diced jalapeño pepper with or without seeds depending on your heat preference
8 oz chopped fresh mushrooms
2-3 minced cloves of garlic
2 diced plum tomatoes

Season with

1 tablespoon chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
dried oregano to taste

Drain the cooked lentils and add them to the sautéd vegetables

Serve with garnishes of your choice;- Avocado, diced tomato, shredded lettuce, salsa, sour cream, etc

Serves 4-6

Friday, 1 July 2016

Partridgeberry Squares

Today is Canada Day, the 149th anniversary of Confederation. It is also my father's 84th birthday and we are not able to travel 2000 km to his birthday party. So we made a sweet treat at home to celebrate both events.

We visited Newfoundland last summer and enjoyed Partridgeberry Squares at cafés in Trinity and St. John's. The squares were served with butter icing or cream cheese icing which is not featured in the picture above. We found a "Newfie" store in Cambridge ON that sells frozen partridgeberries at a reasonable price. They are very similar to, if not the same as lingonberries that are sold at Ikea stores.

Here is the very simple recipe. It also works well with wild blueberries. The squares are similar to brownies or blondies.


1/2 cup softened butter
1 and 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1teaspoon vanilla
1 cup milk
2 cups flour
2 cups coconut
2 cups partridgeberries

Cream cheese frosting:

1 250 g package cream cheese
1 and 1/4 cups icing sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

  • Cream butter and sugar, add eggs and vanilla. Add flour and milk stirring well until smooth, then mix in coconut and berries. There is no added salt or leavening in this recipe. 
  • Pour into 9 x 13 inch pan. Bake in 350 degree oven, 30 to 40 minutes, the longer time if using frozen berries. Cool.
  • Spread frosting on cooled squares
Here is my daughter's take on the squares via Snapchat :-)


Sunday, 5 April 2015

Hot Cross Sourdough Loaves

I have kept a healthy jar of sourdough made with just flour and water for almost 2 years now. It needs to be fed weekly so I make sourdough flatbreads, injera with teff flour, or whole wheat sourdough loaves on the weekend.

In the beginning it took two weeks of daily feeding and fermentation to develop the natural yeast so that it could be used for bread. I followed S. John Ross' instructions on this page and use his recipe for my bread. Natural yeasts take longer to rise but the fermentation provides a number of health benefits including a lower glycemic index, a break down of starches and gluten, and the presence of beneficial bacteria. Due to its acetic acid content, it is resistant to developing mould.

This weekend I planned to make hot cross buns but the dough was slow to rise due to cool temperatures overnight. In a rush this morning, I made 2 loaves instead and the results were even more gratifying than expected. I read a few recipes for hot cross buns using instant yeast and modified my standby sourdough bread method.

Ingredients and method for 1 loaf:
  • 2 cups developed sourdough sponge (1:1 water and flour with 1/4-1/2 cup starter from jar)
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • you could add 1/4 cup powdered milk if desired. I added 2 tablespoons of 10% cream.
Mix these ingredients together until well blended. Gradually add
  • 3 cups Graham flour (or white/whole wheat blend)
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon or powdered chai spice- mix the spices in 1 cup of the flour
The amount of flour is approximate and can vary from week to week. Add flour until you can knead an elastic ball of dough that is not sticky. You don't want to add too much flour either so add it gradually at the end. 

Flatten the kneaded dough into a rectangle and sprinkle it with 
  • 3/4 cup of raisins, craisins, candied peel or whatever you want. You can add some grated orange or lemon rind for extra flavour. Fold the dough up and knead until the fruit is distributed evenly.
At this point I let the bread rise overnight in my wok that has a lid. Today it did not rise well because it was cold so I turned the oven on briefly to100 F and put the wok in for a couple of hours. Do not leave the oven on. 

When the dough has risen to at least double, knead it down and form into a loaf. Place in greased loaf pan and cover with a tea towel while the the dough rises again.  This rise usually takes less time.

When the dough has doubled again you can make the cross. 
  • Combine 1 tablespoon white flour with 1 tablespoon water and pipe the shape of a cross on the top of the loaf. I put the mixture in a sandwich bag and cut the corner off to squeeze it out in a controlled way. 
Place loaf in oven and set to 350 F. (I do not preheat the oven) Bake for 40 minutes. Remove the loaf from the pan and place on a rack. Brush the top of the loaf with some warmed honey. 

Let the bread cool and enjoy!

I used Graham flour and Mangal tea masala for the spice

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Mexican Christmas Punch

This recipe is based on one found on Mexicrave for Ponche Navideño. My daughter made this for me last month and I really enjoyed it. I do not have access to fresh guavas, tejocotes or sugar cane so this is a Canadian version. It is served warm with a spoon so the fruit can be eaten after you finish the drink.


Makes 10-12 cups

10 cups water,

1/2 cup loose hibiscus tea

3 tamarind pods, shells removed

1 orange, cut into quarters, skin left intact

1 red apple, chopped into small cubes

2 pears, chopped into small cubes

7-10 pitted prunes, chopped

handful of raisins

3 or 4 cinnamon sticks

3 cloves

1 cup brown sugar


Put 10 cups of water in a large pot. Add peeled tamarind pods and hibiscus tea. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Strain the liquid and discard the pods and loose tea petals

Add the cut up fruit, cinnamon, cloves and sugar.

Cover pot and let simmer for 30-45 minutes or until the fruit is tender. Stir very well to make sure the flavours and sugars combine.

Ladle into heat proof mugs and serve warm.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Chai from Scratch

Last week I forgot to put a tea bag in my lunch bag and ended up going to the cafeteria to get a hot drink. I had a choice of decaffeinated tea (uggh!) or a chai tea bag in hot water. The chai was weak and watery unlike the creamy and delicious drinks I have been served at Indian restaurants. This week I experimented with masala chai recipes and came up with one that is versatile and inexpensive. Vanilla beans are the most costly item but they are optional. The best way to make vanilla chai is to add vanilla syrup as your sweetener. My vanilla syrup recipe is here. The cinnamon sticks in the ethnic section of our supermarket were less than half the price of the cinnamon sticks in the baking aisle. The other spices were purchased at a bulk store. I like the heat of ginger and added a generous amount but any of the spices can be increased or decreased according to preference or availability. Assam tea is traditionally used and a bold black loose tea is my choice. Green tea or rooibos tea can also be used.

This recipe is based on one found at Crunchy Betty's epic guide to making your own chai. I like a stronger brew and increased the amount of tea and some other spices. It is worth reading the information about chai at this link.

  • 7 cinnamon sticks (3 inches long), broken into smallish pieces
  • 15 green cardamom pods  (crushed/cracked with a mortar and pestle)
  • 15 whole cloves
  • 5 allspice berries coarsely crushed
  • Ginger root- 2-3 inches, cut into slices
  • 1 tsp black or white peppercorns coarsely crushed
  • 2 vanilla beans, sliced open (optional)
  • 9 cups of cold water
Combine the above ingredients in a pot and simmer for 30 minutes on the stove. Remove from the heat and add

  • 1 tablespoon fennel seed (or anise seed) 
  • 4 tablespoons black tea leaves or equivalent amount in tea bags
  • 1 teaspoon of nutmeg
Let the tea steep for 15 minutes (less or more time according to preference) and strain into a jug.
You now have 8 cups of chai concentrate which can be kept in the fridge. When you are ready to have a drink, heat the chai and add warmed milk and sweetener of your choice. I like a ratio of 3:1 tea to milk and add 1 spoonful of honey to a 12 ounce mug.