Curried Coconut Lentil Soup Mix

An attractive and practical edible gift!

I love gifting treats from my kitchen to friends and family. Some of my favourites include roasted spiced nuts, salted caramel pretzel bark  and flavourful caramel-apple jelly. You can find loads more edible gift ideas on this blog! This year, I added something new to the repertoire: a layered dry soup mix with instructions on how to transform the jar’s contents into an aromatic, delicious pot of soup.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) powdered coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup (185 mL) dry red lentils
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) dry green lentils
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) dehydrated minced onion
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) dehydrated tomato flakes
  • 2 bay leaves

Method

  • Spoon the powdered coconut milk into a small sealable bag; seal, and place on the bottom of a 2 cup / 500 mL canning jar.
  • Layer the red and green lentils on top of the coconut milk powder in five separate 1/4 cup layers (starting and ending with red lentils). Use a small spoon after each layer to pat down and smooth so that the layers are clearly visible.
  • Add bay leaves on top of the last lentil layer.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the curry powder, turmeric, minced onion and chopped sun dried tomato. Transfer to another small sealable bag; place on top of the bay leaves and put the lid on the jar.

Include this recipe with your soup mix when you gift it (here’s a printable version):


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Posted in Edible Gifts, gluten-free, holiday gifts, hostess gift | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Herb and garlic infused red wine vinegar

A pantry staple that makes a great gift!

Ever wonder why dishes typically taste so much better in restaurants? No, it’s not just because you didn’t have to do the shopping, cooking or cleanup…it’s because pro chefs are masterful at layering flavours. Quite often, their dishes benefit from the time they have taken to transform batches of simple ingredients such as olive oil and vinegar by infusing them with herbs or spices. The subtle nuance of extra flavour these enhanced products can add to a dish is really amazing. This year, I decided to experiment with adding fresh herbs and garlic to red wine vinegar, and the result is fantastic. I purchased cute bottles at my local dollar store so now the infused vinegar is all ready for gifting!

Ingredients

  • 4 cups (1 litre) red wine vinegar
  • 8 large sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 8 large sprigs fresh thyme
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
  • Additional fresh rosemary

Method

  • Divide the fresh herbs among two 500 mL canning jars (or use one large 1 litre jar if you have it).
  • Pour the vinegar over top of the herbs and add the garlic cloves.
  • Cover and let sit for 5 – 8 days, shaking occasionally.
  • Strain the vinegar into a clean glass measuring cup or jug, discarding herbs and garlic.
  • Place a fresh sprig of rosemary in several decorative bottles with tight lids (or use 250 mL canning jars).
  • Pour the strained vinegar over top. Place lid on bottle or jar, label and your vinegar is ready for gifting.

Makes 4 cups / 1 litre.

Posted in Christmas gifts, Edible Gifts, holiday gifts, hostess gift | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hearty seafood and chickpea stew

A Mediterranean-inspired winter warmer!

I adore this dish because it’s so easy to prepare and absolutely packed with flavour. The tomatoes and herbs are what predominate, rather than the mild-tasting haddock and shrimp. Leftovers reheat beautifully so you might even want to make a double batch. I like to serve this with a simple salad and crusty bread for an easy meal (see make-ahead instructions below) that’s sure to impress.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound (454 g) boneless haddock fillets (fresh or frozen)
  • 16 – 20 large raw shrimp (fresh or frozen), peeled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can (26 oz / 796 mL) diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup (250 mL) thinly sliced carrots
  • 1 cup (250 mL) diced celery
  • 1 can (18 oz / 540 mL) low-sodium chickpeas, drained and rinsed *
  • 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth (or more, to your liking)
  • dash red pepper flakes (or more, to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) tomato paste **
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) dried oregano
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) crumbled feta
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) minced parsley

* in some regions you’ll find chickpeas marketed as garbanzo beans 

** Look for tubes of concentrated tomato paste at your grocery store or specialty food market. They’re super handy when you only need a tablespoon or two and can be stored in the fridge for months after opening.

Method

  • If using frozen fish, partially thaw the haddock fillets (at room temperature for about 30 minutes or overnight in the fridge) and cut in 1 inch pieces.  Partially thaw shrimp (if frozen) and slice in half, lengthwise. Refrigerate both until ready for use.
  • In a large pot over medium heat, add olive oil and butter. When butter has melted, add onions and sauté for two minutes. Add garlic and cook two minutes longer, stirring.
  • Add tomatoes, carrots, celery, chickpeas, stock, red pepper flakes, tomato paste, basil and oregano. Stir well to combine and cover pot with a lid. Cook 5 minutes or until vegetables are just starting to feel tender when pierced with the tip of a knife.
  • At this point, you can refrigerate the stew for up to 24 hours and finish cooking it just before serving.
  • 15 minutes before ready to serve, bring the vegetable mixture back to a simmer. Add haddock, shrimp and zucchini; stir very gently to combine. Add a bit more broth if you would like the stew a little less thick. Cover pot and simmer for 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
  • Taste and add salt and/or pepper as needed.
  • Serve in hot bowls and garnish with feta and parsley.

Serves 4.

Posted in Entertaining, fish, Make Ahead, make-ahead, Meat, poultry, fish, One dish meals, seafood, Soups and stews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Buttery almond cookies  

An easy sweet treat with great flavour and texture

I am often asked which of my cookie recipes is my favourite, and it’s a question I truly cannot answer as I have to many from which to choose and I love them all. I usually select which recipe to bake either on a whim, because of a craving, or because of a family member’s request. Lately these buttery almond cookies have been making frequent appearances in our cookie jar. Inspired by Scandinavian almond cake, another favourite treat, I love these cookies because they have such a great texture and wonderful flavour, plus they are super quick and easy to make. As a bonus, they freeze beautifully also, so I usually make a double batch.

 Buttery Almond cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) slivered almonds
  • 1 cup (250 mL) softened butter
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) white sugar
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (500 mL) flour
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) baking powder

Method

  • In a small, dry skillet, toast almonds over medium heat, stirring often, until just beginning to turn golden. Watch them carefully so they do not burn. Transfer to a plate and set aside to cool while you prepare the cookie dough.
  • Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until fluffy and lightened in colour. Add egg, almond extract and vanilla extract and beat until well blended.
  • Combine flour and baking powder then add to butter mixture, stirring until fully incorporated. Add toasted almonds and stir to blend.
  • Let cookie dough sit for 30 minutes at room temperature so the flour can become hydrated.
  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Using a small cookie scoop if you have one, drop dough in approximately 2 teaspoon portions onto prepared cookie sheets, spaced about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart.
  • Bake for 10 – 12 minutes until just starting to turn golden brown on the bottom.

Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies.

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Chocolate Balsamic Sauce

A versatile treat that’s great for gifting!

This thick, rich sauce is ideal as a glaze for roasted meats and great as a drizzle over ice cream or sliced fruit such as strawberries or pears. You can also make amazing cocktails with it by blending with vodka and soda. Note that you do not have to start with expensive, aged balsamic to make this sauce; reducing ordinary balsamic will thicken it before you combine with easy to make chocolate syrup.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups (750 mL) ordinary balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/3 cups (340 mL) white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 cups (625 mL) water
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) vanilla extract

Method

  • Start by putting the balsamic vinegar in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring often.
  • The goal is to reduce the balsamic vinegar to about 2 cups from its original 3 cups, producing a thicker liquid that will coat the sides of the pan.
  • While vinegar is simmering, whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder and salt in a small saucepan.
  • Add the water and whisk until smooth. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes to thicken slightly, stirring constantly.
  • Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.
  • Let both cooked mixtures cool for 10 minutes, then add chocolate syrup to the balsamic vinegar and whisk together.
  • Pour into small jars or bottles and cap tightly.

Makes 4 cups (1 litre)

Posted in beverage, Christmas gifts, cocktails, Edible Gifts, Make Ahead, make-ahead, vegan, vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Peppermint meringues

Easy dairy-free, gluten-free treats!

Little meringues are the perfect sweet treat to have on hand, especially during the holiday season. They store well for weeks if placed in an airtight container, and their delicate texture and flavour make them a hit with young and old. Best of all, they are gluten and dairy free so everyone can enjoy them. Each year, I make these by the tableful for eating and home and gifting to others. While you can double the recipe, I find it’s best not to beat up more than 4 egg whites at a time as the mixture will start to deflate in your warm hands while piping out the cookies onto the baking trays. Also be sure not to add the peppermint extract until the egg whites have formed stiff peaks as the natural oils in the extract will impede the whipping process.

Ingredients

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/8 teaspoon (.6 mL) salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon (.6 mL) cream of tartar
  • 1/8 teaspoon (.6 mL) peppermint extract
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) finely crushed candy canes or peppermint candies

Method

  • Preheat oven to 225F. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Put egg whites in a medium-sized bowl. Beat with an electric mixer for one minute, then add salt and cream of tartar. Beat for 1 – 2 minutes longer until soft peaks form.
  • Add sugar very slowly – about a tablespoon at a time – beating constantly. It should take you at least one full minute to make the sugar additions. Beat for 3 – 4 minutes longer until stiff peaks form. Add peppermint extract and beat for 20 seconds.
  • Spoon the mixture into a large zippered food storage bag and seal. With scissors, snip off one corner of the bag, making an opening about 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) in size.
  • Gently pipe the meringue mixture into small mounds about 1” (2.5 cm) high onto the prepared baking tray, spacing about 1 inch apart.
  • Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) of crushed candy canes over the top of each meringue.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 60 – 75 minutes, or until completely dry.
  • Let cool completely then transfer to an airtight container. Store at room temperature.

Makes approximately 2 dozen small cookies.

Posted in baking, cookies, Dairy-free, gluten-free | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Mixed mushroom risotto with caramelized squash

A hearty, warming bowl of goodness!

Meaty, flavourful mushrooms and sweet, caramelized butternut squash are the perfect sidekicks in a warm bowl of cheese-topped risotto. I used to be intimidated about preparing risotto, yet I’ve learned it’s not as tricky as I once thought. One of the best tips I ever received was from a chef who par-cooks his rice in stock, then removes it from the pot and spreads it on a sheet pan to dry. In this recipe, the pre-cooked mushrooms and squash can also be precooked. You can refrigerate everything for up to 24 hours, then return it to the pot with stock to complete the cooking process, making it much easier to prepare for a dinner party as you’ll not need to be shackled to a stove for 40 or 50 minutes while your guests eat all the appetizers without you. Look for packages of mixed mushrooms at your local supermarket or specialty produce store; truffle salt should be available at stores that sell a good range of spices. It’s a really versatile ingredient and adds a huge pop of flavour to eggs, popcorn, vegetables and more. For a suggested wine pairing with this creamy, rich dish, I’d recommend Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay 2016. It’s got surprising depth for a very lightly oaked chardonnay and the wine’s buttery notes and tropical aromas perfectly complemented the earthiness of the risotto.

mushroom risotto closeup wm

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 cup (250 mL) hot water
  • 4 cups (1 L) chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) butter, divided
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups (250 mL) peeled, seeded, diced butternut squash (in 1/2 inch or 1.25 cm cubes)
  • 8 ounces (250 g) mixed fresh mushrooms (button, cremini, shiitake, oyster, etc.), coarsely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) fresh thyme leaves, divided
  • 1 cup (250 mL) finely diced onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) truffle salt (or smoked sea salt)
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) short grain (Arborio) rice
  • 1 cup (250 mL) dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) chopped fresh sage leaves or parsley
  • 3/4 cup (180 mL) freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • black pepper and additional truffle or smoked salt, to taste

mushroom risotto wm

Method

  • Put the dried porcini mushrooms in a broad, shallow bowl and pour hot water over top. Let soak for 20 minutes while you prepare other ingredients, then remove the mushrooms one at a time from the dish, squeezing excess moisture back into the dish.
  • Reserve the ‘mushroom water’ for cooking the rice and chop the rehydrated porcinis into small pieces. Set aside.
  • Combine the mushroom water and chicken broth in a small saucepan on the stove. Keep warm over medium-low heat.
  • In a large skillet over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of the butter and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Heat then add the cubed squash; cook, stirring often until squash is just tender (test with the tip of a sharp knife) and beginning to caramelize – about 8 minutes. Transfer cooked squash to a bowl and set aside.
  • In the same skillet, add another tablespoon each of the butter and olive oil and melt over medium heat. Add the chopped fresh mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon of thyme leaves and the garlic. Saute for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are softened, have released their moisture and are beginning to brown. Transfer to the bowl with the cooked squash and set aside.
  • In a large, heavy-duty pot, heat the remaining tablespoon of butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and reserved chopped porcini mushrooms along with 1/2 teaspoon of the truffle salt. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes, stirring often.
  • Add rice to the pot and stir to coat well in the butter and oil mixture. Continue to stir the rice for 2 minutes so it gets a little toasted, then add the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the wine has evaporated.
  • Ladle in some of the broth that’s been warming in the other pot; add just enough to cover the top of the rice. Reduce heat to medium and let the mixture simmer, uncovered. Keep an eye on it and add another ladleful of broth every time the level drops below the top of the rice, stirring to incorporate with each addition.
  • If par-cooking and refrigerating till later, stop when you have about 3 ladlesful of broth left to add; refrigerate the remaining stock separately from the rice which has been spread on a sheet pan to cool in the fridge.
  • When you are ready to add the final ladleful of warm stock, add the reserved cooked squash and cooked fresh mushrooms to the pot and stir gently to combine.
  • Test rice for doneness; it should be tender but still have a little firmness, much like ‘al dente’ pasta. Heat up to 1/2 cup more broth or water if you feel the rice is not cooked to your tastes and add it in.
  • Once the rice is cooked and almost all liquid has been absorbed, stir in the remaining fresh thyme leaves, half of the minced sage, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese and a sprinkle each of black pepper and truffle salt. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.
  • Spoon the risotto into warmed bowls and sprinkle remaining sage and parmesan over top. Serve warm.

Makes 4 servings.

mushroom risotto pinnable

 

Posted in arborio rice, Make Ahead, make-ahead, make-ahead meal, Vegetables, vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments