Mini Shortbread Apple Tarts with Salted Caramel

Freshly picked apples are one of the delights of autumn. Their beautiful red skins and crisp texture seem a perfect pairing with the changing seasons. These delicious tarts are a great way to showcase apples in a pretty way and I think you’ll find this recipe super easy as well. Note that if you’d like, you can double the quantities and follow the same directions below to prepare a 9 inch tart (use a springform pan). Mini or full sized tarts can be baked ahead and frozen in an airtight container for up to three months, though I doubt you’ll be able to wait that long to polish ’em off.

Mini tarts with a shortbread base, spiced apples and salted caramel

Ingredients

For the shortbread crust:

  • 3/4 cup (185 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) white sugar
  • 1/3 cup (90 mL) very cold butter

For the filling:

  • 2 medium apples
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) ground ginger

For the topping:

  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) caramel sauce (purchased or homemade)
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) fine sea salt or Maldon salt flakes

Method

  • Start by preheating oven to 375F. Line a twelve-compartment muffin pan with paper liners (use the parchment ones if you can find them) and set aside.
  • Prepare shortbread crust by combining flour, sugar and butter, cut in 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) cubes in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Alternatively, you can also combine flour and sugar in a medium sized bowl and use a box grater to grate the butter into the flour mixture. Combine well with your fingers, rubbing the grated butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.
  • Divide the flour mixture among the twelve muffin tin compartments and press down with the back of a small spoon.

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  • Bake for 15 minutes until just beginning to turn golden brown. Remove muffin pan from oven but do not turn oven off.
  • While crust is baking, prepare fruit filling by peeling and coring apples, then cutting into thin pieces (approximately 1/8 inch by 1/2 inch).
  • Put the cut apples in a bowl, toss with lemon juice. Combine sugar, cinnamon and ginger and sprinkle over apples then stir to combine.
  • When crust has baked, top with apple mixture, dividing evenly among the twelve tarts. Press down very lightly with fingers.
  • Top each tart with 1 teaspoon (5 mL) of the caramel sauce and finish with a sprinkling of salt.

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  • Return pan to oven and bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until apples are tender and caramel sauce is bubbling.

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  • Let cool at least 1 hour at room temperature or 30 minutes in the refrigerator (to allow caramel sauce to set) before removing from paper liners and serving.

Makes 12 mini tarts.

Mini tarts with shortbread, spiced apples and salted caramel

 

Posted in baking, Fruit, Fruits and vegetables, Make Ahead | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Big News: A TV Show – starring me!

You may have noticed I haven’t been posting as many recipes as usual lately, and for that I sincerely apologize. It’s not that I haven’t been busy in the kitchen…after all, I truly am Constantly Cooking. The reason for my apparent absence is a fun one: I’ve been busy this summer writing and filming a cooking show! It’s been an amazing project and as the air date looms ever closer, I waffle (pun intended) between feeling ecstatically excited and totally terrified.

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It was so much fun making the show. Of course it involved a lot of hard work but I loved every moment of having the crew in my kitchen (and I made sure they were very well fed, too). I cannot wait to see what editing magic they work on the hours and hours of footage we shot for each of the initial six episodes.

The show is called Paula Roy’s Favourite Foods and it was filmed and produced by my wonderful friends at Rogers TV Ottawa and sponsored by Farm Boy. The episodes will also be available on YouTube after they first appear on Ottawa’s Channel 22. I’ll be sure to share the links with everyone as soon as the show starts airing in the next few weeks.

While you’re waiting, check out this nice story about me and my show that ran in the latest edition of the Kitchissippi Times, the great community newspaper for my ‘hood.  You can also visit my other recipe blog, Whole Foods in Half the Time, for some delicious inspiration.

More new recipes coming your way very soon, I promise. Thanks for your patience.

 

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Better Than Takeout Sweet & Sour Shrimp

When I was a kid, as soon as saw the words ‘sweet and sour’ on any Chinese restaurant takeout menu, I simply had to have it. I didn’t care if there was a cup of icky red food colouring in that chicken ball sauce, or if it took a tub of MSG to make those tiny spareribs taste so good – I wanted all the sweet and sour things. Well, times have changed and so have my tastebuds. This dish strikes a perfect balance of flavour, offering a little salt, a little sweet, a little sour and a little spice. It’s got some nice contrasting colours and textures, too, thanks to the vegetables. Serving it on brown rice also makes the dish more filling and nutritious – here are some tips for cooking brown rice so it stays nice and fluffy. But the star of the show is definitely the shrimp. Coating them in cornstarch before flash frying them gives them a nice crispy coating, makes the insides stay tender and also keeps them from drying out. One more tip: skip the shrimp for a fantastic vegetarian / vegan meal! You can also do much of the prep work for this dish ahead of time, making it fast to assemble at dinnertime.

Perfectly cooked shrimp and vegetables in a sweet and sour sauce that is truly delicious. A great mostly make-ahead meal!

Ingredients

For the sauce:

  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) pineapple juice (fresh or canned)
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) grated fresh ginger root
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) honey
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) sesame oil
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons (15 – 30 mL) Sriracha or Sambol Oelek (Asian hot sauce) or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) cornstarch

This better-than-takeout meal is easy to prepare

For the shrimp and vegetables:

  • 1 lb (454 g) medium or large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/3 cup (90 mL) cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) freshly ground pepper
  • 2 – 4 tablespoons (30 – 60 mL) canola oil
  • 1 large carrot, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 large red pepper, in 3/4 inch (2 cm) pieces
  • 1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 fresh pineapple, peeled and cored, in 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) minced green onion tops
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) salted cashews
  • cooked brown rice, to serve

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Method

  • Prepare sauce by combining all ingredients in a jar with a tight lid and shaking well to blend.
  • Chop all ingredients before beginning to cook.
  • Put cornstarch and pepper in a small bag and shake to blend.
  • Pat shrimp dry then dredge, a handful at a time, in the cornstarch mixture. Place them on a clean plate, in a single layer. This can be done up to an hour before cooking time; refrigerate shrimp until needed.
  • When ready to assemble the dish, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a wok or large frying pan over medium heat.
  • Add shrimp to the pan in batches so they are not too crowded and cook, flipping once, until shrimp has turned pink and coating is crispy, about 2 – 3 minutes. Remove cooked shrimp to a clean plate and add more oil as needed. The shrimp can be cooked ahead of time and refrigerated for up to an hour.
  • When shrimp has been cooked, add a tiny bit more oil to the pan and cook carrots, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Add peppers and cook for 2 minutes more. Add zucchini and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Return cooked shrimp to the pan and drizzle sauce over top and cook, stirring gently, for 3 – 5 minutes until sauce is thickened.
  • Serve chicken mixture and sauce over cooked brown rice and garnish with minced green onion and cashews.

Serves 4.

The best sweet and sour shrimp dish ever!

Posted in Asian, fish, Meat, poultry, fish, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pasta with roasted tomatoes, peaches and burrata

This is the dish that just might make you consider becoming a vegetarian. Seriously. I love the way my family looks at me when I tell them we’re having a vegetarian meal. Their facial expressions suggest that they might a) die of starvation within the hour after dinner or b) head out for meaty takeout before I’ve even finished the dishes. Well, I tricked them with this one. It is packed with flavour and enough protein (thanks to delicious burrata cheese which is a ball made of mozzarella on the outside, and a creamy ricotta-filling on the inside) to satisfy even the most committed of carnivores.  When I served this up, I was thrilled to hear, after just one bite, “you can make this again. Definitely.”

This quick vegetarian pasta dish features roasted tomatoes and peaches plus delicious burrata cheese

Ingredients

  • 3 plum tomatoes
  • 2 ripe peaches
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) chopped fresh basil
  • 1 cup (250 mL) small pasta (shells, macaroni, etc.)
  • 8 oz (250 g) Burrata cheese

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Directions

  • Preheat oven to 400F.
  • Cut the tomatoes and peaches into 3/4 inch pieces and place on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Roast for 20 minutes.
  • While fruit is roasting, cook pasta in boiling salted water.
  • When pasta is tender, remove and reserve 1/4 cup (60 mL) cooking water before draining the cooked noodles.
  • Put hot, cooked pasta in a serving bowl. Scatter roasted tomatoes and peaches on top.
  • On a cutting board, quickly slice burrata into small pieces and transfer the cheese to the top of the pasta bowl. Drizzle with reserved pasta cooking water.
  • Sprinkle with chopped basil and add a few grinds of pepper, then serve immediately.

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Serves 2 – 3

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Posted in Fruits and vegetables, One dish meals, Pasta, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Caramel Crunch S’mores Dip

No campfire is needed to make this delicious treat whenever a s’mores craving strikes! Use either your oven’s broiler or a kitchen torch and the microwave to whip this up in just moments.

No campfire needed to make this s'mores dip!

Ingredients

  • Mini marshmallows
  • Mini chocolate chips
  • Skor baking bits
  • Graham crackers, for dipping

Method

  • Fill the bottom of an oven-safe dish with a layer of mini marshmallows.
  • Broil or scorch with a kitchen torch until the marshmallows are just beginning to blacken (or turn a dark golden brown if you’re one of “those people” who only eats ‘perfectly toasted’ marshmallows).

Use your oven's broiler or a kitchen torch to toast the marshmallows

  • Sprinkle just enough chocolate chips and Skor bits on top to cover in a thin layer.
  • Return to oven (which has been turned off) for 2 minutes to melt chocolate, or microwave on medium power for about 30 seconds.
  • Transfer dip to mouth via graham crackers.

No campfire needed to make this delicious dip.

Posted in Dessert, Desserts, Party, Snacks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Marinated Goat Cheese with Pickled Blueberries

Heaven help me….I have a new addiction, and it’s this dish. It started out innocently enough. I looked around for something new to pickle, and spied a big basket of fresh blueberries on the kitchen counter. As an aside, in case you don’t know it, I’ve become known as the person who will pickle anything that’s not nailed down. Apple slices? Yup. Grilled corn kernels? Check. I’ve also pickled tomatillos, rhubarb, cauliflower, kohlrabi and plums, plus a whole lot more. Can’t get enough of pickles! But I digress. As I was saying, it started with the blueberries. They made fabulous pickles and I soon found myself adding them to salads, my morning granola and all kinds of other things. I then realized they would be a great tangy topper for rich, marinated goat cheese (a dish I’ve loved for years thanks to Canadian Living magazine) and that’s how this dish was born. If you are a regular guest at my table, I apologize in advance for how often I am going to serve this.

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Ingredients

For the pickled blueberries

  • 2 cups (250 mL) firm, fresh blueberries, rinsed
  • 3/4 cup (180 mL) cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) water
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) kosher salt
  • 1 small shallot, diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) cracked black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) hulled cardamom seeds

For the marinated goat cheese

  • 4 ounce (113 grams) log of plain goat cheese
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 4 tablespoons (60 mL) olive oil
  • Few grinds salt and pepper
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) fresh thyme leaves

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Method

  • To make the pickled blueberries, start by putting half the blueberries in a clean 500 mL canning jar.
  • In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, water, sugar, salt, shallot, pepper and cardamom.
  • Heat gently, stirring often, until sugar and salt have dissolved and mixture is steaming.
  • Pour half mixture over the half-filled jar of berries, being sure to scoop some of the seasonings over the berries.
  • Add remaining berries to jar and top with remaining brine and seasonings. Cover with canning lid.
  • Let stand at room temperature for 6 hours then transfer to the refrigerator.
  • Berries will be ready to eat in 24 hours and can be stored in the fridge for up to one month.

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  • To make the marinated goat cheese, slice the cheese crosswise into 1/4 inch (6mm) slices. Lay these in the bottom of a shallow dish with short sides just big enough to hold the cheese in one layer. I used a 6 inch (15 cm) square plate.
  • Put the minced garlic in a small bowl and add the olive oil. Microwave for 1 minute to partially cook the garlic. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
  • Add the salt, pepper and thyme leaves to the oil and garlic mixture and stir to combine.
  • Drizzle the flavoured oil over the cheese.
  • Let stand at room temperature at least 30 minutes or up to two hours so the flavours will blend.
  • When ready to serve, top with 1/2 cup (125 mL) of pickled blueberries and serve with baguette or crackers.

Serves 4 as an appetizer.

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Posted in appetizer, Berries, pickles, Preserves | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Grilled Portobellos stuffed with quinoa, pesto and grilled vegetables

If you’d asked my husband a few years ago what his least-favourite vegetable was, he would probably have said zucchini. Thanks to a lot of experimentation, he’s changed his tune, a fact he expressed when tasting this delightful stuffed mushroom dish for lunch. Previously, he complained that zucchini didn’t taste like anything, whereas I’ve always preferred to think of them as the perfect blank canvas for other flavours (this delectable, easy zucchini ‘noodle’ dish is a great example). With this new recipe, I’ve found another way to throw zucchini on his plate and it has also proven to be a huge hit. You can make it in under 30 minutes and while it’s a great meatless meal on its own, it’d also be a fantastic side for grilled fish or meat. Use whatever pesto you like; I’m partial to basil but grilled garlic scape pesto would be terrific too. If you wanted to serve this as an appetizer, substitute smaller cremini or white mushrooms for the portobellos.

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) quinoa (I prefer red quinoa for its nice colour)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) water
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) balsamic
  • 4 Portobello mushroom caps
  • 1 small zucchini
  • 1/2 orange or red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) pesto
  • Lemon wedges (to serve)

Method

  • Preheat barbeque to medium-hot.
  • While barbeque heats, put quinoa and water in a small saucepan, cover, and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to minimum and let cook for 15 – 20 minutes until all water is absorbed.
  • While quinoa cooks, put olive oil and balsamic in a small jar with a tight lid and shake until well blended.
  • With a small knife (a grapefruit knife is ideal) cut the stems and some of the gills out of the Portobellos to form a bit of a hollow in the middle, being careful not to cut all the way through.
  • Slice zucchini lengthwise into four thin strips and cut pepper into two pieces.
  • Brush both sides of the vegetables with the olive oil and balsamic mixture, being sure to thoroughly coat the Portobellos.

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  • Place the vegetables on the hot barbeque grill and cook, turning once, for about 4 minutes per side. Remove from heat.
  • Transfer the cooked quinoa to a medium sized bowl. Chop the grilled peppers and zucchini and add to the quinoa, along with all but a tablespoon of the pesto. Stir gently to combine well.

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  • Place the Portobellos on individual serving places, with the stem sides facing up. Heap about 1/2 cup (125 mL) of the quinoa mixture (or more, if you can fit it on) onto each mushroom.
  • Top each with a dollop of pesto and serve immediately with lemon wedges to squeeze over top for a bright pop of flavour.

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Makes 4 stuffed Portobellos.

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Posted in appetizer, barbeque, Grilling, vegan, Vegetables, vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments