Steamed gingerbread milk

A festive treat for the whole family!

My family knows the phrase ‘pumpkin spice’ drives me bonkers. When, why and how did the warm, comforting spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves become the exclusive domain of pumpkins or pumpkin pie? In my mind, we should all be saying ‘gingerbread spice’ instead. Hence this drink. It’s so easy to make and super tasty, plus you can customize it with your favourite kind of milk and the right amount of sweetness for your tastebuds.

Ingredients

Gingerbread spice blend:

  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) ginger
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) cloves

For one drink:

  • 1 cup (250 mL) milk (regular, almond, soy or coconut milk)
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) molasses (or more, to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon gingerbread spice blend
  • Whipped cream (optional but delicious)

Method

  • In a microwave-safe jug (or in a small pot on the stove), heat milk, molasses and spicy gently until the mixture is just steaming – don’t let it come to a boil.
  • Pour into a mug and top with whipped cream.

 

Posted in beverage | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Constantly Cooking’s 2018 Gift Guide

Suggestions for people who love to cook or eat!

We’re lucky over here in the Constantly Cooking kitchen that we’re often invited to try new products. From cookbooks to gadgets to appliances to edible items, we’re always eager testers! If we opt to recommend something, it’s either because it’s truly delicious, or it performed well in our rigorous trial process and we feel it will add value to someone else’s kitchen arsenal. Below are a few items we found this year that have made the grade and just might be the perfect gift option for someone you know this holiday season.

Philips Viva Pasta Maker

This compact unit is surprisingly powerful and really simple to use. Simply use the measuring cups provided to add the correct amount of flour, eggs and water. Turn it on, and in just a few moments it will have mixed the dough and will start extruding your chosen shape of pasta (spaghetti, fettuccine or penne). The whole process takes less than 20 minutes and the pasta cooks in about 3 minutes. Shake up your pasta routine by experimenting with the many varieties outlined in the recipe book, included.  Available at Canadian Tire and other major retailers.

All the Sweet Things Cookbook

This is the kind of cookbook that I will continue to read from cover to cover, many times over. Full of warm and clever writing, luscious recipes and spectacular photos, it is sure to inspire any baker or even those who just fancy a nostalgic trip down memory lane. Written by popular Saskatoon baker and food blogger Renee Kohlman (of sweetsugarbean fame), the book deservedly captured gold in the single subject category at this fall’s Taste Canada Awards. Available at Chapters/Indigo and other major book retailers.

CXBO Chocolates

photo credit Mike Tijoe

These artisanal chocolates, made in Toronto, are as delicious as they are gorgeous. Pictured here are the Aura Collection, CXBO’s new line of vegan chocolates (made from plant-based fat, cashews and coconut milk) and the Fireside Collection, a delightfully boozy line made in partnership with Corby Spirit’s Lot 40 Whiskey. Available in Ottawa at Jacobsons Gourmet Concepts.

Philips Soup Maker

It may look like an unassuming kettle-type device but it’s so much more. Ideal for people who want to make healthier meals from scratch, it’s as easy as just putting raw ingredients including vegetables and meat into the pot (the accompanying cookbook is great if you’re not a fan as I am of ‘clean out the fridge’ soups), then selecting 1 of the 6 pre-set programs (purée, chunky, cold, compote, smoothies, and milk-based soup). Walk away and let the sturdy machine with its built-in blending feature do all the work! In less than 20 minutes you’ll have perfectly cooked soup, piping hot if that’s what you wanted, and only one pot to clean up.  Available at Home Hardware and other major retailers.

Torres Gourmet Potato Chips

Marilyn Munroe’s character in The Seven Year Itch taught me that champagne and potato chips are a match made in heaven. Why not treat someone to a bottle of great bubbly paired with a few bags of gourmet potato chips? Torres chips come from Spain and are available in a wide range of flavours – our favourites are Iberian Ham and Black Truffle –  but you really can’t go wrong with any of them. Available in Ottawa at Kitchenalia.

Cole & Mason Mini Salt and Pepper Grinders

The Cole & Mason 2.5 inch Mini Salt & Pepper Mill Set is both durable and attractive. Though compact in size, they are well made of tough acrylic, with a hardened steel mechanism to grind pepper and a diamond-cut ceramic grinder in the salt mill. Place a few sets on a large dining table so everyone has easy access, or tuck them in your picnic basket or camping gear. You can adjust the coarseness of the grind and they’re easily refillable. Perfect as a stocking stuffer, they’re available at Lee Valley Tools.

All-Clad two-piece baking pan set

all-clad pan set

If you’re like us and get asked OFTEN to contribute to potlucks, you’ll love this All-Clad bakers’ two-piece set, perfect for transporting casseroles, crisps, cobblers or lasagnas to any event. Complete with lids, these vessels – one is 11 x 14 inches, the other 8 x 8 – also make storing leftovers in the refrigerator hassle-free. The super heavy-duty pans have a utensil-safe surface that won’t scratch and both the dishes and lids are dishwasher safe. To top it off, they pans are oven and broiler safe up to 600F. Available at the Hudson’s Bay Company and select gourmet retailers.

Posted in holiday gifts | Leave a comment

What are you eating on New Year’s Eve?

Cooked lobster dinner-to-go a perfect solution!

It’s been said that luck favours the prepared. I’m inclined to agree, particularly after this week when I was offered the opportunity to surprise my husband with a delicious take-home meal on the 30th anniversary of the day we met.

The Pelican Seafood Market & Grill launched this party-perfect offering five years ago and it’s steadily grown in popularity. Last New Year’s Eve they packaged up 250 lobster dinners-to-go for eager Ottawa diners.

As Jim Foster, the Pelican’s affable owner explains, it’s the perfect hassle-free solution. The meal includes a generously-portioned shrimp cocktail, a serving of lobster bisque, a crisp green salad, a whole lobster, expertly steamed and cracked plus a lemon-lavender cheesecake. Instructions for reheating and serving are included.

For our romantic celebratory meal, we served it up with a bit of a family-favourite twist. Instead of enjoying the lobster cold with a squeeze of lemon and dipped in hot garlic butter (both provided), we shelled the lobsters and reheated the meat gently in a frying pan with butter and vinegar. It might sound unusual, but quite honestly it’s one of the most delicious ways ever to eat lobster! I paired our meal with a fabulous crisp white wine – Blomidon Estate’s 2017 Tidal Bay, picked up on a recent trip to Nova Scotia – but champagne would have also been an ideal match.

Jim told me that last New Year’s Eve there was an even split of what he calls ‘oldsters and millennials’ who ordered the take-home lobster dinners. In some cases, friends each ordered and paid for a dinner online in advance, then picked them up to enjoy together as their New Year’s Eve meal.

If lobster’s not your thing, the Pelican also offers a host of other ‘to-go’ options including such delights as seafood platters, hot and cold smoked salmon and oysters – shucked or unshucked.

Our take-home feast was the perfect way to celebrate in style without the fuss or mess of cooking lobster ourselves. Thanks to Jim, Emile and the rest of the Pelican crew for helping make our anniversary so delicious!

Note: this was a gifted experience but opinions, as always, are entirely my own.

Posted in Restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Everything bagel’ crackers

Healthy and flavourful thanks to seeds, spices and whole wheat flour!

These crackers are so crispy and delicious that my family finds them positively addictive! They get their name from the spice and seed mix which mimics the famous ‘everything bagel’ topping that is wildly popular across North America. I like that these crackers include some whole wheat flour and contain no sugar or preservatives. The crackers themselves make a great hostess gift, perhaps paired with a favourite cheese. The ‘everything bagel’ spice mix is so versatile that it would also make a great gift as well!

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) ‘everything bagel’ seasoning blend (see below)
  • 2/3 cup (160 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) salt
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) water
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil
  • Extra water to brush dough

Method

  • Preheat oven to 400F.
  • Line two baking trays with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Combine flours and salt in a bowl, add water and oil, then stir to make a soft dough.
  • Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead 20 times.
  • Cover dough with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or up to one hour so flour can become fully hydrated.
  • Roll dough out between two large sheets of parchment paper, as thinly as possible (1/8 inch / .4 cm, or less).
  • With a large, sharp knife, cut into 1.5 inch (3.75 cm) squares.
  • Transfer squares to parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) apart. Prick the tops of each square several times with the tines of a fork.
  • Brush lightly with water and sprinkle ‘everything bagel’ seasoning on top, distributing evenly across the crackers.
  • Bake 10 – 12 minutes, until light brown and crispy.
  • Cool completely then store in airtight container for up to a week or freeze.

Makes approximately 4.5 dozen crackers.

Everything Bagel Seasoning Mix

  • 2 tablespoons white sesame seeds, toasted
  • 5 tablespoons black sesame seeds, toasted
  • 5 tablespoons dried onion flakes (not onion powder)
  • 5 tablespoons dried garlic flakes (not garlic powder)
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt or fleur de sel

Put all ingredients in a small jar and stir or shake to blend together. Store at room temperature for up to 6 months.

This spice and seed mixture is fabulous blended into butter or mayonnaise. It’s also great sprinkled on salads, sandwiches, cooked eggs, loaves of bread before baking, pizzas, baked potatoes, chicken, fish, homemade pita chips, sliced tomatoes, roasted vegetables, hummus, guacamole, avocado toast and, well… everything!

Posted in Snacks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pancetta and parmesan spiral bread

Make-ahead marvel for breakfast, brunch…or any meal of the day!

This rich, brioche-style bread is incredibly delicious and super versatile too. While it’s absolutely amazing fresh out of the oven, my taste testers have decided it’s even more delightful the next day, toasted and buttered, possibly with a fried egg on top. No matter how it’s served, it’s a loaf that will be the star of the show at any meal. You can make and bake it all in the same day if you like, or prepare the bread and let it nap in the fridge overnight before baking. It’s terrific made with pancetta, but double-smoked bacon would be ridiculously tasty in this as well. Next time I might even go wild and add some caramelized onions too.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups (17 oz or 480 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt
  • 1 cup (250 mL) milk
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) active dry yeast
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) olive oil
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 1/2 cups (625 mL) grated Parmesan
  • 2 1/2 cups (625 mL) diced pancetta or bacon
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) melted butter (to brush on loaf before baking)
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1.25 mL) fleur de sel or coarse kosher salt

Method

  • In a large frying pan, cook pancetta or bacon until crispy. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside to cool.
  • Prepare the dough by putting the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl (use a stand mixer if you have one); set aside.
  • Heat the milk gently in the microwave until it is warm to the touch, but not hot (110F with an instant-read thermometer if you have one).
  • Add the yeast to the milk. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes then add the mixture to the flour and stir into a shaggy dough.
  • Add the vegetable oil and beaten eggs and continue stirring until dough forms a ball. Knead 3 minutes with the stand mixer or turn dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead by hand for 5 minutes, adding a little flour if necessary to keep it from sticking to the bowl or the counter.
  • Transfer the kneaded dough to a clean bowl that’s been lightly oiled. Cover with a clean towel and let rise 1 hour.
  • Take the dough out the bowl and roll out as thinly as possible to form a large rectangle about 12 × 24 inches (30 x 60 cm). Sprinkle the dough with the Parmesan then the pancetta, leaving a half inch (1.25 cm) border around all of the edges.
  • Starting with a long end facing you, roll the dough up into a tight cylinder jelly roll-style, pinching the seams and ends to seal. Once you have finished rolling the dough, gently coil it into a spiral and place in a 10 inch (25 cm) springform pan that’s been lightly coated with vegetable oil.
  • Brush the coiled bread with melted butter and then cover loosely with plastic wrap and then a tea towel. Let rise again for 45 minutes.
  • NOTE: At this point you can put the shaped, covered bread in the fridge and let it sit overnight instead of having it rise on the counter for 45 minutes. Remove from fridge in the morning when you turn the oven on to preheat.
  • After 45 minutes (or overnight in fridge), preheat oven to 350F.
  • Remove plastic wrap and sprinkle loaf with fleur de sel or kosher salt. Place in preheated oven and bake 35 – 40 minutes, until golden brown on top.
  • Store leftover bread in a plastic bag or airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days, or freeze for longer storage.

Makes 1 large loaf.

Posted in Breads | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hearty Lamb Stew

A comforting, flavourful make-ahead meal

So many people mention stew when the topic of comfort food comes up. Warming and delicious, stew can be prepared many different ways with a host of different ingredients. I often make beef or chicken stew, but a yearning for lamb led to this this recipe’s creation and it was a huge hit. I bought a bone-in lamb leg on sale and cut it into cubes myself; if you’re pressed for time, call your butcher and have them do it for you! Serve this with warm crusty bread to mop up the delicious gravy.

Ingredients

  • 4 strips regular or double-smoked bacon, cut in 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) pieces
  • 2 lbs (1 kg) leg of lamb or lamb shoulder (in 1 inch/ 2.5 cm cubes)
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) flour, seasoned with salt & pepper
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons (15 – 30 mL) olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) butter
  • 1 pound (454 g) white or cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 cups (1 L) low sodium beef broth
  • 1 cup (250 mL) red wine
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) Dijon
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) dried
  • 3 cups (750 mL) potatoes in 1” (2.5 cm) pieces *
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut in 1/2″ (1.25 cm) pieces
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Chopped fresh parsley, to garnish

*  I like to use a mixture of small yellow and red skinned potatoes, halved or quartered

Method

  • Preheat oven to 325F.
  • Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven or heavy, oven-safe pot placed over medium heat until crispy, stirring often. Once cooked, transfer to a small bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving bacon fat in pot.
  • Put flour, salt and pepper in a small plastic bag. Add meat cubes, 10 or 12 at a time and shake in bag to coat with flour (you’ll need to hold bag closed as you shake).
  • Put Dutch oven back on medium heat and carefully remove lamb from flour bag, tapping off excess as you work, and add to hot pot. Don’t overcrowd the meat in the pot or it won’t brown nicely.
  • Remove each batch of meat to a large bowl when nicely seared before adding more to pan.
  • When lamb is all browned, add a bit of oil to the pot if it looks dry and sauté onions for 3 – 5 minutes, stirring often. When onions are translucent, add garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  • Transfer the onions and garlic to the same bowl as the browned lamb.
  • Add the butter to the pot along with the sliced mushrooms. Cook, stirring often, until mushrooms have released their moisture and are just starting to get a bit crispy.
  • Return bacon, lamb, onions and garlic to the pan.
  • Add broth to pot and stir gently to release the browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add red wine, Dijon, tomato paste and thyme and stir again.
  • Cover pot and bring the mixture to a boil then add in potatoes and carrots. Bring to a boil again then cover and transfer to the preheated oven. Let cook for 1.5 hours. Check once or twice and add a few tablespoons of water or red wine if the liquid has evaporated somewhat and the meat is not covered.
  • Note that the stew can be made ahead to this point and refrigerated, tightly covered, for up to 48 hours until ready to reheat and serve.
  • Just before serving, remove pot from oven and taste, adding add salt and pepper to your liking. Serve hot, garnished with parsley.

Serves 4 – 6.

Posted in dinner | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments