Cheese Chips!!!

 

parmesan cheese chip

 
Heres the trouble folks; once you start making cheese chips you will never stop. Even with the best intentions, “I’ll just eat a few and save the rest to serve with dinner tomorrow” ultimately you will eat too many and spread the addiction to others. 

Usually, we see parmesan chips, which are delicious, mind you, but they aren’t the only cheese in the ballgame when it comes to crisp, light, flavourful homemade cheese crisps. Like usual I’ve done the experimenting for you and tried chips at different temperatures made of various cheeses including parmesan, extra old cheddar, medium cheddar, handeck, asiago, and a mix. 

  

extra old cheddar chips before baking

My favourite are the chips made from extra old cheddar (made by my local cheese shop Jenson’s and aged 2 years I believe. And don’t worry about it being orange- like most Canadian cheese makers, they use a vegetable based natural colouring). They are more crisp than asiago whichs tend to have the tiniest bit of chew and cheaper than parmesan chips, which I like almost as much. 

*Some recipes said to use a mix of finely grated cheese and coarse and after trying both I can tell you this is horseshit and it doesn’t matter. Grate it however you want!

the winner!

The recipe is so simple I’m not sure you can call it a recipe, but here it is! I recommend serving these (or at least planning to before you scarf them all down yourself) with Roasted Tomato Soup.

 

roasted tomato soup with the few cheese chips not eaten before dinner!


Cheese Chips

Grated  cheese of choice *
Preheat oven to 400f

Line baking sheet with parchment and use tablespoon to make cheese mounds. Bake for 4-6 minutes or until starting to bubble – stay close and don’t overcook!

Let cool on the cookie sheet a few minutes- they will crisp up when cool. 

Store leftovers (ha!) in a glass jar with a paper towel in the fridge for up to a week. 

 

 

Overnight French Toast Casserole 

I’m not sure how it took me this long to discover the following recipe, but it is deliciously magical in ease of preparation and a must try for a brunch or breakfast-themed weeknight dinner.

Whenever I entertain, I seem to follow a strict pattern of inviting too many people and  attempting to cook too many different brand new dishes all at once. Ultimately I am left scrambling in the kitchen and can’t enjoy the company of my guests. A few weeks ago I broke this habit by making at least 3/4 of my Pumpkinfest Brunch menu make ahead dishes that took little or no prep the day of.

 

i was able to make the pumpkin tarts, hasbrown casserole, quiche, cheeseplate, and the french toast bake the day before

 
This was by far the easiest and most popular dish at the party and certainly fed a large crew! I even made a half sized version last night for dinner and served with fresh fruit and peppered bacon. 

My adaptations to the original recipe from Food.com are the additions of vanilla, nutmeg, allspice, salt and maple syrup.

The first time I made this I had leftover pumpkin pie filling and stirred 1/3 cup in the egg and it was very tasty and subtle. 

Some pecans on top would also be lovely! 

 

full sized version

 

Overnight French Toast Casserole 

SERVINGS 9-12 

1⁄2 cup butter 

12 slices white bread (I use a freshly sliced italian or french loaf)

1 cup brown sugar (*You may wish to reduce the amount of sugar used to 2/3 cup.)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon allspice or ground cloves

Dash of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 eggs

1 1⁄2 cups milk

1 tablespoon maple syrup 

Powdered sugar and maple syrup (for serving)

DIRECTIONS

Melt margarine in a 9 x 13 baking pan.

Put 6 slices of bread in bottom of pan.

In a bowl mix 1 cup brown sugar with spices and salt. 

Sprinkle 1/2 of this sugar mixture over bread.

Add another layer of 6 slices of bread.

In a bowl, whisk eggs with milk, maple syrup and vanilla until well blended.

Pour over bread layers.

Sprinkle with remaining sugar mixture.

Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Bake covered at 350F 30 minutes.

Uncover and continue baking 15 minutes or until set and browned.

Top with powdered sugar and drizzle with maple syrup before serving. Raspberries and whipped cream served on the side make it very decadent! 

Leftovers reheat very well. 

 

make it in 10 minutes one night or morning and enjoy later!

 


Rustic Zucchini Basil Pesto

The best thing about this recipe is….. NO food processor! That`s right folks, this “rustic“ pesto invented by moi requires just a wee bit of grating (the zucchini and parmesan), chopping (the basil), and NO pine nuts (keeps the cost down but would be lovely sprinkled atop your creation I`m sure).

A few days ago I thinking about making pesto but was worried about taxing my wee basil plant too much by stripping it nearly bare to get enough leaves to make it. Then one night making dinner I had some leftover zucchini and inspiration struck; If the zucchini could supplement the basil I wouldn`t need as much! A quick google search reveals yes, zucchini pesto is a thing! I was feeling lazy so I skipped the whole recipe surfing step I usually spend quite a bit of time on, as well as the whole getting out a food processor bit that is usually necessary with pesto. The result was amazing! I have now made this twice this week and guests rave about it. The word `rustic` is culinary code for `lazy`, didn`t you know? Make some lazy zucchini basil pesto today and say “Mmmmmmmmmm”   “mmmmmmmm”  thanks Violet’s mom!

If you have never had bread that has been baked then rubbed with fresh garlic, you are in for a treat and a suprise. The bread will take on much more flavour than you would expect with such a brief encounter with the garlic, yet it is still delicate and much more pleasant than little chunks of garlic.

packed with flavour, freshness, and crunch

packed with simple, fresh flavours this appetizer is a hit!

Rustic Zucchini Basil Pesto with Garlic Crostini 

1 handful of fresh basil, chopped

1/4 cup grated parmesan (large hole side of grater)

1/2 cup grated zucchini (large hole side of grater)

salt and pepper

a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

FOR PESTO: Mix all ingredients above in a small bowl with a fork until somewhat blended.

TO SERVE: Make garlic crostini by slicing a baguette, brushing both sides with melted butter, adding a bit of salt and baking at 400 for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Rub with half a fresh clove of garlic and serve with a spoonful of pesto, or for an extra treat grate some extra parmesan and sprinkle on bread. Return to oven for a few minutes to melt cheese before topping with pesto and serving.

Alton Brown’s Baked Beans… Sort of

Anyone who is familiar with Alton Brown is aware how particular he is as a chef. He crafts his recipes very carefully with detailed measurements, urgings to weigh ingredients, and scientific mumbo-jumbo to explain how the whole thing works.

He probably would not be happy with me altering his recipe, but fate be damned I am doing it anyways!

I have been making these baked beans for nearly a decade and they always turn out well. In recent years I have made a few changes which seem to result in baked beans which me and my wide variety of food tasters seem to *gasp!* prefer to Alton’s original recipe. Simmer down Alton lovers; all I did was remove one jalapeño and add in some vinegar and maple syrup. Did you know that maple syrup is a flavour enhancer, much like vanilla? A little goes a long way! I also omit the bean water in favour of more flavourful broth and remove the lid for the last bit of cooking time for a deep browning. Plan on closer to 8 hours than 6.

So comforting and filling, baked beans are a great winter dish served with some Cornbread and a salad.

Also for anyone wanting to make less than what seems like a mountain of beans at the end, I have halved this recipe with great results!

Baked Beans

Adapted from Alton Brown’s Once and Future Baked Beans

1 pound dried Great Northern beans
1 pound bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, chopped
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
3 tablespoons of apple cider or other vinegar
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
4 cups vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt

—–
Heat oven to 250 degrees F.

Soak beans in a plastic container overnight in just enough cold water to submerge them completely.

Place a Dutch oven over medium heat and stir in the bacon, onion, and jalapenos until enough fat has rendered from the bacon to soften the onions, about 5 minutes. If desired, remove some bacon fat with a few paper towels. Stir in the tomato paste, dark brown sugar, molasses, vinegar, and syrup. Cook for a few minutes.

Drain the beans and rinse. Add the drained beans to the Dutch oven. Add the vegetable broth to the Dutch oven and bring to a boil over high heat. Add in cayenne, black pepper and salt. Give them a stir and cover with the lid. Place the Dutch oven in the oven for 6 to 8 hours, or until the beans are tender. Remove lid for last 30-45 minutes of cooking.

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Greek Lasagna (gluten free)

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Greek lasagna you say? What the heck is that? Okay I admit it, I kind of tricked you with this title as this recipe is actually for moussaka, which is basically Greek lasagna and happens to be naturally gluten free. However the name moussaka conjures images of something strange and fishy more than it does a meaty, saucy, creamy eggplanty type delight and wanted you to give it a fair chance.

Moussaka is practically the national dish of Greece. The dish originated in Turkey as a lamb and eggplant braise, which was then reworked by the Greek chef Tselementes and became the dish it is today. The classic version is still prepared almost the same way wherever you go in Greece.

Peter Conistis

I saw moussaka being cooked on the food network a year or so ago and have made it many times since then. Guests never have any idea what it is but always seem to enjoy it quite a bit.

Here is how it differs from Italian lasagna:

-No noodles! Instead to create layers there are usually sliced potatoes on the bottom and a layer of eggplant (can be substituted for zucchini) in there somewhere as well.

-Many recipes do not contain cheese, and if they do it is usually feta or a hard Greek sheep cheese called Kefalotyri (κεφαλοτύρι) . I have used feta, no cheese, and a blasphemous combination mozzarella and ricotta, as I describe here. All were delicious. Instead of using the no- cook ricotta mix for the topping as I have described here you can use a béchamel sauce with an egg (or two) mixed in at the end. This makes it a much more frugal dish than lasagna (which you must buy ricotta for) if using the béchamel sauce.

-The sauce is tomato based like Italian Lasagna, but usually has spices like cinnamon or allspice included, which makes the flavour out of this world! Since stumbling across moussaka I have been putting cinnamon in all my Italian style tomato/pasta sauces as well and it is very good. Subtle and most people can’t quite guess what the ingredient is.

-Some recipes I have seen use beef, some lamb, and some a combination. I have used beef, ground pork, and a combination and they are all very good. We aren’t lamb lovers but if you are I am sure that is tasty (and more traditional) as well.

I heavily adapted this recipe from Chef Peter Conistis and it was much easier than other recipes I have used due to the no cook cheese topping (I also used leftover meat sauce from Won Ton Wrapper Mini Lasagnas I had made for a party a few days ago which made assembly a breeze).

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Greek Lasagna (Moussaka)

Sauté 1/2 lb. of pork, beef or combo, drain, add a chopped onion and a few minced cloves of garlic and either a jar of tomato sauce or a can of crushed or strained tomatoes). Add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 2 teaspoons of sugar, and 1 cup of water or red wine.

Cover and simmer on low for as long as you have (10 minutes – a few hours).

Preheat oven to 400f convection.

Wash and slice 3 large potatoes or 6 small (I used new potatoes). Toss in salt, pepper and oil and throw into an oiled casserole dish (I used an 8×8 but it was really pushing the limits).

Slice 1 large eggplant or 3 baby eggplants lengthwise and toss in oil and salt and pepper. Place on parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake eggplant and potatoes in oven together for 20 minutes or until eggplant a little brown. Remove from oven and turn oven down to 375f.

Meanwhile, in a bowl mix half a large container of ricotta, 1.5 cups of grated mozzarella, a handful of chopped parsley, salt and pepper, a dash of nutmeg, 3/4 cup of half and half cream, and 2 eggs.

Push potatoes around in dish so they are evenly layered.

Pour all of your meat sauce over the potatoes.

Lay the eggplant in a layer (slightly overlapping) overtop of the meat.

Pour on your ricotta mix.

Refrigerate for later baking or bake for 30-40 minutes or until browned.

Storage: The next day, separate cut slices onto foil lined pan and freeze for a few hours. Remove from pan, wrap each slice in plastic wrap and place in a labelled freezer bag. Stores well for several months and individual slices reheat great in microwave or toaster oven.

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Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Chips

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All too quickly summer is fading into the background and fall is taking over. Soon we will be onto soups, braising and slow cooking. But for now, try to hold onto it a little mouthful of summer (and cinnamon buns!) with this recipe. I decided to make this last minute for a brunch a few days ago and was able to find local strawberries, peaches, and apples to include with the rest of the imported fruits (mangos, limes, and kiwis; lucky you if these are YOUR local fruits!) which I think really made the dish.

This unique recipe was a hit and is perfect for this time of year. People were a little cautious at first but once it is announced (or labelled) as “Fruit Salsa” everyone is on board!

I adapted these recipes from The Yummy Life and only made a few small changes. Although the original author and other versions I have seen (including the similar one from Pampered Chef  via “The Girl Who Ate Everything” which includes preserves) note that you need to make this just a few hours before you serve it, I think it would be fine if you made it the night before and just added in the zest and apples the next day (apples changed colour and became softer and zest took over flavour profile).

Drain your salsa before serving (or serve with a slotted spoon).

*The original recipe for the chips uses water, which likely works just fine. However Alton Brown, Julia Child, and I all agree that the chips made with butter will be far, far, tastier.  When served at an event, it’s worth it!

Store in zip lock bag for your event if transporting but then a glass jar is your best bet.

Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Chips

serves 10 as a light appetizer

Salsa:

1 mango

1/2 pint of strawberries

2 kiwis

2 apples, peeled

1 peach (can replace with another mango)

2 limes

2 tsp. of lime zest

1 tablespoon of honey

Dice all of your fruit small like you would if making fresh salsa or chopping onions. Toss with remaining ingredients. Tastes very good when served immediately, even better an hour later, and is okay after that for about a day.

Chips:

1 package of whole wheat tortillas (large)

1/2 cup of melted butter (may need more)

3/4 cup of white sugar

pinch of salt

2 tablespoons of cinnamon

1/8th tsp. allspice (opt.)

Preheat oven 400f

Line several cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Mix sugar, salt, and spices together.

Layer your tortillas on one cookie sheet and begin brushing both sides lightly with melted butter*, then stacking them on a different cookie sheet.

When you are done with the buttering, go through and sprinkle sugar mix on both sides of tortillas and stack them back on the first cookie sheet. Cut through them with a pizza cutter or sharp knife and divide like a pizza.

Space out on your cookie sheets (you may have to do multiple batches but if you have enough cookie sheets and a convection oven, maybe not! Reduce temperature by 15-25 degrees if using convection).

Cook for 8-10 minute or until crispy. Cool before storing.

The BEST Salsa Verde

Salsa Verde

Salsa Verde

A few weeks ago tomatillos made their way into my kitchen for the first time by way of my – you guessed it – CSA share from Sweet Pea. Since then I have made a variety of salsas with these lovely little devils, and have this conversation about a dozen times whenever I serve salsa verde:

Snacker: “What is this ? It is really good!”

Me: “It is salsa verde – aka green salsa”

Snacker: “So…it’s salsa made with green tomatoes?”

Me: “No – it’s made from tomatillos”

Snacker: “What the heck are those?”

Then after I explain what a tomatillo is someone else walks into the room and the whole thing starts over again like a never ending Abbott and Costello joke. For some reason I love explaining things so I don’t mind this at all.

Tomatillos are a relative of tomatoes and are called “tomato verde” (green tomato) in Mexico but are quite different from tomatoes. These tangy little gems grow in a husk and are quite firm, even when completely ripe. I find they have notes of citrus and are almost creamy when roasted. They have a very light and pleasant yet totally distinct flavour – I love them!

To prepare them for cooking, just peel off the little paper husk and rinse off the sticky residue – no peeling or seeding needed.

On quite a few sites I have seen storage tips that say you can either leave them on the counter or in the fridge.  According to Amanda McCracken (Owner of Sweet Pea C.S.A), this is incorrect. Tomatillos should be stored (in their husks) on the counter. This makes sense as their tomato cousins are never to be put in the fridge as they become mushy and tasteless.  I have read a few things saying you can freeze them sliced or whole but have not tried this yet (look forward to a future post all about produce storage!)

There are three main ways to make salsa verde; boiling/blanching the tomatillos, roasting them, or blending them up raw.

I avoided the boiling method as reviewers said it produced a watery salsa. Roasting the tomatillos (along with the peppers and garlic as you can see below) made for a nice flavour, but the color was quite dark. A few batches later, a combination of fresh tomatoes, tomatillos, and roasted tomatoes and tomatillos made the BEST salsa verde ever!

Many thanks to A Cedar Spoon for the inspiration in using the tomatillos raw.

Stay tuned for more tomatillo recipes!

SALSA VERDE

1 pint of tomatillos
Small handful of cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon of grapeseed or olive oil
1 medium fresh tomato
1/8- 1/2 tsp. chili pepper flakes or 1 fresh pepper* (seeds removed)
Juice of 2 limes or 4 tablespoons
Small handful of parsley
1-2 cloves of garlic, finely minced/crushed/grated
1/2 medium red onion, coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper

Place 1/2 of husked and rinsed tomatillos, the grape tomatoes, and the hot pepper(s) if you are using them. Drizzle oil and some salt and pepper over and roll around to coat.

Bake at 400 f for 10 minutes or until slightly blackened.

Add in with all other ingredients in a blender or food processor.

The garlic and spiciness factor will grow as the salsa is refrigerated, so go easy on these as you can always add more. Good for at least a week in the fridge.

* I have tried this with several different kinds of peppers (cherry bomb, cayenne, etc.) and find the heat level varies so much it is better to just use some red pepper flakes- a jalapeno would be good as well though.

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