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"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." - James Beard


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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Homemade Limoncello

Homemade Limoncello

I love making homemade liqueurs. It's not always cheaper than buying them in the liquor store, but it is lots of fun, and you can make them to your own taste, in the amounts you need. 

This homemade Limoncello is bracingly strong and tart, and not too sweet.   


lemon in cheesecloth

I used this method to make Limoncello by suspending a whole lemon wrapped in cheesecloth over vodka to vaporize the lemon oils without muddying the flavour. 


homemade limoncello

I used a high-proof vodka, but you can use any clean-flavoured vodka you enjoy.  I don't believe there's a lot of taste difference between top-shelf and lower-end vodkas, so use what you like. 

I'm not usually terribly picky about using organic produce, but for this I highly recommend finding organic lemons. Everything in the lemon skin will go into the liqueur, including any pesticides lingering there.  If you can't get organic, scrub them very well before using. 

Bundle the lemon into cheesecloth and tie it with a length of twine, leaving a long string to suspend the lemon over the vodka.


homemade limoncello

I used only a cup of vodka to make about 375mL of liqueur, but you can easily double the recipe using two lemons if you have a large enough jar to suspend them without touching the vodka.  

Pour the vodka into a wide-mouth jar, suspend the lemon above and wrap the string around the mouth of the jar until it holds on its own.  Then put a lid on the jar. 


homemade limoncello

Label it! Then put it in a cool cupboard for a month.  

When a month has passed, you'll see condensation on the jar.  That's the alcohol drawing out the flavour from the lemon peel.


homemade limoncello

Remove the lemon in cheesecloth and discard it.  Make a simple syrup by heating water and sugar.  Once the sugar is dissolved, add the zest of one new, fresh organic lemon and let it steep for 15 minutes.


homemade limoncello

Mix the syrup and lemon peel with the vodka and let it sit for another 30 minutes.


homemade limoncello

Strain the liqueur into a bottle and discard the lemon peels. I used an old gin bottle and my awesome husband made this cute label for the bottle.

Homemade Limoncello is great to give as a gift, and there's still enough time to make a batch before Christmas! 

It is great served over ice, mixed with prosecco, or in a cocktail. 

Here's the recipe.  Cheers!

Ingredients:
2 organic lemons
1 cup (250mL) vodka
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

Equipment:
large wide-mouth jar with lid
cheesecloth
twine
peeler or paring knife to peel lemon

Instructions:
Place vodka in a large, wide-mouth jar.
Wrap 1 lemon in cheesecloth and tie string around the top to secure it. Wrap the string around the mouth of the bottle to suspend the lemon over the vodka.  Make sure the lemon doesn't touch the vodka. 
Put the lid on the jar and store it in a cool, dark place for 4 weeks.
Heat the water and sugar in a saucepan. Peel the second lemon, avoiding the white pith.  Once the sugar has dissolved in the water, add the lemon peel to the syrup and let cool for 15 minutes. 
Mix the lemon syrup with the vodka and let sit for 30 minutes.
Strain the Limoncello and keep, refrigerated in a pretty bottle or give as a gift. 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Chicken Cauliflower Sheet-Pan Shawarma

Chicken Shawarma with cauliflower

This recipe is totally inauthentic, but it tastes amazing.  Chicken shawarma is one of my favourite take-out meals, but it's not so easy to make at home.   This version gives you the wonderful flavours of chicken shawarma, with a hit of healthy vegetables and an amazing, easy white garlic sauce.  Serving it on mini-naan bread, taco-style, makes it a decadent, delicious one-pan dinner. 


roasted chicken and cauliflower shawarma

The recipe is inspired by this one at Food52, but I've made some changes and added the awesome white sauce.  Roasting the veggies and chicken together on one tray makes this one of the most easy and delicious meals I've made in a long time.  


mini naan

These mini-naan make a perfect serving vessel for the shawarma-flavoured filling, but if you can't find them you can use pita or any other flatbread, warmed until soft.  Or just serve the chicken mixture on its own or over rice.  Just don't forget the sauce!


White Sauce for Shawarma

This white sauce is amazing!  I love this sauce, and I've seen some very complicated recipes for it but this one is so simple, tangy and garlicky, it's perfect with the rich shawarma and naan. 


chicken cauliflower shawarma

You've got to try this recipe.  

Ingredients:
For the Shawarma
1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 medium red onion, sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander 
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon kosher salt 
1/2 tablespoon ground black pepper
6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
6-8 mini naan, pitas or flour tortillas

For the White Sauce
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup greek yogurt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried dill (optional)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar


Directions:
For the Shawarma
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Place the cauliflower and onions in a large bowl and coat with 2 tablespoons of oil. Mix together all the spices, salt and pepper.  Toss half the spice mixture with the cauliflower mixture until it's covered.  Spread the cauliflower mixture on a large sheet pan and roast for 20 minutes.

In the same bowl, coat the chicken thighs with 1 tablespoon oil and the remaining spice mix and let sit at room temperature. 

When the cauliflower has roasted for 20 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and toss the cauliflower. It will have shrunk a bit. Make room on the pan for the chicken thighs and spread them on the pan in a single layer around the cauliflower.  Roast for 20 more minutes, checking halfway through and flipping the chicken and tossing the cauliflower so it doesn't burn.  Some parts of the cauliflower will get quite dark and crispy.  This is good!

Meanwhile make the white sauce. 
Mix all ingredients together until smooth and runny. Taste and adjust seasonings (add more salt or garlic if needed).  Refrigerate until ready to use. 

To assemble:
When the chicken and cauliflower are done, remove the pan from the oven.  Heat naan according to package directions or warm pita or tortillas, or serve over rice.  Pile the chicken mixture on warm bread or rice and drizzle with the white sauce.  

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Ham & Cheese Scones

Ham and cheese scones

I like scones, but I haven't made them in the past because they don't keep very well and it's hard for just the two of us to get through a batch before they're stale. 

Ham and cheese scones

These scones are essentially a meal.  They are large, and filled with ham and cheese, making them filling, savoury and delicious!

scones - butter and flour

Making the scones isn't difficult.  The hardest part is working the butter into the flour, but it's not that tricky.  Just rub it together with your fingers until it's all incorporated.  

diced ham

If you have leftover roast ham, it would be great in this!  Country ham would be fantastic.  I didn't so I just bought a ham steak from the grocery store and diced it up. You'll want a thick piece of ham for a nice dice.  

baking scones

The dough has plenty of cream in it and is quite wet.  Pat it down on parchment into a round.

cheesy scones

The dough gets cut into triangles and topped with lots of cheese before baking.

ham and cheese scone

The finished scones are great warm or at room temperature.  If you can't finish them the day they're made, pop them in the freezer and thaw before eating, or warm them in a 350 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes. 

Here's the recipe, enjoy!

Ingredients:

2 cups flour plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons cold butter cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup cold cooked ham, diced
2 green onions, chopped
3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup milk3/4 cup 18% table cream

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl.  Add the butter and rub each cube between your fingers into the flour until it dissolves and the flour resembles coarse meal. 

Add the ham, onions and 1/4 cup of the cheese to the flour mixture and toss to combine.  Add the milk and cream and mix with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until combined into a shaggy dough. 

On a floured work surface, pat the dough into a 7-inch circle, about 1 inch thick.  Cut into 6 wedges and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle each wedge with the remaining shredded cheese.  

Bake 25 minutes until golden and eat these for breakfast, lunch or snacks.  Great with soup too! 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Road Trip - Ottawa

ottawa parliament buildings

We recently had a quick weekend away in Ottawa.  The main purpose of the trip was to see a concert, but we decided to make a weekend out of it! 


Empire Ontario Craft Cider

As we drove the 401 East of Toronto, I started looking for interesting craft beer and cider stops along the way.  We were lucky to find Empire Cider Co. just off the highway near Trenton. 

This is a tiny operation out of a garage, but they make lovely cider.  We tasted all the varieties and grabbed some bottles to take home.  


Signal Brewery Belleville Ontario Craft Beer

Next, we wanted to stop for lunch and found Signal Brewery near Belleville.  This is a brand new brewery in the old Corbyville Distillery, and it's gorgeous!  


Signal Brewery Belleville Ontario Craft Beer

They were out of a few of their beers, but the ones we tried were tasty.  They have a huge, beautiful patio overlooking the Moira river, and plenty of seating indoors.  


Pork Belly Bao Buns Signal Brewery

The food was great too! We had chicken and waffles and pork belly bao buns. 


Tooth and Nail Ottawa


Once we arrived in Ottawa we wanted to check out some more craft beer.  We headed to Tooth and Nail Brewing in the Hintonburg area of Ottawa. It's a great little brew pub in a fun neighbourhood.


Pastrami Sandwich at Tooth and Nail, Ottawa

They have their own beer on tap, which Matt really enjoyed, plus craft beer and cider from other breweries, and a nice menu of tasty sandwiches.   


Andaz Ottawa Byward Market

We checked in to our hotel, the Andaz Ottawa Byward Market.  We really loved this hotel.  It is right in the centre of the best neighbourhood in Ottawa for restaurants and bars, and easy walking distance to Parliament and other attractions. 


Royal Canadian Mint, Ottawa

We walked around Byward Market and took a tour of the Royal Canadian Mint, which was really interesting!  They don't produce currency at this location, but they do make collector coins out of gold and silver.  They have a great gift shop too!


Fortissimo at Brothers Beer Bistro, Ottawa

For dinner, we headed to one of the top craft beer destinations in Ottawa, which also happened to be across the street from our hotel in Byward Market, Brothers Beer Bistro.   The beer selection, cocktails, food and service were awesome!


Rainbow Trout at Brothers Beer Bistro

I had rainbow trout with Israeli couscous, romesco, rapini and preserved lemon. It was delicious!  Matt had pulled duck poutine and he loved it.  


The King Eddy, Byward Market, Ottawa

The next morning we had brunch at the King Eddy in Byward Market. 


Chicken and Waffles at The King Eddy, Byward Market, Ottawa

Matt had chicken & waffles and I had a great burger. 


MOSAÏCANADA 150/Gatineau 2017

Before heading home, we crossed the bridge to Gatineau, Quebec, where there is an amazing horticultural sculpture exhibit that's free to the public until October 15, 2017. 


MOSAÏCANADA 150/Gatineau 2017

Part of Canada150 celebrations, MosaiCanada fills a public park with huge plant sculptures depicting Canadian history and culture.  


MosaiCanada 150 Gatineau

It's really amazing! 

We had a wonderful time in the Ottawa region and it left us wondering why we don't visit more often.  We'll definitely be back!  


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Blueberry Peach Buckle


I can't believe I've never shared this recipe. It is so simple and delicious! You can have it for breakfast, a snack, or dessert.  It keeps well and freezes wonderfully. You can use fresh or frozen fruit and the rest of the ingredients are pantry staples. 



A buckle is essentially a cake filled with fruit and (optionally) topped with a crumble topping. Buckles, along with similar evocatively-named desserts like grunts, slumps and cobblers, are a great way to use an abundance of fresh fruit before it goers bad. 



At this time of year we still have a lot of fresh berries and stone fruits in the local markets. This recipe uses peaches and blueberries, but you could use any berries you like, or even plums. 



This recipe comes from The Joy of Cooking, and I've been making it for years.  I like to add oats to the crumble topping, but you can leave them out or skip the topping altogether (but I recommend it!)




Recipe (slightly adapted from The Joy of Cooking)

Buckle
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
2 medium peaches, pitted and diced
1/2 cups blueberries

Crumble Topping
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons butter

For the buckle, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl mix together the butter, sugar and egg until fluffy.  Add the milk slowly and mix until combined. Stir in the dry ingredients until just mixed. The batter will be quite thick. Carefully fold in the peaches and blueberries. 

Spread the batter evenly in a greased 9-inch square baking pan.  

Mix the crumble topping ingredients together until combined and sprinkle over the buckle batter. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes until a wooden skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Cool 20 minutes before serving. 





Monday, August 14, 2017

Fougasse - Herbed Bread


I've been enjoying The Great British Baking Show for a few years now.  It is such a lovely, calming competition show - basically the opposite of shows where contestants back-stab and sabotage each other. 

I have a decent baking vocabulary, but I'd never heard of Fougasse until I saw it on this season's botanical baking episode.  

Fougasse is a french flatbread, filled and topped with herbs, and shaped to look like a leaf.  


I really love baking bread and wish I did it more often. It can be a little warm to bake bread in the summertime, but this bread is so quick and easy, it's not going to make you sweat. There's no kneading, it can all be done in a mixer with a bread hook.

I used the recipe directly from the PBS Great British Baking Show website


I divided the dough in two and baked only one loaf to start.  


I tried to stretch and shape the dough by hand, like a pizza, but it ended up too thin in the middle and too thick on the outside, so it burned a bit in the oven.  The unburnt parts still tasted amazing though!


Since the dough is similar to pizza dough, I figured it would hold the same way in the fridge, so I refrigerated the second half of the dough for a few days until I was ready to try again.  


This time I used a rolling pin to roll out the dough evenly, and it worked perfectly.

We ate our fougasse with a simple soup and salad dinner, but it is amazing dipped in oil and balsamic vinegar as an appetizer.  It would also be a lovely gift to bring to a dinner party, to serve or for the hosts to enjoy on their own. 



Here's the recipe from the PBS website, with slight adaptations: 

Ingredients
500 g all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
10 g table salt
7 g package instant yeast
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing and drizzling
350 ml warm water
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
2 tsp chopped fresh sage
½ tsp dried oregano
flaky sea salt

Directions

Place the flour, salt and yeast into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. 

Add the olive oil and three-quarters of the water. 

Begin mixing on low speed. As the dough starts to come together, add the remaining water very slowly. Mix for another 8 minutes on a medium speed. 

Add the rosemary, sage and thyme and mix for a minute until the herbs are evenly distributed in the dough. 

Place the dough in a large bowl that has been coated lightly with olive oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise in a warm place until at least doubled in size – about an hour. 

Dust the work surface with flour. Pour the dough onto the floured surface and divide the dough in half.  You can shape and bake both loaves now, or refrigerate half the dough in a zip-top bag for up to five days. 

On parchment paper, roll each dough half into a flat oval. Using a pizza cutter make two cuts in a line down the middle of the ovals with a gap between them. Make 12 diagonal cuts in the dough, 6 either side of the central cuts, forming a leaf design, then stretch the dough out slightly to emphasize the holes.

Lift the dough on the parchment and place onto a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet inside a large plastic bag and leave to rise in a warm place for 20 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 430F.
Spray or drizzle a little olive oil over the top of the loaf.  Sprinkle with oregano and bake for 15–20 minutes, or until the fougasse sounds hollow when tapped on the base. 

Remove from the oven and while still hot, brush with more olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.



Friday, August 4, 2017

The Beer Baron Presents - Craft Beer Road Trip: The Big Dipper


On the advice of a friend from the fabulous Milos’ Craft Beer Emporium, the Clockwatching Tart and I decided to check out Arabella Park Beer Bar in nearby Kitchener, Ontario. Rather than just blasting down the 401 and making a quick trip of it, we fired up our faithful Subaru and took to the country roads in search of food, drink and adventure.



Being the crafty Google Maps user, researcher and spreadsheet planner she is, the Clockwatching Tart planned a route taking us to breweries and bars both new and familiar and in the process created a route I’ve christened “The Big Dipper”. Basically a smaller version of the Waterloo Region Craft Ale Trail with some local sights thrown in for good measure, The Big Dipper started off with the Bitte Schön Brauhaus, a lovely little microbrewery in the comically lovely little hamlet of New Hamburg.


Bitte Schön was small but inviting with a nice set up and friendly staff. Having never tried their beer, we settled on a flight of four tasters and were impressed with their Alder Creek Altbier (which was dark and smooth and had kind of a lightly spiced caramel apple thing going on) and their Huron Street Hefeweizen (which was light and floral with wonderful citrus notes). We picked up some to share with friends and continued on our merry way.


Our next stop was one of those pleasant surprises that happens when you are out exploring. We noticed a park as we were crossing the bridge into New Hamburg so we went to check it out. Not only did we discover a stone pathway across the Nith River in Scott Park, we also stumbled upon the New Hamburg Heritage Waterwheel. Billed as the largest working waterwheel in North America and built in 1990, the waterwheel was awesome to see and made the day all the more special.


Next up was Arabella Park Beer Bar for lunch. With 18 taps primarily focused on regional craft beers and ciders, an impressive bottle list and locally sourced food rooted in Canadian cuisine, Arabella Park was perfect for us.


The Clockwatching Tart and I both found something unique to try from their tap list, with Revel Violent Delights (a spontaneously fermented cider with cherries and vanilla from the always wonderful Revel Cider Co.) and Left Field Brewery’s Lolly Mango Lassi IPA (a cloudy, creamy IPA brewed with mango, lactose sugar, cardamom and bright, citrus-forward hops). 


I had a hot dog and some fantastic fresh-cut fries...


And the Clockwatching Tart had fish and chips with a funky Vermont cider. The service, drinks and food were all fantastic, so I suppose the moral of the story is that when someone from Milos’ Craft Beer Emporium recommends a place, do yourself a favour and go.


Next up was Abe Erb Brewing Company, a more traditional looking dark wood and brass brewpub that was a nice place to get out of the summer heat. I had a Canada Day IPA with a nice balance of Red X malt and Citra and Centennial hops.


Our next stop was Descendants Beer & Beverage Co., where we made another fun, unplanned discovery. This time, it wasn’t a waterwheel but something equally unexpected:


A great folk band! Specifically, Onion Honey, who were having a CD-release party and were absolutely fantastic, talented and fun; so much so that we bought their CD to listen to on the drive home, making for a wonderful end to a wonderful day.


P.S. There is also a shuffleboard table at Grand River Brewing, in case you like things that are awesome.

This post comes from Matt, the Beer Baron. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @geekcanuck