Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tartelettes au fromage de chèvre, avec miel aux herbes

Avant de plier bagage pour rentrer au Texas, j’ai voulu profiter une dernière fois de mon fromage de chèvre sans lactose (Elite, de Damafro). Il s’en fait aux fines herbes, qui est très bon et me rappelle un peu le Boursin, mais en moins tartinable. Il aurait été un bon choix ici, mais j’ai opté pour le chèvre sans lactose nature. J’ai adapté la recette mise en ligne sur Obsessions gourmandes (un excellent blogue, soit dit en passant). L’auteure, Catherine de son petit nom, avait utilisé des retailles de pâte à tarte, mais j’ai opté pour de petites croûtes à mini-tartelettes du commerce; on pourrait aussi utiliser une pâte sans gluten, bien sûr. Je vais écrire dans les ingrédients ci-dessous à la fois les recommandations de Catherine et les miennes; à vous de voir, selon ce que vous avez sous la main. J’ai utilisé 6 croûtes à mini-tartelettes ainsi que tout un paquet (125 g) de fromage de chèvre. J’ai trouvé ça absolument délicieux, et ça m’a fait un souper parfait pour un soir où l’Ingénieur n’y était pas.

des retailles de pâtes à tarte, sucrée ou salée (ou des croûtes à mini-tartelettes du commerce)
1 blanc d’œuf (ou un œuf entier)
4 c. à soupe de fromage de chèvre sans lactose (ou 125 g, c’est tellement bon)
quelques feuilles de roquette miniature
1 tige de fleur d’ail, coupée en petites rondelles (ou un oignon vert, également en rondelles)
fleur de sel
poivre fraîchement moulu
2 c. à soupe de miel
herbes fraîches (j’ai pris de l’origan, je conseille aussi le thym, le romarin, etc.)

Mélanger le miel et quelques herbes fraîches. Laisser macérer le plus longtemps possible (au moins une heure).

Abaisser la pâte dans 4 petits moules à tartelettes (ou 6, ou comme vous voulez). Préchauffer le four à 375 °F.

Mélanger le fromage de chèvre et le blanc d’œuf. Saler et poivrer.

Déposer dans les tartelettes les feuilles de roquette et la fleur d’ail. Couler par dessus le mélange de chèvre.

Enfourner jusqu’à ce que l’intérieur des tartelettes soit solide, mais encore un peu humide (je les ai laissées au four 30 minutes). Laisser refroidir et démouler. Servir parsemées de fleur de sel, avec un filet de miel aromatisé aux herbes.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


My friend Jen and I invented these Franken-cookies, the turducken of the dessert world. Jen had already made chocolate chip cookies stuffed with an Oreo, but she wanted to take it one step further by adding an extra layer – of brownies. So these are an Oreo inside a brownie inside a cookie. We took our inspirations from recipes for brownies stuffed with Oreos as well as for pillow cookies (i.e., chocolate chip cookies stuffed with brownies). These were actually quite helpful, as it made us realize the order in which we should assemble and bake these treats. We opted for snack-sized Oreos baked in bite-sized brownies (using a mini-muffin pan), which we underbaked by a few minutes; then we put those in chocolate chip cookie dough and baked the whole thing. Jen’s account of the recipe is on her sister’s blog, The Littlest Crafter.

Neologisms we threw around included brownchoceos, orchipnies and brownchipeos, but we decided on chipbrowneos. As in “turducken”, the syllables are in the same order as the food components, from the outside in. While it’s true that there are technically other kinds of chips (like peanut butter, butterscotch or cinnamon), the word “chip” still first brings to mind chocolate chips, usually in cookies, so we felt this name was clear enough to describe the contents accurately, and therefore strike fear in previously hungry dinners. Because, as you can guess, these things are huge (hamburger patty-sized is a good comparison), so you probably couldn’t, and definitely shouldn’t, eat more than one.

For the brownies, we used a recipe published by Bon Appétit and reproduced below; you could also use either one of my go-to recipes if you halve them, or just use your favourite brownie recipe. For the chocolate chip cookies, we used the recipe from Picky Palate, the one that started it all (though, again, feel free to use your favourite chocolate chip cookie recipe). We made this with margarine instead of butter, so they were lactose-free.

For the brownies with Oreos
10 Tbsp unsalted butter or margarine
1 ¼ cups sugar
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp water
¼ tsp (generous) salt
2 large eggs, chilled
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp all purpose flour
1 box of snack-sized Oreos (you’ll need about 4 packages)

Preheat oven to 325 °F and position rack in bottom third of oven. Grease a mini-muffin pan. (This made 31 mini brownies for us, but we only used 14 in the chipbrowneos; you can always make fewer and bake the rest of the batter longer in a regular muffin tin. Or halve the recipe.)

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Continue cooking until butter stops foaming and browned bits form at the bottom of pan, stirring often, about 5 minutes. (If using margarine, simply melt it.)

Remove from heat; immediately add the sugar, cocoa, water, vanilla, and salt directly into the saucepan. Stir to blend well. Let cool 5 minutes (mixture will still be hot).

Add eggs to hot mixture, one at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition.
When mixture looks thick and shiny, add the flour and stir until blended. Beat vigorously. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan (it’s very thick!). Put an Oreo in each tin and push it down; cover with more batter.

Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out almost clean, a little moist. (We baked these about 12 minutes; we wanted them slightly underdone, since they go back in the oven later, but you could bake them all the way if you wish.) To unmold, run a knife along the edge of each tin to pry out the brownie. Don’t worry if a few of them crumble; they don’t need to look pretty where they’re going.

For the cookies and assembly
1 cup softened butter or cold margarine
¾ cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla
3 ½ cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
10 oz chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 °F.

Cream butter and sugars until well combined. Add in eggs and vanilla until well combined.

In a separate bowl mix the flour, salt and baking soda. Slowly add to wet ingredients until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Using a cookie scoop, make balls of cookie dough, then flatten them between your palms. Sandwich a mini-brownie between two cookie dough disks and press the edges closed around the brownie. Place onto a parchment lined baking sheet (6 per sheet) and bake cookies about 15 to 20 minutes with the rack still in the lower third of the oven, until cookies are light golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

This makes about 14 (very large) chipbrowneos. If you want to turn the dial to 11, you can top them with Oreo Creme, but I certainly won’t blame you if you think they contain enough calories as it is. Enjoy!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Viva Vegan

I was in the Plateau recently and stumbled upon Viva Vegan, a small vegan store on Saint-Laurent. And I fell in love. They sell brands of food that I’ve discovered in the States and that I hadn’t seen in Montreal yet: Tofurky pizza, various Tofutti, Coconut Bliss and So Delicious frozen products and flavours, Gardein imitation chicken, Daiya cheese, Veganaise, Earth Balance margarine... Plus, they have tons of chocolate, granola bars and dried goods. The store also specializes in raw food and gluten-free items, as well as vegan clothes and accessories (like belts and bags), books and beauty products!

There are also some fresh pastries. I tried a vegan cupcake; there was only one flavour, and it was chocolate with some almonds and coffee. The frosting was absolutely delicious! I wouldn’t have known it was vegan if I hadn’t been told. The cake itself had a little bit of chocolate ganache in the middle, and it was finger-lickin’ good!

I definitely recommend this store not only to vegans, people keeping kosher and the lactose-intolerant, but also to anyone looking to try “kinder” products and different alternatives, both in their diet and in their lifestyle in general. It totally made my day!

Fuchsia - Épicerie Fleur

I went to see my hairdresser on Laurier Ouest for a much-needed haircut. When I have a late-morning appointment, I now make it a point to go eat at one of the restaurants in the area, since so many of them are on my list of places to try. This time, I walked to Fuchsia – Épicerie Fleur and was delighted.

Fuchsia is a little grocery store-slash-coffee shop-slash-catering business that serves healthy, whole vegetarian food. There’s a daily special, but every day, there are vegan options. It’s mostly salads, though their baked goods are also noteworthy. They make it a point to say that they can accommodate people who eat gluten-free or who have other food restrictions (like nut or dairy allergies). I had a salade de légumineuse that was very good, topped with a mesclun of lettuce and the signature edible flowers. I also tried the violet lemonade: while it was good, I found it slightly under-sweetened, and I couldn’t taste the violet. Next time, I’ll try the rose soda! I also got a brownie to go; it was quite good, though I would have preferred it without the nuts.

The somewhat retro décor reminds me of Cocoa Locale or Santropol; it’s extremely homey and looks like the kind of place I would have if I ever opened a food business. There is a lot of natural wood, with two small tables, a counter and a big old-fashioned couch. The accent colors are in the green and blue palette. Service is relaxed and efficient. Don’t be surprised to see a small dog roaming around.

They also sell flowered sugars, a few types of granola (some of which are nut-free), tea, candles, essential oils, cookie mixes, hot chocolate mix, dried flowers... Whenever possible, ingredients are local and organic. The store also encourages eco-responsibility by giving discounts if you get take-out in your own reusable containers.

I really like Fuchsia and I’m glad I took the time to eat there!

Les fraises de saison

Je suis allée faire un petit pèlerinage chez ma grand-mère la fin de semaine dernière, et je n’ai pas pu résister : il fallait que j’aille aux fraises. Rien de mieux qu’une fraise de saison! Je suis donc allée cueillir des fraises là où elles sont les meilleures. Il n’y a rien de tel que cueillir soi-même des fraises : j’adore le petit « pop » qu’elles font lorsqu’on les détache du plant, la chaleur de la chair qui n’a jamais connu un frigo et le fait qu’elles soient sucrées, odorantes et, surtout, rouges jusqu’au milieu.

Pour les déguster, vous avez le choix. Il faut absolument en profiter de quelques-unes nature, mais on peut aussi les écraser avec un peu de sucre pour garnir du pain perdu (avec un peu de « crème » fouettée Smackin’ Good, pourquoi pas) ou, pour les garder plus longtemps, en faire des conserves (la recette de ma grand-mère ressemble à celle-ci, mais sans citron).

C’est dommage que les fraises en épicerie soient tellement moins bonnes. Il faut en profiter tant que c’est la saison. Je pense en planter chez moi, si je peux trouver une variété goûteuse et facile d’entretien dans une zone 8 ou 9 (printemps et automne, car je me doute que l’été est trop chaud!).

Monday, July 18, 2011

Roasted Avocado and Couscous Salad

Have you ever roasted an avocado? Until recently, the idea hadn’t even crossed my mind. I’ve seen several different ways to serve avocados, but the fruit was always raw. So when I saw this recipe on Stonesoup, I was very intrigued. It turns out that roasted avocados are surprisingly good! The outside gets crispy, while the inside stays soft, and they’re really good warn! For this salad, which is more like a light lunch than a dinner, both the Engineer and I recommend using 2 avocados instead of 1, especially since parts of them tend to be a little bruised, leaving you with less than you thought. This makes 2 servings, and given how few ingredients there are, it works surprisingly well. There’s still room to improvise: I used a big shallot instead of ¼ of a red onion, and it would works well with other types of grains. I’m thinking quinoa, especially if you want to make it gluten-free, but if that’s not an issue, maybe wheat berries or faro would make it heartier.

Note that slightly underripe avocados are best for roasting.

2 large avocados
½ cup couscous (or try cooked quinoa, for example)
¼ small red onion, peeled and finely diced (or a shallot or two)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 handfuls mixed leaves
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 °F. Cut avocados into quarters, lengthwise, discarding stone and peel. Drizzle with a little olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Bake for about 15 minutes or until hot and sizzling and starting to go a little golden at the edges.

Meanwhile, place couscous and onion in a heatproof bowl and pour over ½ cup boiling water. Season and stir through a tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (optional, I didn’t do it). Cover and let stand until needed.

Whisk together 1 Tbsp lemon juice with 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil. Season to taste.

To serve, fluff couscous with a wire whisk or a fork. Toss leaves and couscous through dressing and arrange on a platter or 2 plates. Top with hot avocado.

Apple, Goat Cheese and Honey Tartlets

I found the recipe for these tartlets in Bon Appétit, in a Rosh Hashanah montage. I halved the recipe using one package (125 g) of lactose-free goat cheese, and I left the peel on the apples because I didn’t have a vegetable peeler in my summer kitchen (I’ve now remedied the situation, after thinking of the alternative in the ad for the Willi Waller). I completely forgot to use the allspice, though, even though I did have some. I also improvised something for the tartlet crusts themselves: I made four tartlets, for which 1 apple would have been enough, and used more dough for each crust; I rolled up the edges instead of cutting separate rings (no cutters the right size), so I also omitted the egg wash. Since I had more dough in each tartlet, though, I left them longer in the oven.

The Engineer normally doesn’t like goat cheese, but this time, he said it didn’t bother him. I loved it, of course, but I think it would be nice to actually mix some of the honey in the goat cheese instead of drizzling all of it on top of the tartlets after baking. Hopefully, I’ll get around to making these again with the proper-sized cookie cutters! They’re really worth it.

2 17.3-oz packages frozen puff pastry (4 sheets), thawed
1 egg, beaten to blend
6 oz soft lactose-free goat cheese (about ¾ cup packed)
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
¼ tsp coarse kosher salt
3 medium Gala apples, peeled, quartered, cored, cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
3 Tbsp unsalted butter or margarine, melted
¾ cup honey (preferably dark), divided
½ tsp (scant) ground allspice (optional)

Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll out each puff pastry sheet on lightly floured surface to 11-inch square. Using 5-inch-diameter cookie cutter or bowl, cut out 4 rounds from each pastry sheet, forming 16 rounds total. Divide 8 pastry rounds between prepared baking sheets; pierce rounds all over with fork. Using 3 ½-inch-diameter cookie cutter or bowl, cut out smaller rounds from center of remaining 8 rounds (reserve 3 ½-inch rounds for another use), forming eight 5-inch-diameter rings. Brush outer 1-inch edges of 5-inch rounds on baking sheets with beaten egg; top each with 1 pastry ring. Freeze at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 °F. Mix cheese, lemon juice, and salt in bowl (along with a bit of honey if you wish); spread mixture inside rings on frozen pastry rounds. Overlap apple slices atop cheese. Mix butter and ¼ cup honey in small bowl; brush over apples. Sprinkle with allspice. Bake until apples are tender and pastry is golden, about 35 minutes.

Place tartlets on plates. Drizzle about 1 Tbsp honey over each and serve warm or at room temperature.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Butterbeer Cupcakes

Earlier this week, the Engineer and I went to our friends Rob and Jen’s place to visit them, make butterbeer cupcakes and have dinner. What’s this about butterbeer cupcakes, you ask? Well, those of you who are Harry Potter fans know that the beverage of choice in the books is butterbeer; those who are not Harry Potter fans (who are you people?) may want to skip this post entirely. The Harry Potter theme park in Orlando, which is on my bucket list, serves a J.K Rowling-approved version of the butterbeer. There are various recipes for it floating around online, but one blogger in particular, at AmyBites, decided to recreate the taste in cupcake form. These are it; we had been waiting months to make them. And what better day to post the recipe, since the last movie opens today?

These pictures were taken by Jen and I in her kitchen, and will be posted on her sister’s blog as well, The Littlest Crafter. The original recipe is supposed to make 18 cupcakes, but we got 16. We had a little ganache and frosting left over. These cupcakes were not lactose-free, and they were very sweet, so ideally try to find someone with whom you can share them! They call for butter flavouring, which is artificial but vegan, so you could probably make them with margarine and butter flavouring without losing too much of the intended flavour. And instead of regular cream, you can try either vegan alternatives or Natrel’s lactose-free creams, so this CAN be made lactose-free. For the cream soda, we used our Canadian brand, Crush, but now that I look at the pictures on AmyBites, I think the American version is different. That being said, the cupcakes taste mostly like caramel and butter – butterscotch, really. They were approved by all tasters present. And while Jen and I were feeling pretty crafty about making these, Amy of AmyBites one-upped us by making Golden Snitch Butterbeer Cake Pops!

For more Harry Potter-themed treats, go take a look at The Pastry Affair, which has recipes for butterbeer, beautiful cauldron cakes, as well as acid pops, cockroach clusters, liquorice wands and chocolate frogs.

Butterbeer Cupcakes

For the cupcakes
2 cups flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened (or fridge-temperature margarine)
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs
1 ½ tsp vanilla
1 tsp butter flavoring
½ cup buttermilk (or lactose-free milk with a splash of vinegar)
½ cup cream soda

For the butterscotch ganache
1 11-oz package butterscotch chips
1 cup heavy cream (you can use lactose-free cream, or a vegan equivalent)

For the buttercream frosting
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened (or fridge-temperature margarine)
1/3 cup butterscotch ganache
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp butter flavoring
1/8 tsp salt
1 16-oz package powdered sugar
splash of milk or cream (as needed)

For the cupcakes
Preheat the oven to 350 °F and line cupcake pans with paper liners (or grease them). Combine your flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, cream your butter until light and fluffy. Add your sugars and beat until well-combined. Beat in your eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Then beat in your vanilla and butter flavoring.

Alternate adding your buttermilk, cream soda, and dry ingredients in batches until all are well incorporated. Fill each cupcake liner ¾ full, then bake for 15 to 17 minutes until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean and cake springs back to the touch. Cool completely on wire racks.

For the butterscotch ganache
Meanwhile, in a double boiler (heat-proof bowl over a pot of simmering water on the stove), combine butterscotch chips and heavy cream and stir until completely combined and smooth. Cool to room temperature as the cupcakes cool. Set aside 1/3 cup of the ganache. Fill a squeeze bottle with the rest of the ganache and insert into the center of each cupcake, squeezing until filling begins to overflow. (The trick is to fill them slowly, to give the ganache time to seep into the crumb of the cupcakes).

For the buttercream frosting
Cream butter in a large bowl until fluffy. Add in ganache, vanilla, butter flavoring, and salt and mix until well combined. Beat in powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until reaching desired consistency. Add milk or cream by the tablespoon as needed. Frost the cupcakes and top with a drizzle of butterscotch ganache. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tomates et mozzarella

J’ai dit récemment que j’avais vu, pour la première fois, un mozzarella sans lactose à l’épicerie. Il s’agit d’un fromage L’Ancêtre, marque que j’aime beaucoup. J’en ai acheté hier et pour dîner, je nous ai fait une petite salade de tomates mûres, de mozzarella, de basilic frais et d’huile d’olive. C’était délicieux, et sans lactose en plus!

Smackin' Good whipped topping

A few months ago, I discovered Rice Whip, which I really liked. But when I was shopping in the kosher section of the IGA at Cavendish Mall, I found something I like even better: Smackin’ Good whipped topping. It’s vegan, sweetened with corn syrup (though not the high fructose kind) and made with palm oil (or so says the can I have in my fridge, though the website says coconut oil). The downside is that it’s hydrogenated oil. The upsides are that the taste is closer to that of real cream than the Rice Whip, that you can dispense the topping straight out of the fridge (no need to wait 15 minutes to let it warm up), and that there seems to be more in the can than there was Rice Whip. So I really like this product, and I’m happy that it’s available in Montreal!

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes, Two Ways

I recently tried two new recipes for chocolate cupcakes; one had chocolate chips and cinnamon, while the other had an optional, though recommended, peanut butter frosting. You can omit it or replace it with soy butter if you have a nut allergy. I found out that when you are not in your own kitchen (or in my case, not in my usual kitchen with my usual appliances), vegan cupcakes are easier to make than others. You see, most call for oil instead of margarine or butter, so there is no step requiring an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar. You can make the whole thing with a whisk and wooden spoon, in two bowls at most. That was the case with the chocolate orange ginger cupcakes I made last summer, before I was settled down. But really, they’re just very good cupcakes that happen to be vegan.

The first recipe is from Little House of Veggies. It calls for cinnamon, but I think it would also be great with a mix of spices to get a chai flavour, or even plain. I ended up with 9 cupcakes instead of 8, but in any case this makes less than a dozen. They are originally called chocolate fudge muffins, and they were great as a breakfast, snack or dessert. But they ride the line between muffins and cupcakes, and with a little frosting, they would definitely be the latter. Since I’m not quite as comfortable in my summer kitchen as I am at home in San Antonio, I tend to skip important steps in the recipe, or be a klutz with certain things. I burned my hand on a baking sheet recently (it’s a small burn that is healing just fine), and I didn’t mention it at the time, but when I made my raspberry yogurt cake, I forgot the eggs. (I realized it as I was trying to transfer batter into the pan; I knew there was something wrong with it, because it was way thicker than cake batter. That’s when I realized that I had forgotten the eggs, so I put the batter back in the bowl, beat the eggs separately, then mixed the whole thing again and put it in the pan. That’s why mise en place is so important!) This time, I forgot all about the chocolate chips until the batter was nestled in the tins. I ended up putting the chips on top of each muffin, and I loved the result.

1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp canola oil or olive oil
½ cup raw turbinado sugar, or evaporated cane juice sugar (I used the latter)
2 tsp vanilla extract
¾ cups white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose white flour)
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ cup vegan chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Spray grease 8 or 9 muffin cups on the muffin tin. Mix the applesauce, canola oil and vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry. (This batter is deceiving! It will seem too thick and you may think it doesn't have enough moisture in it, but that is how it is supposed to be. Just make sure everything is incorporated and mixed well.)

Fill the 8 or 9 muffin cups, and bake for 20-25 minutes. Be careful not to overcook these! The muffins are done when they are barely firm to the touch on the top. Let them cool for 10 or so minutes before eating. They are good both at room temperature and warmed up 10-15 seconds in the microwave.

This second recipe, while not as healthful as the first, did have vegan peanut butter frosting that I really liked. The flavours complemented each other quite well, and the ratio of cake to frosting was perfect. The Engineer moaned his satisfaction and declared it the best frosting ever, as he reached for a glass of milk to help wash it down. (That being said, I only had enough frosting for 11 cupcakes, so 1 went commando.) And the cake was so moist! I ended up using dairy lactose-free milk, so they weren’t entirely vegan, but still extremely easy to make.

For the cupcakes
1 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
¾ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 cup soy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar (I used white vinegar)
¾ cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven at 350 °F. Line 12 muffins tins with paper liners. Sift together dry ingredients and whisk to mix. Whisk together soy milk and vinegar; add sugar, oil and vanilla. Whisk until foamy. Add the dry ingredients to the soy mixture, mixing in batches. Pour into cupcake papers and bake for about 10-15 min.

For the frosting
½ cup peanut butter
2 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbsp soy milk (I used more, to get the desired consistency)

Beat together until smooth and creamy. Use immediately.