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open-face sandwich with poached egg

open-face sandwich with poached eggSandwiches have been around for centuries.  The term sandwich is believed to have been named after John Montagu who was the 4th Earl of Sandwich. Legend has it that in 1762 he asked for meat (most probably salted beef) to be served between slices of bread to avoid interrupting a gambling game.  I love a sandwich that’s loaded to the gills but eating it with some degree of grace is not easily achieved.  Introduce an open-faced sandwich and now you talkin’ (spoken like Joey Tribbiani from Friends).  Sourdough is one of my favourite types of bread.  It is lovely toasted and used as a base to build a sandwich. Continue Reading →

cosmic cookies

cosmic cookiesOur favorite north end cafe, Lion and Bright, has a small selection of delicious sweets.  One of their desserts we love to munch on when enjoying a cappuccino, is their cosmic cookie.  It’s full of goodies and if you’re feeling a bit peckish, this is the perfect snack to tide you over.  Continue Reading →

Smoked Cheddar Scones

applewood smoked cheddar sconesI don’t know about you, but there’s nothing mouth-watering about processed cheese. It lacks any kind of taste, looks artificial, and I doubt there’s any nutritional benefit once being processed. As a cheeselover, it pleases me to know there are cheesemakers in every province. According to the Canadian Dairy Commission, Quebec is the biggest producer of cheese, followed by Ontario.  Canadian cheesemakers produced more than 137.7 million kilograms (303 million pounds) and more than 1,050 types of cheese in 2011. Be still my cheese-beating heart! Continue Reading →

Chocolate Scones

Chocolate SconesWhat is it about a storm that makes me want to bake? We were bracing for what was supposed to be THE storm of the century.  Forecasters got it wrong…it was just another snow storm – no crippling affect felt here.  All the hype, I suppose, got to me.  Continue Reading →

Homemade Bagels

homemade bagels by The Culinary ChaseI remember the first time we ate a bagel from Picnic Artisan Bakery in Alderney Landing Farmers’ Market.  It was so delicious we made a beeline for her stall every Saturday morning.  And, you had to be there before 10am or you would be left with slim pickings.  Jessica Best, breadmaster extraordinaire, has since joined forces with newly opened The Canteena shop selling homemade sandwiches, salads and soup in Dartmouth, and sadly is no longer at the farmers’ market.  That said, we’re hoping, once the ladies from The Canteen suss out what their customers want, we’ll begin to see bagels sold on their own and not just as a sandwich (hint, hint!).

While I was happy for Jessica to team up with Renée (their food is scrumptious, by the way), I did miss the Saturday morning ritual and quest for bagels.  That void in the market ritual led me on a quest to make my own bagels.  I had no idea the process nor if they would ever come close to tasting as good as Jessica’s.  After 3 bagel-making attempts (all turned out ok) I think I found a recipe that pleases me meaning it’s straightforward with not too many steps to reach the end product.  It is by no stretch of the imagination as chewy-delicious as Jessica’s, but it’s fair to say pretty darn good…supportive words from hubby and daughter. 🙂

Makes 8 to 10
adapted from BBC Good Food

500g bread flour
2 1/4 teaspoons (7g packet) fast-action dried yeast
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda

Mix the yeast with 1 1/4 cups (300ml) lukewarm water. Put the flour, sugar and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl and mix together. Pour the yeast liquid over flour and mix into a rough dough. Remove dough from bowl and place onto a counter top. Knead until smooth and elastic about 10 minutes.

Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a piece of oiled plastic wrap. Store in a warm area (I put mine in a sunny spot or in the oven with the light on, oven off) and leave until doubled in size (about 1 hour). Uncover and place dough onto a counter top.  You may need to use a light dusting of flour if dough is too tacky.

Divide the dough into 10 pieces and form into balls.  Leave spaces between on parchment-lined baking trays and cover lightly with a tea towel. Leave 20 to 30 minutes or until risen. Remove the tea towel.

Preheat oven to 350f (180c).  Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add baking soda to the water (this helps create the shine and chewiness of the bagel). Dip your finger in flour and make a hole in the center of each bagel, turning it around to stretch the dough a little, but being careful not to knock out too much air.  Place 2 to 3 bagels in the water at a time and boil for 2 minutes, 1 minute each side.  I read that if the bagel doesn’t float, it won’t be a good bagel. Use a slotted spoon to lift the bagels out, drain well and place back on a greased baking tray. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool before eating.

bagels by The Culinary ChaseThe Culinary Chase’s Note: How do you know when to stop kneading the dough? Kneading helps strengthen the gluten in flour giving bread its structure and texture. You’ll know your kneading has done the trick when the dough is smooth and slightly tacky to the touch. Give the ball of dough a poke and if it fills in the hole quickly, it’s ready for proofing – letting the dough rise. If you want to add your favorite toppings, brush the bagels with an egg white and sprinkle with seeds before baking.  In the photo I used St. Mary’s River Smokehouse Atlantic salmon strips-our favorite Nova Scotia smokehouse.  Enjoy!

Pavia Gallery – Espresso Bar & Café

fishing village by The Culinary ChaseRou·tine (ro͞oˈtēn) – a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program. I am all for a routine…it keeps me grounded, allows me to stay focused on what needs to be done on a regular basis but there are times when a routine can feel like a rut. Our Sunday ritual is pretty basic – breakfast, church then coffee afterwards. The rest of the day is open to whatever we want. To inject a bit of fresh air into our traditional routine, last Sunday after church, John and I checked out a new-to-us cafe in Herring Cove, a small village 15km from downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Pavia Gallery espresso bar and café is styled after a European/Italian style espresso bar and when I read the owners were trained in Florence, Italy to make espresso, cappuccino and caffè latte, I knew it warranted further investigation.  The coffee wasn’t the only lure.  Pavia Gallery bakes their food on-site, sources as much local food as possible, and I was all set to try one of their 5 panini creations.

Pavia cappuccino
breakfast panino

Purcells Cove 1The Culinary Chase’s Note:  The 17 minute scenic drive out to Pavia is well worth it.  Their food is not only scrumptious but well presented, the staff are friendly and the cappuccino, well, let’s just say I thought I was back in Italy! We drove along Herring Cove Road and on the way back took Purcells Cove Road – another chance to see the ocean.  We’ll be back!

Banana Chocolate Chip Raspberry Muffins

banana chocolate chip raspberry muffin by The Culinary ChaseWho hasn’t made banana bread or cake? It’s the easiest way to utilize ripe bananas that are not only gross to look at, but emit a smell that says overripe and to be honest don’t taste good either. I used to make banana bread but after living in Asia for 11 years, the humidity does nasty things to food that holds moisture not to mention an army of ants would come out from nowhere and suddenly descend upon it when left out on the counter top (to this day my mother in-law and I still giggle about that). So, what to do? I decided to make muffins and freeze whatever isn’t consumed. I’d individually wrap the muffins and then take out to defrost when needed. I still do this – old habits die hard. The addition of chocolate chips came while living in Singapore (had some left over). These were an immediate hit with my family. This morning I was making my breakfast smoothie and had some bits of frozen raspberries left over and figured I’d throw these into the muffin batter. Voilà! Banana chocolate chip raspberry muffins were born.

Makes 18
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 very ripe bananas
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup frozen raspberries
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
turbinado sugar, to sprinkle on top of the muffins

1. Preheat the oven to 350f (180c).
2. Cream butter, slowly add the sugar, and beat until light.
3. Add the bananas, eggs, and vanilla and beat well. Mix the flour, baking soda, and salt, add to the banana mixture, and blend. Add milk and beat until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips. Gently fold in frozen raspberries.
4. Arrange muffin liners in the pan and divide batter evenly.  Top each muffin with a pinch of turbinado sugar (or other large crystal sugar).  Bake 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
5. Cool in muffin pan for 5 minutes before turning out onto a rack.

muffins by The Culinary ChaseThe Culinary Chase’s Note:  The raspberries take this muffin to a new level of baked goodness.  Topping the muffins with turbinado sugar gives an added crunch and a pleasant surprise to those who aren’t expecting it.  Enjoy!