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homemade grainy mustard

easy to make grainy mustardThere’s an immense satisfaction when something homemade turns out well and puts a smile on your face.  It gives that boost in confidence and lets you know you can tackle the next project on a high note.  We love grainy mustard almost as much as we do Dijon.  In the past 20 years, I have made a conscience effort to read food labels, understand what’s inside, and make an informed decision as a result.  So when I got it into my head to make my own mustard, I was surprised to see additives such as fruit pectin, citric acid, tartaric acid in Dijon mustard and lactic acid and flavour (no mention of what the flavour is) in grainy mustard.  Oops!  Did I forget to read the labels on these mustards?  Or did I think the additive list wasn’t too long?  It’s not as if we consume mustard on a daily basis.  Moral of the story; read the blinkin’ label! Continue Reading →

hot cocoa mix – a cinch to make!

hot cocoa mixAh, the annual holiday gift giving is upon us.  Our brains go into overdrive thinking of things to buy and our bank accounts take a beating.  I sometimes think we’re much too over-the-top with our purchases; the needs vs. wants dilemma.  In the past few years I’ve adopted gift giving from the heart which means homemade.  For the kid in us, making your own cocoa mix is not only a cinch to prepare, you also get the added benefit of knowing what’s inside.  This hot chocolate recipe is so good you’ll wonder why you hadn’t made it before. Continue Reading →

DIY Rosemary Salt

rosemary saltI love gearing up for the Christmas holidays as it’s one of my favorite times of the year.  People seem a bit kinder, smile more and the feeling of mutual respect resonates more during this time of the year than any other.  Not to sound the alarm bells, but there are only 46 days before Christmas!  Thinking of that perfect holiday gift can be tricky especially as one gets older.  We have so many ‘things’ that tend to never see the light of day – who needs to add to that?  I enjoy being able to make hostess gifts for those who love to cook as much as I do.  DIY rosemary salt is so easy to make and you can customize it to suit it to the taste of your friend or family member.  Homemade gifts come straight from the heart and they don’t need to break the bank nor be arduous. Continue Reading →

Easy-To-Make Almond Milk

easy to make almond milkAlmond milk is something I’ve been wanting to try for a while but like anything else I investigate, timing is always key and I need to be in the ‘mood’ to experiment.  When I found out just how easy it was to make and the taste didn’t put me off, I wondered why it took me so long.  Continue Reading →

Yogurt Popsicles

yogurt popsiclesMr. S. enjoys eating yogurt for his mid morning snack but he realized that the ‘deal’ we got on buying 16 was nearing its expiry date.  He would have to devour 8 in the next two days!  We’re usually good at checking expiry dates but this one must have slipped through the cracks.  We had been to the grocery store where I eyed popsicles and it was there it donned on me how to solve the yogurt issue.  I had some star pop molds from when I made paletas. It was that simple and the yogurts were saved. 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!

Carrot Soup with Feta and Quinoa

carrot soup with feta & quinoaWhen it’s cold outside there’s nothing more comforting and warming than homemade soup.  Soup, by the way, doesn’t need to be arduous nor does it need to take a long time to make to taste good. Carrot soup with feta and quinoa should make you take notice as this isn’t something ordinary but downright scrumptious! The crunchy chewy texture coming from the quinoa not only adds substance but will keep you feeling satiated longer (always a good thing when trying to stick to those new year’s resolutions!).  Carrots have a host of nutritional health benefits:  helps to cleanse the liver, improves vision, reduces the risk of cancer, anti-aging, and healthy skin to name a few.  This soup can be ready in 30 minutes.

Serves 4
adapted by Gourmet Traveller

2 1/2 lb (1.2 kg) carrots, coarsely grated
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
3 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup quinoa
300g Greek feta, coarsely crumbled
handful of coarsely chopped mint and flat-leaf parsley
extra-virgin olive oil (for drizzling)

carrots by The Culinary Chase1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add onion and garlic and stir occasionally until tender. Add carrots, cumin, paprika and lemon rind.  Stir occasionally until carrot softens. Add stock and 2 1/2 cups boiling water, season to taste and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until well-flavored.
2. Cook quinoa in a saucepan of boiling water until tender (10-12 minutes), then drain and set aside in a bowl.
3. Remove soup from heat, add lemon juice and half the feta, process with a hand-held blender until smooth. Top with quinoa, scatter with herbs and remaining feta, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and serve immediately.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: Use a food processor with a grater attachment to speed up the grating process.  *You may need to add more water if soup is too thick.  With so many flavors and textures, this recipe is a keeper.  Enjoy!

Vanilla Ice Cream

vanilla ice cream by The Culinary ChaseHello 2014!

I don’t know about you, but I’m really glad to see the back of 2013.  It was an unsettling year for us and things can only get better.  As I write this post it’s -18c (windchill lowering it to -26c)…bitterly cold!  It would seem a bit odd that I am writing about homemade ice cream but for me, ice cream knows no season.  Making your own ice cream is easier than you think and ice cream makers cost as little as $29 and go from there making the initial investment doable even if you’re on a budget.  The first batch of homemade ice cream I ever made was with strawberries.  The result was so delicious I felt confident I could move up the ice cream making ladder and attempt more recipes using a custard base.

Makes one quart

adapted from David Lebovitz

1 cup whole milk
pinch of salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 cups heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

vanilla bean by The Culinary Chase1. Heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk with a paring knife, then add the bean pod to the milk. Cover, remove from heat, and infuse for one hour.

2. To make the ice cream, set up an ice bath by placing a 2-quart bowl in a larger bowl partially filled with ice and water. Set a strainer over the top of the smaller bowl and pour the cream into the bowl.

eggs by The Culinary Chase3. In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks. Rewarm the milk then gradually pour some of the milk into the yolks, whisking constantly as you pour. Scrape the warmed yolks and milk back into the saucepan.

4. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heat-resistant spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula.

5. Strain the custard into the heavy cream. Stir over the ice until cool, add the vanilla extract, then refrigerate to chill thoroughly. Preferably overnight.

6. Remove the vanilla bean and freeze the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: Exquisite! Rich, lovely flavors with hints of vanilla…this is a recipe to spoil your family with! Don’t throw out the vanilla bean. Let it air dry and then plop it into a jar of white sugar (give it a shake and let rest for a few days to allow the vanilla to scent the sugar).  If you like lemons, then I highly recommend my lemon ice cream…you won’t be disappointed. Enjoy!

Homemade Vanilla Extract

homemade vanilla extractI had been meaning to stop by the historic farmers’ market. I told my husband that I wanted to go there for a specific reason but when I arrived that reason escaped me until I spotted a table across the way decked out in spices. Yes! Now it’s coming back to me. Costas Halavrezos, former host of Maritime Noon, sells spices at the market and recently unveiled his book, Seasoned. I wanted to drop by to say hello as Costas interviewed me years ago when I was living in Hong Kong. I also wanted to grab a copy of his new book.  I introduced myself and immediately the connection was made.  This time the tables were turned as I was asking him questions about his spice venture and how he started.  Costas has a nurturing demeanor and I can’t imagine anyone not getting the spice bug once you speak to him.  He’s so passionate about the spices he sells and it’s not a hard sell either.  I always feel elevated when I speak to another enthusiastic person especially when it comes to food.

vanilla beans by The Culinary Chase2 to 3 Madagascar vanilla beans (pods)
1 cup vodka (you can also try rum or bourbon)

You can find vanilla beans in most grocery stores or from your favorite spice shop. Look for dark, supple, oily beans. Make sure the jar you use is super clean…you don’t want other flavors latching on. Using a sharp knife, score half-inch from the top to half-inch from the bottom of the vanilla bean but do not cut through. Place scored beans into a jar and top with vodka making sure beans are submersed. Place in a cool, dark place for one month, shaking it once a week. When you use it, just remember to top it off with more vodka.

vanilla collage by The Culinary ChaseThe Culinary Chase’s Note: The extract can be stored for up to one year but replace the vanilla beans 3 to 6 months as they tend to lose their flavor. Don’t discard the old beans. Use them to flavor sugar.  As the holidays are just around the corner, wrap this up and give it to your baking buddies. Enjoy!