Monday, October 20, 2014

Corn & Clam Fritters with Lemon-Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

We all have our favourite appetizer recipes. The best are ones that you know can be made quickly and prepped ahead of time. If they also get rave reviews from your guests, you know you have a 'winner'. My Corn and Clam Fritters are one of my 'keepers'. Served warm garnished with a dollop of tangy Lemon Cilantro Sauce, they're a delicious hors d'oeuvre for any cocktail party. They're also simple to make. All of the dry ingredients: flour, salt, baking soda and cayenne, are placed in a large bowl, followed by the wet: corn, green onions, eggs and buttermilk. The combined mixture is whisked together then dropped into a hot frying pan and fried until the fritters are puffed and golden brown. If any guests have a seafood allergy, just leave out the clams altogether — these fritters are so versatile, you can add just about anything you like. I serve them garnished with a dollop of tangy Lemon Cilantro Yogurt Sauce and curl of lemon zest as a hot appetizer with wine or cocktails.

Corn & Clam Fritters
Makes about 30 fritter appetizers

1 1/2 cup flour
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 8 oz can clams, drained
1/2 cup corn kernels, canned or fresh cob corn
2 green onions, finely chopped
2 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup buttermilk
vegetable oil, for frying
1 lemon, zested for garnish

Lemon Cilantro Sauce:
1 cup plain yoghurt
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1/2 garlic clove, minced
1/8 tsp dried crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper

Combine all the ingredients for the sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste, then cover and chill until needed. 

Mix all of the dry ingredients for the fritters in one bowl, and the clams, corn, green onions and beaten eggs in another bowl, then combine the wet and dry together, adding the buttermilk at the end. Mix thoroughly to form a stiff batter, then cover and chill until required. 

To make the fritters, pour enough vegetable oil into a non-stick frying pan to reach a depth of 1/8", topping up when necessary. Over medium heat, work in batches dropping tablespoons of batter into the oil, and cook the fritters until they are golden brown, turning once, about 2-3 minutes. Using a slotted spatula, transfer the fritters to a rack to drain. Serve warm with a dollop of Lemon Cilantro Dip on top, and garnish with some lemon zest curls.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Mom's Peanut Butter Chip Cookies with Pecans

Moms always make the best cookies, and my Mom's no exception to the rule. Growing up, she made fabulous Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, Hermits, Classic Peanut Butter Cookies as well as the world's best Nanaimo Bars. Recently she's added a few more tasty little treats to her cookie repertoire, like these addictive Peanut Butter Chip Cookies with Pecans. Made with a selection of readily available ingredients like Reese's peanut butter chips and cereals such as President's Choice Crunchy Maple Almond Cereal, or more recently, Post Great Grains Nut Medley, these cookies are easy to make and downright delicious!

Mom's Peanut Butter Chip Cookies with Pecans
Makes about 2 dozen

1 cup butter, at room temperature
3/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup all-purpose white flour
1 1/2 cups Post Great Grains Nut Medley
1 cup Reeses peanut butter chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Cream the butter and brown sugar in a standing mixer, then beat in the egg and vanilla. Blend the flour and maple almond cereal into the creamed mixture then stir in the peanut butter chips and chopped pecans. Drop the batter by the teaspoon onto a parchment lined cookie sheet, spaced about 1-inch apart and flatten slightly with a fork. Bake at 325°F for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the tops are lightly browned. Allow the cookies to cool before removing them from baking sheet then dry on a wire rack before storing them in an airtight container.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Butternut Squash with Butter, Nutmeg & Maple Syrup

Make the most of the fall harvest with this light, healthy and delicious Mashed Butternut Squash, an ideal side dish for almost any meal. Once called "the apple of God," the butternut squash was prized by American Indians, who believed its seeds increased fertility. A member of the cucurbitaceae family, which includes gourds and melons, this versatile verile veggie is packed with more than just flavour — it's also loaded with vitamin A, fibre, potassium and magnesium, and like most vegetables, is fat, sodium and cholesterol-free. Since this pear-shaped vegetable made its debut into the consumer market in the mid 1940's, it's made a big impression, working its way into soups, casseroles and curries throughout the world. With a sweet, nutty taste that's almost indistinguishable from pumpkin, this butternut squash recipe is a family favourite, mashed with a little butter, a dash of ground nutmeg and glug of pure Canadian maple syrup, it's simply gourd-gious any time of the year. 

Butternut squash is a type of winter squash, with a sweet, nutty taste similar to pumpkin

The thin skin can easily be removed with vegetable peeler

The stringy pulp and seeds that collect at the base of the squash are scooped out and discarded

Chopped into 1-inch pieces, the squash is steamed over high heat for 12-15 minutes until soft and tender

Butternut Squash with Butter, Nutmeg & Maple Syrup
Serves 10-12

2 large butternut squash
4 tbsp butter
1/4 cup maple syrup or brown sugar
1 tsp ground nutmeg

Peel the squash with a vegetable peeler, and using a heavy knife, slice each squash in half length-wise. Using a spoon, scoop out and discard the stringy fibres and seeds, then chop the squash into 1-inch pieces. Fill a pot fitted with a steamer basket with about 2 inches of water, and bring to a boil. Place a portion of the squash in the basket, then cover and steam until soft and tender, about 12-15 minutes. Empty the cooked squash into a large pot, and continue to steam the remaining squash in batches until done. 

Mash the squash until smooth, then season with the butter, nutmeg and maple syrup and blend until well combined. Reheat the squash over medium-low until it's warmed through, and serve immediately with a dot of butter and flurry of ground nutmeg as a final garnish.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Savoury Gruyère & Green Onion Drop Scones

These Gruyère & Green Onion Drop Scones are a sensational savoury twist on the traditional currant scones typically served with strawberry jam and clotted cream. Delicious on their own or served with a bowl of soup, they can be on the table in half an hour, start to finish. The wonderful thing is that any combination of your favourite cheeses, herbs or savoury selections can be used to create your own custom biscuits: Asiago, Feta, Parmesan, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, red peppers, bacon, chives, rosemary, curry, cayenne or even buttermilk instead of cream — the possibilities are endless, and the results absolutely divine. 

The batter is dropped onto a parchment lined baking sheet for a more rustic approach to traditional scones

Brushed with an egg wash and sprinkled with Maldon salt, the scones are baked at 400°F for 15-18 minutes until they're light and fluffy on the inside and lovely golden brown on the outside

Savoury Gruyère & Green Onion Drop Scones
Makes 8-10 scones

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp English dry mustard
1/2 tsp salt
3 oz cold butter, diced
1 large egg, beaten lightly
1/4 cup cold heavy cream
1/8 pound Gruyere, grated
1/2 cup minced green onions
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp milk, for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Combine the flour, baking powder, mustard and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. Mix the egg and cream and quickly add them to the flour-and-butter mixture, and combine until just blended. Toss in the gruyere, minced green onion and another tablespoon of flour to the dough and mix until they are incorporated.

Divide the dough into rustic-shaped golfball size mounds and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Brush each of the tops with egg wash and a pinch of Maldon salt, then bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the outside is golden brown and the inside is cooked through. Serve hot from the oven with a bowl of homemade soup. Light and fluffy on the inside with a slightly crunchy crust, these scones are irresistible, and perhaps the best I've ever made. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Lemon Hummus Served in a Turban Squash

Light, healthy and delicious, this smooth and creamy Middle Eastern–style hummus made from chickpeas, tahini, garlic, cumin, olive oil and just the right amount of lemon juice to make it refreshingly tangy, is puréed all together and served in a handsome hollowed out turban squash, for a luscious lemony Levantine dip that positively shouts autumn. Rich in protein, fibre and healthy fats, this heart smart appetizer served with sliced or whole fresh raw vegetables, makes a nutritious and naturally delicious addition to any holiday party.

A glorious turban squash

To hollow out the squash, first slice off the top with a sharp knife

Then scoop out all of the seeds and pulp

Place all of the ingredients for the hummus in a blender and pulse until smooth

Lemon Hummus
Makes about 4 cups

2 cans (19 oz/540 ml) cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 tbsp tahini
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt 
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1 turban squash

Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend until either chunky or silky smooth, depending on your preference. If you wish to use less oil but still want a smooth texture, replace some of the oil with the cooking liquid from the chickpeas. Using a small sharp knife, slice off the top crown of the turban squash and discard. Continue to carve away the top until you have a generous opening, then using a spoon, scoop out the soft pulp and seeds, creating a hollowed out squash. To serve, spoon the hummus into the turban squash and garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds, fresh parsley or swirl of olive oil and sprinkle of paprika, and accompany with grissini breadsticks, crackers or sliced raw vegetable sticks.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Apple Cake with Butter Cream Icing & Toasted Pecans

Fresh apples are baked into this moist and delicious spiced cake, then draped with a butter cream icing and topped with warm toasted pecans, for a simply sensational dessert that celebrates autumn's seasonal abundance of apples. Inspired by a delicious Apple Cake that my friend Mary Ellen prepared for a recent book club evening, she kindly sent me the recipe having received rave reviews from the entire group that night. Rich, moist and densely textured, this apple studded cake is excellent on it's own, but the sweet silky smooth butter cream frosting and warm toasted sugared pecans takes this dessert to the ultimate level of divine decadence — Autumn never tasted so good!

Flour, sugars, baking soda, ground cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves are mixed together in a large bowl 

In another bowl 2 large eggs are whisked until light and frothy

1/2 cup of canola oil is added to the eggs...

...and the mixture is whisked again until combined

Royal Gala apples are used in this apple cake recipe

The apples are peeled, seeded and chopped into a 1/2-inch dice

The wet and dry ingredients are mixed together, and then the chopped apples are folded into the batter

The batter is pressed into a greased cake pan and then baked at 350°F for 35-40 minutes

The apple cake is placed on a cooling rack once it's removed from the oven

The cake is loosened from the pan and turned onto a decorative plate, ready to be iced and garnished

Half a cup of butter is melted until lightly golden

Icing sugar, vanilla and whipping cream are added to the butter to make the frosting

A cup of pecans are sautéed in a teaspoon of oil with 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and a pinch of salt

Apple Cake with Butter Cream Icing & Toasted Pecans

Serves 6-8

Apple cake:
1 1/2 cups flour, white or whole wheat 
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
2 large eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
2 royal gala apples, peeled, seeded and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

Pecan topping:
3/4 cup pecan halves
1 1/2 tsp canola oil
1/2 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 cups icing sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp whipping cream

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour one round or square 8-inch pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. In a separate bowl, whisk two eggs until light yellow and foamy, then whisk in the oil until it’s completely combined.

Stir the oil mixture into the flour mixture, then fold in the chopped apple. The cake batter will be very thick, almost the consistency of cookie dough. Stir until there is no dry flour left and then press the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes. When the cake is done, set it aside in its pan on a cooling rack.

While the cake is baking, prepare the pecan topping by warming 1 1/2 teaspoons of oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the pecans to the frying pan and sprinkle with the sugar and salt. Stir the pecans until the sugar has dissolved and the pecans are toasted, then remove from heat and set aside.

To prepare the icing, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Swirl in the the butter until it begins to turn a light golden brown and smells slightly toasted. Remove the pan from heat and immediately stir in the icing sugar. Then add the whipping cream and vanilla and whisk until smooth. If the icing is not the right consistency to pour, whisk in a little more whipping cream, one teaspoon at a time.

The icing can be poured over the cake while still in the pan, or with the cake on a serving platter. Before adding the icing, use a toothpick to poke holes over the surface of the cake, then pour the warm icing over the warm cake. Allow the icing to set before topping with toasted pecan mixture.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Cheddar & Asiago Buttermilk Biscuits with Chives

Warm, savoury and delicious, these moist Cheddar & Asiago Buttermilk Biscuits with Chives are wonderful with a bowl of hot soup on a cold winter day or served on their own, slathered with butter straight from the oven. This quick and easy recipe calls for a handful of dry ingredients that are blended together with butter tossed together with cheese, chopped scallions, minced chives and buttermilk, to form a stiff batter. The dough can be made ahead, covered and set aside until needed, and simply dropped in small mounds onto a parchment lined baking sheet and baked for about twenty minutes, until they become puffy and golden brown. Lovely and crispy on the outside, with a moist, cheesy and pillowy centre, these heavenly little biscuits are way too easy to make and completely addictive.

Aged Cheddar & Asiago Buttermilk Biscuits with Chives
Makes 12 biscuits

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne
6 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup Asiago cheese, coarsely grated
1 cup aged cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
3 scallions, finely chopped
3 tbsp chopped chives
1 1/3 cups well-shaken buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450°F. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a bowl, then blend in butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Stir in the cheeses, scallions and chives, then add the buttermilk and stir until just combined. Drop the dough in 12 equal mounds about 2 inches apart on a large parchment lined baking sheet. Bake in the middle of the oven until the tops are golden brown and the biscuits are cooked through, about 18 to 20 minutes. Serve hot or warm with butter and bowl of your favourite soup!