Thursday, July 31, 2014

Blueberry And White Chocolate Mousse With Buttery Nut Brittle

Blueberry season is in full swing and since buying a flat of these sweet glistening beauties earlier this week, I have transformed some into a beautiful Blueberry Tart and an easy and pretty White Chocolate Mousse. The blueberries are suspended like small jewels in this light mousse with its hints of ginger and nutmeg. Served with a few shards of crunchy almond, cashew and coconut brittle and you have the perfect sweet ending to any meal.

What you will need

3 Tbsps water
2 tsp gelatin powder
5 oz good quality white chocolate, like Callebaut or Lindt 
2 cups whipping cream
1 tsp ground ginger powder
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1 cup fresh blueberries

Nut Brittle:
What I love about this recipe, is that the brittle is made without corn syrup (which comes from GMO corn) and the results are equally as fabulous if not better!

1-1/2 cups unsalted mixed nuts (whole natural almonds, cashews, almond slices and toasted unsweetened coconut flakes), you should have a ratio of about 1 cup of almonds with the remaining nuts equalling 1/2 cup
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp baking soda

Makes about 2-1/2 cups of brittle - this recipe can easily be doubled

Here's how its done:

For the Mousse:
1. Place the water in a small bowl and sprinkle evenly with the gelatin powder; let stand until the gelatin absorbs the water
2. Place the chocolate and cream in a saucepan over medium heat, stir until smooth
3. Add the gelatin mixture and stir for 1 minute to dissolve
4. Remove from heat and place mixture in a bowl; whisk in ginger and nutmeg then stir for about 3 minutes or until cooled; stir through the blueberries and pour into 6 - 1 cup capacity serving glasses
5. Refrigerate for 45-60 minutes to set

*Note: I used 1/3 cup mini serving glasses in the photos - this will yield about 18 mini glasses, which are perfect for a party. You can also do 1/2 cup servings to yield 12.

For the Nut Brittle:
1. In a heavy bottom saucepan and over medium-high heat, combine water, sugar and salt; when the mixture comes to a gentle boil set your timer for 10 minutes (if you have a candy thermometer, clip it onto the edge of the pan with the mercury part in the liquid, but not touching the bottom of the pan)
2. Stirring occasionally, but watching closely (don't walk away), boil until the color changes to a very light amber. This should take about 10 minutes, but could take longer depending on your pan and the type of burner you are using. As soon as the color is right (or the candy thermometer reaches 300F) immediately take the pan off the burner. 
3. Working quickly and continuously, add the butter, vanilla and baking soda (its best to have everything measured out ahead of time, because this step is time sensitive). The mixture will foam up. Continue stirring until the foam subsides and the mixture starts to get glossy.
4. Stir in the nuts all at once and quickly turn mixture out onto a silicone mat, greased parchment-lined or very well greased baking sheet.
5. With a rubber spatula, flatten mixture to desired thickness and allow to cool about 20 minutes, until brittle.

Adapted from Donna Hay ( The Instant Cook) and Average Betty

Monday, July 28, 2014

Fresh Blueberry Tart - Hail The Beautiful Blueberry!

It's blueberry season! I picked up a case of fresh local berries and couldn't wait to transform them into some beautiful desserts. This week I will be posting two recipes using these succulent berries including this delicious tart. A very dear friend of mine gave me the original recipe for this beautiful dessert several years ago and it's been a crowd favourite ever since (I have adapted it slightly). 

One of the best parts about this tart (aside from the shortbread-like crust) is the double layers of berries - one layer is baked into the tart shell, while the other is piled fresh on top right when the tart comes out of the oven. I can't decide if I prefer the gooey baked berries over the fresh tart crunchy ones on top, but the combination of the two is truly a match made in heaven!

What you will need: (I have used mainly organic ingredients here, but conventional ones will give an equally beautiful result)


1 cup organic all purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
2 Tbsp organic cane sugar
1/2 cup unsalted organic butter, cold, cut into small cubes
1 Tbsp white vinegar

3 cups fresh blueberries
2 Tbsp organic all purpose flour
Scant 2/3 cups organic cane sugar
1/4 tsp organic cinnamon
Pinch or 2 of freshly ground nutmeg

Additional 2 cups fresh blueberries
Icing sugar for dusting

How it's done:

1. Preheat oven to 400F

2. To bowl of food processor add flour, salt and sugar; pulse until combined. Add butter chunks, scattering evenly over flour mixture; process on pulse until texture looks like coarse breadcrumbs; sprinkle vinegar evenly over top and continue to pulse just until dough comes together
2. Empty dough into a 9" tart pan with a removable bottom or a 9" spring form pan and press firmly to cover bottom and 1" up the sides of the pan. Gently prick crust with tines of fork and place in refrigerator until ready to fill
3. Place 3 cups berries in medium bowl; in separate bowl combine remaining flour, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg; sprinkle over berries and toss gently to combine; pour into prepared tart shell; set pan on top of cookie sheet (to catch possible drips); bake in preheated oven for 50-60 minutes
4. Remove tart from oven and immediately pour remaining 2 cups of berries evenly over top. Set aside to cool (tart can be served slightly warm out of the pan, but may run a bit)

Just before serving, dust lightly with icing sugar. Serve with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream.

Serves 8

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Prosciutto Chevre Crostini

While we are on the topic of great summer noshes, I would like to share another one of my favourites, which I adapted from one of my frequent go-to cookbooks Instant Entertaining by Donna Hay. This one takes a bit more time to prepare, but can be made in advance and quickly assembled at the last moment just before guests arrive. I like to serve this delicious Italian inspired appetizer with a cool Campari cocktail or a crisp Prosecco.

Crunchy garlic crostini are topped with Prosciutto and sage-wrapped Chevre (goat's cheese) then warmed in the oven and finally glazed with a sweet fig jam. Caution: you may want to double this recipe, as these babies will disappear FAST!

What you will need:

1 454g log goat's cheese, carefully sliced into 24 slices
12 slices Prosciutto ham, halved lengthwise
24 fresh sage leaves plus 3-4 thinly sliced for garnish
2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved lengthwise
24 thin slices baguette
Olive oil for brushing
1 jar fig jam

How its done:

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Place slices of baguette on a large cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes until toasted and lightly browned, flip over slices and toast another 5-10 minutes; remove from oven and leave until cool enough to handle; rub each crostini with the halved garlic cloves, then brush lightly with olive oil; set aside on baking tray.
2. Place a sage leaf on top of each slice of goat's cheese, letting the leaf overlap slightly at one end; wrap a piece of Prosciutto around each slice of goat's cheese (at this stage the Prosciutto bundles can be placed in a sealed container and refrigerated for several hours until ready to serve).
3. Place each bundle on top of a crostini and bake for 10-12 minutes or until goat's cheese has melted; garnish with a dollop of fig jam and a sprinkle of sliced fresh sage leaves.

Makes 24 canapes.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Esquites - Memories of the Elote Cafe in Sedona, Arizona

In January I had the privilege of staying in Sedona, Arizona where I attended an amazing two week healing program. I have always loved south-west cuisine and so it was on my radar to find a restaurant that would satisfy my craving for such local food. As small as Sedona is, it has a plethora of restaurants to chose from to please almost every palate.

One of my favourites is the Elote Cafe, a hip south-western style restaurant that prides itself on dishing up a menu made up of up-scale Mexican street food using fresh, local ingredients.

One of their signature dishes (named after Elote, which in Mexico refers to grilled corn on the cob doused in butter, cheese, chili powder, mayonnaise and lemon or lime juice - and also holds the same name as the restaurant), is a twist on the traditional street version. The ingredients are instead served up as a deliciously decadent hot dip alongside freshly fried corn tortilla chips. In certain parts of Mexico this version is called Esquites.

This dish is the perfect indulgence not only for a casual hot summer evening served with Margaritas, Sangria or Coronas, but also as a soul-warming comfort food in the long cold winter months. The best part is that its a snap to prepare - you put all the ingredients in a pot and heat it and Velado!

My recipe is an adaptation of the Elote Cafe's own chef Jeff Smedstad's, with the time-saving use of frozen organic peaches and cream corn niblets and queso fresco cheese. I could bathe in this dip, it is that good...

You will need:

2 cups frozen corn niblets, thawed and drained (I used organic from Costco)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp hot sauce such as Cholula or Tabasco (reduce amount to 1/2 Tbsp for less heat)
1 Tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice plus 1 tsp zest
1/4 - 1/2 tsp sugar (depending on how sweet your corn is)
2 Tbsp good chicken stock - preferably low sodium
1/4 tsp crushed red chili flakes
Pinch chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste
75g  Queso Fresco cheese, crumbled (Mexican style farmers cheese)
or 2 Tbsp regular farmers cheese, grated
1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

Corn tortilla chips (preferably organic or at least non GMO)

Here's how its done:

In a medium saucepan, heat mayonnaise, hot sauce, lime juice, sugar, chicken stock, salt and pepper, chili flakes and chili powder. When the mixture comes just to a boil, add the corn kernels and queso fresco cheese; heat through. Don't continue to boil, or the mixture will begin to separate. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve on a platter along with corn tortilla chips.

Buen provecho! and...Salud!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer's Eve Beach BBQ

What could possibly be better than enjoying a warm summer evening dining Al Fresco? Doing it at the beach of course! I have put together a very simple menu, which can be assembled in less than an hour and packed into a cooler to enjoy in the great outdoors.

A salad of fresh greens with succulent local strawberries, toasted pumpkin seeds and creamy goat cheese in a tangy Dijon and stone-ground mustard vinaigrette and a zesty, citrusy quinoa salad with crunchy peppers and peas are served along with BBQ'd organic turkey sausages. Add a bottle of crisp Sauvignon Blanc and some chilled lemon water and enjoy!

Zesty-Citrusy Quinoa Salad


4 cups cooked quinoa (I used 1/2 red and 1/2 white quinoa) or 2 cups quinoa cooked per package directions, cooled
1 orange pepper, diced
1 yellow pepper, diced
8 grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup sweet pea pods sliced on the diagonal
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 bunch fresh dill, chopped
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup white wine vinegar
Juice of 1 orange plus zest
Juice of 1 lime plus zest
Juice of 1 lemon plus zest
1 Tbsp liquid honey
1/2 cup olive oil
salt, pepper


1. Combine salad ingredients, except Parmesan in medium sized bowl; set aside. 
2. In bowl or measuring cup, whisk together vinegar and juices; add honey and continue to whisk until well blended; add salt, pepper and citrus zest; slowly whisk in olive oil until dressing thickens; adjust seasonings if needed.
3. Pour enough dressing over quinoa salad to moisten, about 1/2 cup; the quinoa will absorb some of the dressing immediately; add more as needed; stir in Parmesan; transfer to container with tight fitting lid.  

Serves 4

Fresh Greens with Strawberries and Goat Cheese


2 cups tightly packed spinach leaves
2 cups tightly packed arugula leaves
1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
8 strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup goat cheese (Chevre) crumbled
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp stone-ground mustard
1 Tbsp liquid honey
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
8 fresh mint leaves, chopped


1.Mix salad greens and red onion in bowl/container with tight fitting lid; top with sliced strawberries and pumpkin seeds; crumble goat cheese over top.

2. In bowl or measuring cup, whisk together vinegar, mustards and honey and continue to whisk until well blended; add salt and pepper; slowly whisk in olive oil until dressing thickens; stir in mint; adjust seasoning if needed.

Serve dressing on the side.

Serves 4

These salads pair well with any protein, including fish, chicken, beef, sausages...quinoa salad is a great option for vegetarians, as it is a grain that also contains natural protein.