Author Archives: saltandserenity

Roasted Squash with Smoked Paprika, Maple Syrup and Sage Salt

Roasted squash 2 625 sqWhile home for a visit last weekend, my daughter observed the mess on our dining room table and expressed the opinion that perhaps I may have developed a bit of a hoarding problem. “Don’t you think you’ve acumulated enough food photography props mom?” she asked.DR tableClearly she doesn’t understand. Those are all spring/summer props. Now I need to start acquiring appropriate fall/winter props. While some parents turn their kid’s vacated bedrooms into gift wrapping quarters or perhaps an extra closet to store off season clothing, it is entirely possible that her bedroom may be converted into my props closet, if I continue collecting at my current rate.

Of course it doesn’t help when my sister sends me these charming bowls. They were intended as nut bowls, but they are just perfect as mise en place bowls for a photo shoot!  I let out a squealed with joy when I opened my gift. I have an extreme fondness for bowls! The colour combination of these little vessels is just gorgeous. little bowlsShe found them in Toronto at The Cookery Store. I have since discovered you can also get them online at Fishs Eddy.

I had a glut of winter squash after a recent photo shoot, and I needed to use them up before they went bad. My go-to ingredient for roasting vegetables is smoked paprika. It just makes everything taste better. The inspiration for this roasted squash hails from Melissa Clark’s book, Cook This Now. She mixed smoked paprika with olive oil and honey and smeared it all over squash before roasting. I swapped out the honey for some maple syrup, because that’s just the way we Canadians roll!ingredients

brushing squashMelissa suggests finishing the roasted squash with a sprinkling of homemade sage salt. So simple to make; just bake some fresh sage leaves for about 10 minutes, until crispy. Then crumble them between your fingers with some coarse sea salt. Earthy, and slightly bitter, sage makes a perfect partener for sweet squash. A final sprinkling of toasted pumpkin seeds adds a welcome crunch.

Click here to print recipe for Roasted Squash with Maple Syrup, Smoked Paprika and Sage Salt.

Roasted squash 1 625 sq

Pear Parsnip Pistachio Soup

Pear Parsnip pistachio soup 2 625 sqPear Parsnip Pistachio Soup. Say that 3 times fast! If you or your progeny are of a certain vintage, the title of this soup may bring back memories of a certain Sesame Street Fairy Tale called The King Banishes the Letter P, featuring King Peter The Persnickety.

I just adore the shape and all the gorgeous colour variations of fall pears. However, for eating out of hand, pears just don’t set my pulse racing like a crisp Sweetango apple. But when cooked, the flesh of pears becomes silky and velvety. That’s what I wanted to capture in this soup.pears 2I decided to combine the pears with parsnips. The earthy tangy quality of the parsnips would provide the perfect balance for the sweetness of the pears. Looking for inspiration, I stumbled across a recipe for a Pear Parsnip soup with a very odd list of disparate ingredients that included wine, milk, pistachios and a chile pepper. But then I saw that the recipe was from Stephanie Izard’s (Top Chef winner Season 4) cookbook, Girl in the Kitchen. Long a fan of Stephanie’s big bold flavours, I knew I had to try this soup. parsnips

cooking soupI baked some pear chips to accompany the soup, because I like a little crunch with a pureed soup. They couldn’t be simpler to make. Slice firm pears very thinly on a mandolin. Or, if your knife skills are excellent and you can slice very thinly and evenly with a sharp knife, go for it! No need to peel or core the pears.  Lay them flat, in a single layer (do not overlap) on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 200°F for 45 minutes. Turn the pears over and bake for another 30-45 minutes until they are curled up at the edges and golden brown. They will still be a bit pliable at this point but will harden upon cooling. making pear chipsThe pear chips will keep for a week, in an airtight container. You could sprinkle a bit of salt or cinnamon on them before baking, but I just left mine plain. They make such a pretty garnish for the soup. Pear Parsnip pistachio soup 3Sometimes pureed root vegetable soups can taste a little bit flat, and you aren’t really sure what vegetables you’re tasting. I wanted both the pears and the parsnip flavours to shine through. This soup delivered in spades. The chile flakes quietly announce themselves with a gentle heat that does not smack you over the head. The wine provides much needed acidity and the milk contributes a mellow gentle background note. Salty pistachios add texture and a wonderful counterpoint to the sweet pears. 

Click here to print recipe for Pear Parsnip and Pistachio Soup.

 

 

Safari Cookies and Chanelling Your Inner Artist

All 4 2When my kids were little, they used to imagine that while they were away at school all day, I lay in bed reading magazines and scarfing down bon bons. Haha! Nothing could be further from the truth. I wasn’t eating bon bons in the bedroom. I was eating cookies in the kitchen. Actually to be more accurate, I was eating my iced cookie mistakes.

Truthfully, I don’t really like eating iced cookies. I find them too sweet, but I just love creating them. They are just so freaking adorable to look at. I’m not a very good artist when it comes to the traditional medium of pencil or paint. But put a piping bag in my hand with a #2 tip and my inner Jackson Pollock is unleashed.

I made these safari animal cookies to take to a friend’s dinner party. We are planning a South African safari trip for the spring and she thought it would be fun to get the group together to kickstart our planning. I volunteered to bring a dessert.

I ordered the cookie cutters from coppergifts.com. With over 2000 cookie cutters to choose from, it really is the ultimate cookie decorators site. They ship quickly and offer inspirational decorating ideas for every cookie cutter they sell.

I baked Thick and Chewy Gingerbread Cookies as well as a batch of Sugar Cookies with Brown Sugar. Then I mixed up a batch of Royal Icing .elephantsThe super talented Suzanne of suzsdaily.com, provides a very thorough tutorial on how to create these precious baby elephants.

To create the lions manes and tail, I mixed yellow, orange and brown sprinkles. lionsI took a free style approach with the zebras, and to be honest, I think they look more like horses.zebrasThe giraffes were the most difficult to create. Once again, I used Suzanne’s step by step tutorial. The background colour of the giraffes was crafted by mixing Americolor’s warm brown and ivory into the royal icing. The colour of the spots was made by mixing icing with tulip red and warm brown. giraffesThese cookies just make everyone smile!All 4

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

Three chocolate peanut butter cups 1Peanut Butter Cups and I have a bit of a love-hate relationship. I love to eat them, but sadly my hips and thighs protest quite loudly when I inhale too many. My hatred of Halloween likely stems from what I refer to the “Peanut Butter Cup Incident of 1985.” It was my first time giving out treats as an official grown up. I bought several large bags of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in the snack size a week before Halloween. They disappeared within 2 days. I purchased several more replacement bags and discovered that I suffer from a chromosomal abnormality that affects my ability to control my willpower.

Luckily, now that “Big Butts” are back in style, we can all eat Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups with abandon!

These chocolate peanut butter cups are a variation on the original. When I saw Anna Olson make them on her Food Network show, Sugar, I knew I had to try them. The cups themselves are crafted from chocolate cookie dough. Once baked these cookie cups become a crunchy vehicle to hold the chocolate ganache filling and the peanut butter and cream cheese mousse topping. These are a very decadent, sophisticated peanut butter cup. mise en placelining mini muffin tinsfolding whipped cream into peanut butter creamcheesepipingon wood and marble tray 625 sq

Click here to print recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups.

chocolate peanut butter cup on server

Winter Squash and Arugula Salad

plated 2 625 sqBig sisters have a very important job to do in this world. It is their mission to pave the way for their little sisters, teaching them the ropes and ensuring that they do not stumble through life’s little land mines along the way. My big sister taught me where babies come from, (I didn’t believe her!), how to shave my legs, and, with instructions whispered through a locked bathroom door, how to use tampons. She taught me how to hide cigarettes from our mom as well as how to sneak out of the house, late at night, when boys came calling, by throwing pebbles at our basement bedroom window. Sadly, I never had to use that last one. I was a late bloomer and the boys only came for her!

Now that we’re all grown up, she is still passing on lots of valuable lessons. She works for the popular blog, “Yummy Mummy” and is quite knowledgeable about the business side of running a blog. She is always going on about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and how important it is for my blog.  SEO is the practice of improving and promoting a web site in order to increase the number of visitors the site receives from search engines.

She explained that the title of your blog posts is of utmost importance. Beginning the post title with a number assists in making the post’s content more actionable. It also reassures those readers, whose attention span matches that of a gnat, that they can scan through your list post quickly if needed. My sister also emphasized the need to use exciting adjectives that promise audacious results.

As I was writing this post, I thought about some of her tips and tried to put them into action. “Seven mind blowing ways to roast winter squash.” Or, “Four essential steps to cutting squash without hacking off your finger.”  (On that note, check out this very helpful video on cutting winter squash) Somehow, they just seemed too sensationalist, and not really very “me.” However, I do promise you a delicious squash salad, that while perhaps not exactly mind blowing, will make dinner time at your house a very happy place to be.cutting squashready to assembleI was inspired to make something with winter squash after a visit to my neighbourhood Farm Boy store. If you don’t have Farm Boy in your city, I am just a little bit sad for you. Entering the store you are heartily greeted by a life-size animatronic singing Farm Boy and his dog Barndoor Buddy. (Not sure if it’s just me, but some days it feels like he’s mocking me!) Perched in the produce section, resides a mischievous monkey who performs endless backflips over the banana display. Rounding the corner into the dairy section, you will encounter Lulu the cow who moos every time you open the dairy case to get milk and Rusty, a crowing rooster, standing guard over the eggs. My kids and I spent a lot of time there when they were little. It was the lazy mom’s version of taking your kids to the petting zoo. And, it had the added bonus of not stinking like a zoo.

The produce bins were overflowing with a myriad of winter squash. Unable to decide what to get, I excitedly filled my cart with about 35 pounds of assorted varieties. As the cashier was ringing me through, her curiosity got the best of her. She just had to know what I was going to do with all these squash. When I told her I was going to take their picture she looked at me like I was a bit crazy. And yes, perhaps you might agree, when I confess that I spent the better part of a very happy afternoon, arranging squash.assortment 3

Click here to print recipe for Winter Squash and Arugula Salad.close up