Enchiladas with homemade sauce and pico de gallo

Sometimes in Europe, it feels like 1993. Some things just take a really long time to get here, like Mexican food. Tex Mex seems to be hugely popular right now, we even saw a few Tex Mex / Saloon type restaurants in Latvia, but try as they might, these places are missing something…and that something is usually anything remotely spicy.

That said, I thought I’d take a crack at making enchilada sauce. I’m not entirely sure what constitutes an authentic enchilada sauce and my research could not answer this either, but we really enjoyed this and it was a great opportunity to use some dried Mexican peppers we have in the pantry. Pantry space in our European flat = so very precious. Oh, and fun fact, enchilada comes from the verb enchilar, which means to add chilis to something. Yum!

Continue reading “Enchiladas with homemade sauce and pico de gallo”

Chocolate mousse

There’s a lot to celebrate today! It’s my little brother’s birthday and his lovely girlfriend starts her new job today.

On top of all that, our friend here in Luxembourg is having three wisdom teeth removed this week so I thought it might be nice for her to have a treat to look forward to during her recovery.

All of these things are perfect excuses for making chocolate mousse. Not that you ever need an excuse to eat chocolate, as you well know. Regular and random chocolate consumption is part of why being an adult is fun, and it also very good for your sanity.

My brother’s girlfriend is a sweet and thoughtful person and she gave me a lovely and personal gift for my bridal shower. Part of the gift was Paul Bocuse’s book Simply Delicious. Bocuse holds an astonishing 3 Michelin stars (!!!!!!!) and was named Chef of the Century by the Culinary Institute of America in 2001. The book is a collection of 100 of his favourite recipes. They are straightforward and simple to prepare at home.

As is common with Classical French cooking, the simplicity of the recipe demands the best ingredients possible. Therefore, this is one of those times where you want to splurge and buy the best chocolate your wallet can afford. You don’t need much, only about 125g / 4oz.

But first thing’s first. Go take your eggs and butter out of the fridge as they need to come out at least an hour before you begin. It is a lot easier to separate room temperature eggs, trust me. Now you can drink some coffee, read the rest of this post, surf around the internet, and then you’ll be good to go!

Just four ingredients! This does not bode well for me as I foresee a lot of chocolate mousse in my future. Sorry, pants…guess you won’t be fitting anymore.

Use a double boiler or a metal bowl over a pot of gently simmering water.  You really only need about 2 inches of water on a very gentle simmer.
  Stir your butter, chocolate, and sugar together to melt.
Continue stirring the chocolate, butter, and sugar mixture until the sugar has mostly dissolved. This took me an additional 5 minutes. Set aside to cool from hot to lukewarm.

Separate your egg yolks and whites. Add the whites to a large mixing bowl.

  Here, you will see the whites are foamy. This happens after just about a minute on high speed.

“Soft peaks” are shown here, this is when the whites are stiff enough to form peaks, but the peaks will not hold their shape entirely. Kind of like bubble bath.

These are stiff peaks and this is what you want. The whites will form peak shapes when you lift out your beaters and the shape will hold.

Close up!

Once your chocolate mixture has cooled, mix in your egg yolks.

Slide your egg whites into the chocolate bowl. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, fold the egg whites into the chocolate. Unlike stirring, folding is very gentle. I usually gently draw a figure 8 in the bowl.

You want to fold gently so as not to loose all the volume. It will take a few minutes but be patient and resist the urge to stir!

Finally, combined.

The mousse must now set in the fridge, covered, for at least 2 hours, preferably 24.

Here is the mini sample I made for JD, refrigerated for 4 hours.

Here’s the dish I got back. He wants you to know it’s “delicious and rich”.

Chocolate Mousse

Adapted from: Paul Bocuse, Simply Delicious

4 1/2oz (125g) Bittersweet chocolate
4 TBSP (50g) granulated sugar
2 tbsp (30g) Unsalted butter
4 eggs, separated

1. At least one hour ahead of time, take the butter and the eggs out of the refrigerator

2. Break the chocolate into pieces.

3. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler (or metal bowl above a saucepan of gently simmering water, as seen above), stirring gently as they begin to melt. Add the sugar a tablespoonful at a time until it has mostly dissolved. Pour into a mixing bowl and when the mixture is lukewarm, stir in the egg yolks.

4. In another mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Slide the egg whites into the bowl with the chocolate mixture and fold them in using a spatula or wooden spoon.

5. When the egg whites have been completely incorporated into the chocolate, place the mousse in the refrigerator for 2 hours or more before serving.

Eating Lille, France 

JD and I made the trek to Northern France last weekend to the city of Lille for their annual Braderie. It’s a festival that dates back to the 12th century and involves merchants selling off goods at the end of summer to make room for new stock. These days, it has evolved into a truly mind boggling sidewalk sale of new, used, and antique goods  for kilometer upon kilometer throughout the city.

Having arrived early on Friday, we stopped for a much needed refreshment at the 3 Brasseurs – it reminded me of being in Canada where this brewpub has a number of outposts. Seen here is my cherry beer, it went down very easily. Continue reading “Eating Lille, France “

Vegetarian moussaka

Since moving to the (landlocked) Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, JD and I have been eating more and more vegetarian meals. We’ve never been in the habit of eating meat every day and, sadly, I just haven’t found a source for fresh fish and seafood that isn’t eye-wateringly expensive.

This brings us to last week. We were getting ready to spend a long weekend in Lille, France and I wanted to make something that would result in two nights’ worth of dinner so we could do laundry,  pack, and dream about how many mussels we would eat at the annual Braderie festival in Lille. I had a faint memory of a delicious vegetarian moussaka with a very rich sauce that I had made once years ago when JD’s sister was visiting, and I wanted to see if I could recreate it. Continue reading “Vegetarian moussaka”

Prosciutto wrapped chicken stuffed with goat cheese and dates

Everyone now and then, we have someone in for dinner on a weeknight. This invitation also comes with a glimpse into the chaos of life mid-week, when you haven’t vacuumed or tidied, and there is a strong possibility of a few articles of clothing or some wet towels on the floor, and if you’re at my house, there may be coffee cups in random locations that you’ve forgotten to put in the dishwasher.

I am always looking for something simple and easy to make to serve to weeknight dinner guests. I assume they don’t want to eat leftover tacos (because there never are any, ha!) or scrambled eggs with whatever sad veggies I find in the crisper.

This is a recipe I like to keep in my back pocket since it is easy to make, doesn’t require very many ingredients, and those ingredients are easy to find (or substitute). You can also make this in advance to pop in the oven when your guests arrive. Continue reading “Prosciutto wrapped chicken stuffed with goat cheese and dates”

Neighbourhood Bakery Love

There is an ugly industrial warehouse in our neighbourhood with a secret. Since JD says I cannot keep a secret, I might as well spill the beans: Art-Is-In Bakery.

Honestly the most unique and delicious bread I’ve ever enjoyed. Amazing variety: potato and dill with chunks of roasted garlic, jalapeño and cheddar, 12 grain, among others.


They also make incredible pastries, sandwiches, and other goodies. Today I shared an amazing sandwich with my dearest cookie momster: tandoori chicken raita, pear chutney, oka cheese, and arugula.


Do check it out if you’re in the neighbourhood.

Art-is-in Bakery, 250 City Centre Avenue, #112, Ottawa, ONwww.artisinbakery.com

Laksa: Ticket to Flavourtown!

I cannot say enough positive things about Laksa, despite only have a vague idea of what it is or where originated. According to this mildly confusing Wikipedia article, vagueness is a characteristic of Laksa, being something that seems to be a mish mash recipe from various cultures.

What I can tell you with certainty is this: it’s a soup, it’s a snap to make and it’s absolutely delicious!

JD and I were lucky enough to be introduced to this culinary wonder by our friends Ashley and John, recent transplants to our city and dedicated Sunday dinner attendees. Ashley gave me the essential directions and ingredients and I went to our local Asian market to procure what I needed. As Ashley so aptly put it “It’s one of those things where you buy the ingredients but then you have them so they just live in your fridge until you’re ready to make it again”.

Laksa is something you can make to  suit your own tastes: milder, spicier, adding in the  veggies and protein that you want. Shrimp? Sure! Noodles? Why not! It’s very flexible – however note that it not necessarily suitable for vegetarians – the Laksa paste I bought had shrimp listed in the ingredients.

One administrative item before we get on to the good part – there is now a “Print & PDF” button at the bottom of my posts. This nifty feature allows you to print posts and recipes (there a button you can check to remove images) or save them as .pdf files on your computer. Handy! I am testing this option so if there is something more convenient that you can suggest, please do so.

For the Laksa that JD and I ate, I decided on onions, mushrooms, and some leftover chicken. So slice a large onion, add to your large soup pot with some oil and cook over medium heat until onion softens, about 5 minutes. (On that note, I feel that I post so many onion photos that the alternate title for this blog could be “photos of sliced onions by Julia”.)


Go ahead and slice some mushrooms –  I used basic white mushrooms but you could use any variety. Add them to the onions and cook, stirring, 2-3 more minutes. Giving them time to simmer in the soup is key according to Ashley: “it makes them into mushroomy balls of laksa flavoured deliciousness”.


Add  a couple of tablespoons of black bean paste


Add a teaspoon (to start) of  ground chilies in oil with garlic – the bottle of which is apparently impossible to photograph (apologies!)


Add your Laksa paste – I could only find this in a single-pot making packet but Ashley assures me that a well-stocked Asian market will have jars of Laksa paste. If you have a packet, add it all. If you have a jar, start with 3-4 tbsp and add more to taste, if needed. She also suggests a 2:1 ratio of Laksa paste to black bean paste.


Add one can of coconut milk and about 3 cups chicken broth


Bring soup to a simmer, cover, and continue simmering for about 15 minutes until vegetables are soft and flavours have blended


Add your protein of choice – I used leftover chicken from a roasted chicken I made earlier in the week but shrimp or tofu would also be great


Ashley says “You want that delicious chili oil action happening”, as shown below


Then you want to prep your herbs – this really takes the soup to the next level. Some delicious cilantro and thai basil


Add your chopped cilantro and thai basil to your soup bowls with some fresh lime wedges


If you’re crazy like we are, you can also add some additional chili paste to your soup bowl (also pour yourself a big glass of water)


Ladle Laksa into bowls and enjoy!



Serves 4


1 large Onion, sliced thinly

2 cloves Garlic, minced (I forgot both the garlic and ginger and almost didn’t notice, so you can omit if you wish)

1 tsp Ginger, minced

1/2 lb Mushrooms, sliced

1 packet Laksa paste* or 3-4 TBSP of Laksa paste from a jar

2 tsp Ground chili with fried garlic paste* (less if you like things less spicy, omit if you want it mild)

2 TBSP Black bean paste* (also known as black bean sauce)

1 can Coconut milk

3 cups Chicken broth

2 cups Chicken, cooked and shredded, or protein of your choice

Chopped cilantro

Chopped thai basil

Fresh lime

* These ingredients can be picked up at your local Asian market.

  1. Slice onion and add to your large soup pot with some oil and cook over medium heat until onion softens, about 5 minutes.

  2. Slice your mushrooms, mince ginger and garlic and add to pot. Cook an additional 2-3 minutes.

  3. Add black bean paste, chili paste, Laksa paste, coconut milk, and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and continue cooking, covered, for about 15 minutes until flavours have combined. Add chicken and simmer 5 more minutes.

  4. Chop herbs and add to soup bowls. Add fresh lime wedges to bowl or serve alongside.

  5. Ladle soup into bowls and enjoy.

Smoky Chorizo & Cabbage Soup

Despite the heat, I have been reluctant to let go of some of the principal comforts of winter, including soup and sleeping with a giant duvet. Cabbage soup typically gets a bad rap but I love the combination of hearty and healthy. This is a riff on another version I make often and it is  so much more than the sum of its parts. Plus, the addition of celeriac (aka celery root) gives it something special since it is a lighter, less starchy root with a vague but yummy flavour of celery salt. This is a lovely, smoky soup that is very hearty but won’t weigh you down. Especially since you have all those springtime things to do while your bum print fades from the couch until winter comes round again…

By the way, JD ate three bowls in a row so you know this must pass muster. Alright, on to the directions:

First chop a couple of slice of smoked bacon. I use applewood smoked, 3 thick slices will do nicely.


Then grab yourself a small spicy chorizo (you may use mild if you prefer)chorizo

  Chop your chorizo into coins, like soDSC_8574

And cook over medium-high heat, so that bacon starts to crisp and the chorizo starts to release its delicious red oil


Add your old friends onion and garlicDSC_8576

Now you can either slice a small cabbage, or half of a large one (so pretty)DSC_8579

Cabbage roughly slicedDSC_8582

Add to your pot and continue to cook on medium heat. It looks daunting at first, but I assure you that it will cook downDSC_8584

This is a celery root. It is ugly but delicious. I cut away the tops and sides and peel any leftover bits with a vegetable peeler.DSC_8587

Roughly chop your celery root into chunksDSC_8591

Add two or three fresh tomatoes, choppedDSC_8595

Add some tomato paste and about 4.5 cups of chicken broth, you want the cabbage to be nearly covered.

This is my trick for tomato paste: buy a large can, brush an ice cube tray with olive oil or spray with cooking spray, fill cubes with tomato paste, freeze, and pop out of tray and store in a plastic bag in the freezer. Saves so much time and effort when you need to add tomato paste to a recipe.


So easy, no?


Once you’ve added your celery root, tomatoes, tomato paste, and chicken broth, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes until cabbage has shrunk significantlyDSC_8599

Taste and adjust seasoning. At this point you may also need to add a little more water or stock, depending on how soupy you like it. I added pepper, a pinch of salt, some red pepper flakes. Spanish smoked paprika would also be delicious if you have it on hand. Let simmer another 10 minutes and serve.DSC_8605

Smoky Chorizo and Cabbage Soup

Serves 4 with leftovers


1 small hot chorizo sausage, sliced into coins

3-4 slices of bacon, preferably a smoked variety, chopped

1 medium onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 small cabbage,  core removed and sliced (or 1/2 a large)

4.5 cups chicken broth

1 small celery root (aka celeriac), peeled and chopped into chunks

2-3 Roma or vine tomatoes, chopped

2 TBSP tomato paste

Salt, pepper, and hot pepper flakes, to taste

  1. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, cook bacon and chorizo until bacon starts to get crispy and chorizo releases its delicious red oil, about 5 minute. If you have more than 2 or 3 tbsp of fat in your pan, remove excess with a spoon.

  2. Add sliced onion and minced garlic, lower heat to medium, and continue to cook while onion softens and garlic becomes aromatic, 5 minutes more.

  3. Add sliced cabbage and stir gently to coat. While you prep the rest of your ingredients, stir cabbage periodically as it cooks down.

  4. Add celery root, chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, and broth to the pot so that cabbage is nearly covered. Cover and allow to simmer for 20-25 minutes until cabbage has greatly shrunk in size and is very soft.

  5. Taste soup and adjust seasonings – you may need a pinch of salt, some pepper, and some hot pepper flakes. Allow to simmer 10 more minutes so that flavours combine.

  6. Serve and enjoy

    More to come!

Mini Beef Pies for Picnic Day

Oh, summer, you’ve been eating up all my time with swimming, adventures, bridesmaid duties, house renovations, among other fun things. Today is picnic day and I am currently blogging in my bathing suit. Just keeping it classy, you know. Having said that, here is a quick recipe for a great picnic lunch. Something other than the ubiquitous sandwich-that-sits-in-the-sun-all-morning. To break up the time spent in a steaming hot kitchen, I made the filling the night before and assembled and baked the pies this morning. Enjoy!

Mini Beef Pies for Picnic Day

yields 12 mini pies

1 package prepared pie crust (I use pillsbury, 2 crusts per package)

1 lb extra lean ground beef

1 medium onion, minced

1 medium carrot, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 knorr homestyle beef stock cube (or 1 bouillion cube but they are just not as good!)

1 cup water

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp dijon mustard

2 tbsp BBQ sauce of your choice

2 tbsp flour

1/2 cup frozen green peas

1. Brown ground beef in a skillet until no longer pink. Drain excess fat, return beef to skillet, and add onion, carrot, and garlic. Cook over medium heat until veggies begin to soften, about 4-5 minutes.

2. Add stock, water, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and BBQ sauce to the beef mixture. Stir until well combined, turn heat to low, and let simmer 15-20 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Sprinkle flour over the beef mixture and stir until well combined. The flour will absorb the excess liquid and thicken the mixture. Set aside.

3. Roll out one prepared pie crust so that you increase the size of your crust by 50%. This gave me enough crust to make 12 mini beef pies in my muffin tin. Using a large, round cookie cutter or plastic container, cut out 6 circles of crust and fit them into your muffin pan. Put your your pastry scraps aside and repeat with second crust, reserving pastry scraps, so that you have the shell for 12 mini pies. The remaining pastry will form the lids.

4. Fill muffin cups with your beef filling. For me, this meant one large spoonful per muffin cup. Roll out your remaining pastry and, using a small, round cookie cutter or a drinking glass, cut out 12 pastry circles. Place pastry circles on top of your mini pies and, using your fingers, pinch together the pastry so the pies are sealed. Cut a slit in each mini pie to vent.

5. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Serve hot or cold or on a picnic.

June Foodie Pen Pal

Foodie Pen Pal was so much fun! Especially for someone who is a dedicated letter-writer and mailbox stalker like me. I love sending mail (almost as much as receiving it) and have an embarassingly large collection of stationary. I am also still in touch with my childhood pen pal, we started writing to each other at 12 years old. But I digress…

This was my first month participating in Foodie Pen Pal – a program set up for bloggers and readers by Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean. It’s a fun program where you are matched up with another Foodie (either a blogger or a reader) and you put together a box of treats for them valued at $15. You also include a note or recipe.

I was thrilled to receive a box from Tracey in Manitoba. It was filled with delicious local goodies. Tracey wrote me a lovely letter about a seasonal business in Manitoba called Crampton’s Market. Crampton’s sells local products along with fresh produce – check of some of the recipes from Crampton’s Market here.

Contents of the box:

The Buck Shots I ate right away, as once my inner snacking monster laid eyes on them, they were goners. I loved both the BBQ and the Dill pickle flavour and was really intrigued by the nuttiness and crunchiness of the buckwheat. Be warned, they are pretty addictive.

JD and I polished off the corn chips this week. I have to say, these were some of the lightest corn chips I have ever had. They were delicious and held up surprisingly well after having been shipped across the country.

JD was so excited when I told him about the jam and honey. I said I would make biscuits some morning so we could sample and he said “Can that day be TODAY?!”

I made some baking powder biscuits this morning and they were the perfect vehicle for honey and jam. Saskatoon berry reminds me of blueberry a little bit, and it was a real treat for us. The honey was terrific – really creamy and lovely and not at all overpowering.

I have big plans for this jam – I might have to hide it from JD. There is a pork tenderloin in my freezer that wants to get better acquainted with it!

Warm biscuits with honey, butter, and jam with cups of hot coffee made for a really terrific breakfast to kick off the weekend. Highly recommended when you want something that feels special but don’t want to spend a lot of time preparing it in the kitchen. Plus everything slathered in honey is good, right?

Baking Power Biscuits

2 cups all purpose flour

5 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1/4 cup butter, softened to room temperature

3/4 cup milk

1. Preheat oven to 450.

2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add butter and blend with your hands until mixture resembles cornmeal and does not have any large lumps of butter remaining.

3. Slowly add milk and mix until you form a ball (I did this mostly with my hands).

4. Pat or roll out dough to 1/2 inch on a floured surface. Using a biscuit cutter or a drinking glass, cut out biscuits. Do not twist the glasses (press straight down, pull straight up) or the biscuits will not rise properly.

5. Bake in preheated oven for 12 minutes. Serve warm with butter, jam, and honey.

Thank you so much for the very thoughtful goodies, Tracey! It was a real treat…
P.s. JD and I are traveling next month so I will miss foodie pen pal – hope to do it again in August.