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.
  Butter!
  Chocolate!
  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.

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”

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”.)

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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”.

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Add  a couple of tablespoons of black bean paste

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

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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.

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

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

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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

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

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

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

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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)

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Ladle Laksa into bowls and enjoy!

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Laksa

Serves 4

Ingredients

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.

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.

Shrimp Salsa for Hunan Hand Awareness Week

Hunan hand. It’s serious. So serious in fact that I will reference this scholarly medical definition. I am shocked that more bloggers have not spoken out about this condition sweeping through kitchens all over the world. Well, I am a hunan hand survivor and this is my story.

A few weeks ago I was spending a nice afternoon with my lovely friend Christine. We started talking about a sushi-making party she once threw, she reminded me that I had sung “Grandma Got Runover by a Reindeer” at Karaoke, and I recalled that JD and I had been 3 hours late to the party – because I had hunan hand.

HH (as I like to call it) is a chili burn that you get after handling hot peppers – the capsaicin from the peppers causes skin to have an [often intense] burning sensation. On that fateful night, JD and I had been making hot pepper jelly to give away for Christmas. I had minced over 1lb of jalapenos… the resulting HH caused us to try soaking my hand in milk, water, and even vodka! Let me tell you, it was a waste of perfectly good vodka. After lots of fretting (by me), drinking (by JD), and googling (by both), we reasoned that the only thing that could make HH go away was time. Hence being 3 hours late for the party, missing all the sushi making and arriving only in time for the sushi eating, and obviously, the karaoke.

Although I survived that incident relatively unscathed, I never looked at a hot pepper the same way again. Do yourself a favour – wear gloves, or at least remember to periodically rinse your hands in cold water.

This recipe comes from Gina at Skinnytaste and made a terrific summer meal – would probably also make a great party dip. Next time, I’m going to add some minced garlic.

Juice two limes – or the biggest lime you can find. This lime was so huge, I wondered if it was juicing with steroids

Chop your veggies and herbs

Add your chopped, cooked shrimp

Mix well and allow the flavours to combine in your fridge for a minimum of one hour

JD version: shrimp salsa taco with avocado and old white cheddar

Julia version: shrimp salsa lettuce wraps

Highly customizable – could add black beans, corn, other seafood…yum!

Hot Lobster Dip

Oh, hello. I didn’t see you there. Please allow me to set down my champagne and diamonds so I may tell you all about the hot lobster dip we just enjoyed. You simply must try it, darling.

The secret to why we were eating lobster dip on a Monday night is this: I bought the lobster (canned, frozen, and of excellent quality) at Costco for $14.99. A small price tag on a decadent pay off.

And let me tell you, this stuff is good. No, it isn’t exactly the same as fresh lobster – but then again, you don’t have to cook live lobsters and tear them apart, now do you? Plus, I consider myself something of a lifelong lobster connoisseur (LLC) so you can trust me. When I was growing up in Newfoundland, my parents had a cabin on the south side of  North Harbour – I kid you not – and they always seemed to have a friend who was a lobster fisherman who would supply us with fresh lobster. My dad always claimed that the colder the ocean, the sweeter the lobster meat and held the [possibly biased] opinion that Newfoundland lobster was the best. I have many fond memories of coming home from school and seeing my dad out on our back deck with a cooler and a kiddie pool filled with salt water and live lobsters. He would boil them on the back deck on a Coleman propane burner and then shell the lobsters for us so as not to bring the carnage into the house – what a gentleman, I know. He also loved to remind me that, at age 7 while riding in his truck, I announced “Daddy, lobsters couldn’t get any tastier if they tried!”

Historically (my dad also liked to remind us of this all the time), lobster was consider a poor man’s food and was generally considered by most as bottom feeders that were unfit to eat. Ah, how the times change.

This dip is rich but very delicious.

Cut your block of cream cheese into cubes

Add your melted garlic butter to the cream cheese

Add half a chopped onion, old bay seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, and sriracha sauce and mix well.

Thoroughly drain your lobster meat and chop roughly – look at those lobster knuckles and claws, yum!

Add lobster meat and shredded cheese and fold together gently until combined

Add mixture to a medium sized baking dish and bake for 30 minutes at 375 degrees or until hot and bubbly

Like so!

Get your “dippers” and go crazy! JD and I sure did…! Sweet yellow peppers, radishes, celery and rye toast.

Hot Lobster Dip

8oz block of cream cheese, softened

3 tbsp of butter melted with 2 cloves of minced garlic

1/2 a small onion, chopped

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp sriracha sauce or other hot sauce

1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning

1/2 cup shredded extra old white cheddar

320g can of frozen lobster meat, thawed and drained

Cut cream cheese into cubes. Melt butter and garlic and allow to simmer for 30 seconds. Add melted garlic butter, onion, sriracha, Worcestershire sauce, and Old Bay seasoning and stir to thoroughly combine. Roughly chop your drained lobster meat and gently fold lobster and the shredded cheese into the mixture. Spread into an oven-proof dish and bake for 30 minutes at 375 until dip is browned on top and bubbling. Enjoy with veggies, toasted bread, crackers, tortilla, or a spoon.

Marinated Grilled Zucchini

Your mother called. She wants you to eat more green vegetables. And if she is anything like my mother, she also wants you to clean your cutlery drawer, find out what your brother’s been up to, and teach her  more slang terms so she can impress her “peeps”.  Love you, mom!

On Friday, JD and I spend a completely lovely evening BBQing, drinking, and being silly with our friends K. and C. and their little girl, MJ. On the menu: sausages from the Italian butcher across the street, couscous salad with cherry tomatoes, grilled zucchini, and an impressive amount of beer and vodka.

This is a very quick side dish that can be put together and cooked in under 15 minutes. It also makes a nice alternative to a plain jane salad. I am not a lover of giant bowls of lettuce + assorted diced vegetables dug from the bowels of the refrigerator so I’m always looking for different ways to get veggies in. Plus, grilling things over open flames is really fun.

Marinated Grilled Zucchini

Serves 4 as a side dish

2 large zucchini, cut into 1/2″ pieces

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp lemon juice

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp black pepper

a pinch of salt

I like to slice my zucchini on the diagonal because I am quite fancy, really.

Mix together all your ingredients and toss with zucchini. Let marinate about 5-10 minutes (although this is optional).

Grill about 1 minute per side over medium high heat – or better yet, have someone do it for you! Credit here goes to our friend, C.

Enjoy! This is the gluten-free, low carb version for me….(I also ate many more tomatoes and zucchinis than shown)…

And here’s the JD version with brown rice couscous salad included. All accounts stated that the couscous was pretty delicious – we used this garlic and olive oil kind.

All in all a great evening with some great friends – hopefully soon to be repeated. JD and I have been lucky to learn a lot about parenting from K. and C. They even let us babysit their little girl when she was only 8 hours old – they were in the next room – but it was still an experience I won’t soon forget. Happy Mother’s day to my dear friend K. – I am sure your day will be filled with cuddles and giggles!

From left: me, K., and Miss MJ

The Fog of Baking

I think you know what I’m talking about – that fragrant, steamy cloud that seeps out of your oven only to wind its way through your house, perfuming every nook and cranny. Sigh. Of course, a baking fog isn’t guaranteed every time. It might not happen when you’re making something fun and pretty like cookies. There is one trusty loaf that will always produce a lovely scented fog – banana bread.

This past weekend we spent time on the mothership in London, ON. JD’s mothership, actually, so there was quite a bit of tea (and wine) drinking, crafting, and scrabble playing.  In an effort to consume at least the majority of our fruits and veggies, I was faced with the option of either making banana-something or letting the bananas spoil while we were away for 5 days. There is a third option, I’m sure you realize by now: sending the bananas to the freezer. I try not to do this as it always comes with a guilty feeling of I-promise-I-will-someday-bake-you-into-something-yummy-even-though-you’ll-turn-black-and-unappealing-and-I-actively-avoid-looking-at-you-when-I-open-the-freezer.

No, not the freezer!

So we left armed with Banana bread, some fruit from our basket and a jar of pickled carrots. It was a great weekend. I am very much looking forward to returning for the Art Exhibition of JD’s sister’s paintings  in January. She happens to be wildly talented but is very quiet about that. Her exhibition will be a series of those “slightly seedy neighbours” – corner stores. How cool is that?

Anyway, banana bread. This is more of a cake-like bread that encourages you to slather something on it. Be that butter, honey or peanut butter…I will leave it in your capable hands.

Brown Sugar Banana Bread Adapated from Allrecipes.com

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup + 2tbsp brown sugar, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 or 4 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and 1 cup of brown sugar until light and fluffy. When you cream butter and sugar together, they will lighten a few shades. Stir in the eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition.

Just beat it..
Stir in vanilla and banana
I am a lazy banana masher

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt.

Blend the banana mixture into the flour mixture; stir just to combine.

Yum, yum batter
Fold in chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pan and sprinkle with brown sugar.
Extra brown sugar....not really necessary...or is it?

Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted into center of loaf comes out clean.

and voila!

So there you have it, a lovely and sturdy loaf for slicing into and a house where every room smells like banana bread. At least for a little while.

Quick chicken soup!

Yesterday, the remains of a roasted chicken that I had made for supper a few days’ prior was giving me the eye from its corner of the fridge. As it was raining and miserable, chicken soup was a natural fate for leftovers.

JD and I are eating fewer and fewer processed foods these days, especially things that are high in refined carbohydrates (bread, pasta, etc.). Contrary to what you would think, this actually leaves me feeling more satisfied with less cravings for sweets or otherwise. That is what led me to make a chicken soup with egg noodles made of actual eggs. I was concerned it would turn out strange and  be badly received but JD said he loved it and “rationed his noodles” because he enjoyed them so much.

Chicken soup wants to get cozy with you

Very quick chicken soup with ‘egg noodles’

  • 2.5 cups cooked chicken, chopped into bite-size pieces (can use leftovers or a store bought rotisserie bird, skin removed)
  • 1.5  boxes low sodium chicken stock
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb turnip or rutabaga, peeled and cut into cubes (I cheated and used the pre-cut and washed variety you can now buy at the grocery store)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp dried dill, divided
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, grated or minced
  • fresh pepper
  1. In a large pot over medium heat, add olive oil, onions, celery and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add chicken stock, turnip, ginger, pepper and half of the dill. Simmer until turnip is cooked but not mushy, about 10-15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, make your noodles. Head a non-stick skilled over medium-low heat. Beat both eggs, all of the parsley and half of the dill together. When skillet is hot, spray with non stick spray and pour half the egg mixture in to coat. Cook about 1 minute until set and flip to cook the other side. Repeat. You will have two thin discs of cooked egg. When cool, slice cooked egg discs into thin strips or ‘noodles’.
  4. Add chicken and ‘noodles’ to pot and continue to simmer until heated through. Taste soup to adjust for seasoning and serve.

 

A photo tutorial and the original recipe for egg noodles can be found here. I used only 2 eggs since I was not making a huge amount of soup. It was just right.