In my kitchen – favourite tools

My kitchen has been pretty sad lately. It’s September which means work and gym-attendance-guilt are both in high gear. This adds up to little kitchen action. Oh ya, and I’m sick.

This weekend, I will be making an awesome banana cake from Dorie Greenspan with caramel sauce and… well, it’ll be awesome! I think I’m also going to try to make gnocchi… will let you know how that goes!

In the meantime, I thought I’d cover some of my favourite kitchen tools.

While any well stocked kitchen should have the basic sharp knives, cutting boards, and quality pots, there are a few gadgets that make my life easier.

Microplane: Seriously, you have not lived until you have zested a lemon with a microplane. When I was a kid I remember trying to grate lemon zest for my mom on the cheese grater. What a royal mess. It also only resulted in like ½ teaspoon of zest from one lemon. The microplane on the other hand will produce bounties of light, fluffy zest! It’s also great for grating cheese, specifically Parmesan. It makes light airy curls that melt superbly. Damn I sound like a snob. Trust me on the microplane. I have this one but they are widely available in a variety of brands.

Bench Scraper: an extra hand in the kitchen!

Sidebar – I originally typed “Ben Scraper” hilarious to me as I may have a sibling named Ben…

Moving on… this tool is super handy for scooping things from cutting board to stovetop, for cutting things like pasty and dough, and generally just being helpful as an extra lifter. I have this one but a variety of sizes and styles are available at most kitchen supply/gadget stores. May also be called a pastry scraper.

Lemon juicer: There are many styles out there of lemon juicers and I have found this one to be the easiest to use and produces the most juice. It looks slightly deceiving… you start by cutting your lemon or lime in half and then placing one half in the press with the cut side down… you follow? When you squeeze the ends together, it actually flips the lime inside-out. It’s pretty cool and available from a variety of sources. I have this one.

What are your favourite tools?

Posted in In My Kitchen | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Fall Kitchen to-do list

Inspired by this post from Brown Eyed Baker, here are a few items I’d like to conquer this fall:

  1. Chicken Corn Chowder – my family spent 7 Christmases in Banff and the chicken corn chowder at the Coyote Cafe is TO. DIE. FOR. I want to attempt to recreate it.
  2. Vegetarian Chili – I have a great recipe for meat chilli posted here but I’d like to attempt a vegetarian alternative. I’m thinking I’ll try this recipe first.
  3. BETTER mashed potatoes – my mashed potatoes aren’t great…they deserve an “NI” or “needs improvement” if I was still in grade 3.
  4. Caesar Salad – I’ve tried a few different methods and dressings but haven’t settled on one. Came close the other day but then I was still tasting garlic 24 hrs later so I think I need to take a 2nd try.
  5. PIE CRUST – I have a deep dark secret. I have never successfully made a decent pie crust. I have a really awesome mother who comes to visit 2ce a year and makes me a dozen crusts. She even rolls them out on a pizza pan and I store the stack in the freezer (waxed paper between each). I am hanging my head in shame… but hopefully not for much longer!

A few other goals for the fall include:

  2. Posting on some of my favourite kitchen tools
  3. Making thanksgiving dinner for the 2nd time. First time was a fluke and just about everything turned out well. Second time means I need to up the ante.

Do you have a great recipe for any of the items above? Please share! I’d love to try them.

Posted in Update | 3 Comments

Key Lime Pie Cupcakes

I’ve made these a few times this summer. They travel really well and are a great alternative to making a pie. There’s no cutting or forks required. They also have a great fresh, cool summer taste.

This recipe is adapted from Joy of Baking.



  • 1 + ¼ cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 5-6 tbsp butter, melted


  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 300 ml Sweetened condensed milk1
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 tsp lime zest

Makes 12 regular sized cupcakes2.

Prep time: 20 minutes

Preheat oven to 350F.

For the crust, melt the better in the microwave. Combine melted butter with graham crumbs and sugar. This will result in a moist, crumbly mixture.

Line a regular sized muffin pan with cupcake papers. Evenly distribute the crumb mixture into the 12 cups. Press into the bottom of the cups with your fingers or a spoon.

Bake crust for 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.

To prepare the filling: Add the egg yolks to a large bowl and beat with a hand mixer for 2-3 minutes. Alernatively you can use a stand up mixer. Once the yolks are pale and fluffy, turn the mixer to low and stream in the sweetened condensed milk. Continue to beat for 3 minutes. Add the lime juice and zest.

Divide the prepared filling into the crust cups.

Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool. Once cool, refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

To serve, top with whipped cream or if you’re feeling lazy… redi-whip.



  1. The original recipe calls for 400 ml of sweetened condensed milk (SCM). At my grocery store, SCM comes in 300 ml cans. There’s no way that I will use the remnants of a can of SCM so I made the executive decision to use just 300 ml (a.k.a one can). SCM is VERY sweet so the cupcakes didn’t suffer. If, at your local grocery store, the SCM comes in larger cans then by all means give it a whirl but this recipe doesn’t need it. Does this mean I can call them low-fat cupcakes?
  2. To make a 9” pie, follow the same instructions. Grease the pie plate and adjust the baking time of the filling to 10-15 minutes.
Posted in baking | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Link Love

Who else loves cooking in the summer? The farmers market here is the greatest place on earth (Sorry Disney). Ontario Strawberries are currently flooding the aisles, the smell is intoxicating.

No new recipe today but here is a handful of tasty dishes I have made over the past few weeks:

Pulled Pork from My Baking Addiction– I made it as written and it was perfect

Coleslaw from My Baking Addiction– I made 1.5 times this recipe and wanted to eat 3 times the results. Classic, tasty. Perfect with the pulled pork.

Crash Potatoes from The Pioneer Woman – I boiled garlic with the potatoes and then smooshed it on top before putting in the oven

(Not) Red Velvet Cookies from Whipperberry – I couldn’t find red velvet cake mix so I used chocolate, easiest cookies I’ve ever made

Caprese Salad from Steamy Kitchen – this dressing is TO. DIE. FOR. Trust. I made it with large diced tomatoes rather than stacking

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie from Anna Olson– It was perfect.

Rhubarb Streusel Muffins from Smitten Kitchen– divine (rhubarb is clearly in season)

Key-Lime pie from Joy of Baking – I tuned them into cupcakes. I WILL post that recipe, it’s awesome.

Posted in Update | Leave a comment

Wild Rice Casserole

Good lord this is one of my most favourite things! Well, I suppose I’ve said that before about food… bacon… pecan pie, guacamole… but this time I mean it! This casserole came into my life 5 years ago. To be fair I suppose it’s been around my whole life but I only started eating it 5 years ago. That means I have 20 years to make up for! I better start cooking.

Would you believe I was a picky eater as a child? I know, how dare I! I didn’t like mushrooms. I didn’t like wild rice. I really just didn’t like anything but crackers and cheese. Then, one thanksgiving I was invited to a boyfriend’s house and I offered to make something. My mom suggested this casserole as it’s a crowd pleaser. It was a tough sell but I did it and I’ve never looked back. Trust me on this one.


  • ¾ cup (uncooked) brown or white rice
  • 1 cup (uncooked) long-grain wild rice1
  • 4 cups (approx 1 bunch) broccoli florets
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, small diced
  • 1 tsp chopped garlic
  • 3 cans cream of mushroom soup2
  • ½ cup cream or milk (whatever you’ve got)
  • 2 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese, separated
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt & Pepper

Prep time 1 hour

Feeds a crowd

Cook white or brown rice according to package. Set aside.

If you know how to cook wild rice, do that too. If not… pour rice into a saucepan and fill with water to about 1 inch above rice. Bring to a boil; allow rice to boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and drain water. Rinse rice with cold water and then re-fill back to 1 inch above rice. Allow rice to sit in this cold water for 45 minutes to an hour. After this, put the pot back on the stove (you can leave the same water in the pot) and once again bring it up to a boil and allow rice to boil for 20 minutes. After this is complete the grain should mostly be popped open and curled, showing a light grey inside. Drain any excess water. The rice is done!

Steam the broccoli florets until tender.

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, add the oil and onions. Cook until translucent and add garlic. Allow garlic to cook for a minute or two. Reduce heat to medium-low and add all 3 cans of soup, cream or milk, 1 cup of cheese, salt and pepper, and half of the parsley. Simmer everything together for a few minutes. Stir in both types of rice. Allow to simmer for an additional 5 minutes.

In a large casserole dish or lasagne pan, spoon in half of the rice/soup mixture. Next, spoon in all of the cooked broccoli and then cover with the remaining rice/soup mixture. Top with the remaining grated cheese and parsley4.

Bake uncovered for 45 minutes or until cheese is bubbly on top.

Some photos

First layer of rice mixture

Adding the broccoli

Next layer of rice mixture

Finally the cheese & parsely

And just out of the oven



  1. Most large grocery stores carry pure wild rice in the bulk food section; it’s long grain and black. Don’t use the pre-mixed stuff, there’s almost no wild-rice in it.
  2. I use Campbell’s low sodium soup. If you choose a different brand, be sure to choose one that is condensed. If you choose a brand that already has water added to it, your mixture will be very thin.
  3. Overall there are a lot of steps in this recipe. Often I’ll cook both the rices the night before. You can even make the entire rice/soup mixture the night before. If you’re baking the casserole with a rice/soup mixture that has just been removed from the fridge, add an additional 10 minutes to the bake time.
  4. At this point you can put the casserole in the fridge and then bake it once you’re ready to serve or once you get to your potluck etc.
Posted in dinner | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Flourless Chocolate Cake

In the fall I helped a friend get to the emergency room after hurting her ankle in a frisbee game. A few weeks later she showed up with David Lebovitz’s “Ready for Dessert” as a thank-you. Best deal I ever made!

This cake is very easy to make and you can make it days ahead. It’s a great addition to a dessert spread if you have any gluten-free eaters at your table.


  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 6 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup butter
  • 12 oz bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate1

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray or butter a 9” spring form pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment. Wrap the bottom of the pan tightly with foil.

Combine the eggs and sugar in a bowl, set aside.

Prepare a double boiler over medium-high heat2. Add the butter and chocolate, stirring constantly until completely melted. Remove from heat and stir until all the lumps are gone.

Slowly, pour the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture stirring constantly. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Place the pan in a large roasting pan to prepare the water bath. Add water to the roasting pan until it’s about an inch up the sides of the cake pan but not over the foil. You don’t want the water to get into the cake pan. Now that the water bath is ready, cover the cake pan tightly with foil.

Now we have – greased pan, with parchment on the bottom, bottom of pan wrapped in foil, batter in pan, placed in water bath, top of pan covered in foil. Phewf!

Place the roasting dish in the oven and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour + 15 minutes. When the cake is done you should be able to touch the top of the cake and have your finger come away clean. Allow to completely cool and place in the refrigerator until ready to serve. I recommend serving it with vanilla ice cream.

Let’s see some pictures!

Double boiler action

Pouring batter into prepared pan

Into the oven, all covered etc

Cooling, mine cracked :(

And ready to eat! Note the size of the piece – this cake is RICH!


  1. I usually end up using a combo of chocolate, whatever I have in the cupboard. Remember that 1/3 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips equals 2 oz of chocolate.
  2. My double boiler is a steel bowl over a large pot of simmering water, you can also use a glass bowl. Remember that the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water.
Posted in baking | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Moroccan Chick Pea Stew

My mom has been testing out the vegan waters and has come up with some pretty tasty stuff. I’m not sure if I’m ready for a vegan diet but I’ve heard only good things. I’ve heard there’s no crash after a big meal and energy levels are much higher. I think I’ll make a better effort to bring some of these recipes into my day-to-day cooking.

This stew comes together very quickly and made a great week-night meal.


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large onions, diced large (about 1.5 cups)
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1  large carrot, diced to double the size of a chick pea (about 1 cup)
  • 1 celery stalk, diced same as carrot (about ¾ cup)
  • 1 green pepper, diced same as carrot (about 1 cup)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1.5 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 2 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and diced same as carrot
  • 1 – 28oz can diced or whole tomatoes
  • 1 – 19oz can chick peas, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup white wine or chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • Salt & pepper

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, carrot, celery, and green pepper. Cook until vegetables soften. You’ll want the carrots and celery well on their way to being soft. Add the cinnamon, paprika, cumin seeds, and turmeric. Simmer 1 minute and then add raisins, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, chick peas, wine/stock, and chilli powder. Stir all ingredients together and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until sweet potatoes are tender, 20-30 minutes. Be careful not to stir too much as the sweet potatoes become fragile and mushy if they cook too long. This is why you want your carrot and celery mixture to be quite soft as there isn’t room for unlimited cooking time. Capisce?

Everything in the pot

The stew is ready to eat once the potatoes are done but as with most stews this is better the second day!

Hello dinner!

Posted in dinner | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Fried Onion Dip

One of my favourite and oldest cookbooks is The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten. It’s full of classic recipes with full, rich flavours. I find myself returning again and again to this dip. It’s a staple for entertaining and keeps well in the fridge for leftovers.


  • 2 + ½ cup small diced Spanish onions
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 4 oz or ½ block cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup sour cream

Prep time 40 mins

Makes 2 cups

Add butter and vegetable oil to a frying pan, heat to medium high. Add onions, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Sauté for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and allow onions to continue to caramelize for 20 minutes. Your house should smell like heaven right now. Remove from heat, allow to cool. Resist temptation to eat the whole pan.

In a medium bowl, add cream cheese, sour cream, and mayonnaise. With an electric mixer or a powerful wrist, whip these together until smooth. Fold in the cooled onion mixture, including all juices from the pan.

Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to one week. Goes well with fresh veggies, crackers, or chips.

Did I mention it tastes just like Helluva’ Good?

Posted in snacks | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

In an effort to get more posts up there may be fewer pictures for now.

On to the food!

This week I was fortunate enough to host a Tupperware party with some girlfriends. Given that I spend so much time in my kitchen I have no issues spending a bit of money on well-made, durable, and reliable kitchen gadgets. How can I resist buying things from a company whose products have lasted 30+ years with regular use in my own mom’s kitchen? Ya, I thought so. It also gave me an opportunity to make so tasty snacks!

This recipe makes quite a lot of dip and I was worried I would have to throw a lot out. Well, turns out it is fantastic and a room full of girls will do a quick job of eating it up. It’s not as creamy as most restaurants and doesn’t have a heavy taste, I found it to have just the right balance!

This recipe comes from a fellow food-blogger, Brown Eyed Baker.


  • 1 can (14 oz) artichoke hearts, drained1
  • 1 package (10 oz/500g) frozen, chopped spinach2
  • 1 ½ cups grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 ½ cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
  • 4 oz (½ block) cream cheese3
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Paprika, salt, pepper

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Baking time: 30 minutes

Serves a crowd

Preheat oven to 350F.

Open your artichoke hearts and drain them well, turn out onto a cutting board and chop finely. Place in a large bowl.

Pour your spinach into a colander in the sink and allow to defrost and drain over several hours. Alternatively you can put the spinach in the microwave for 30 second intervals until you can break it apart with your fingers. Once you’ve reached this step, pour your thawed spinach into a colander and with a few sheets of paper towel squeeze out the moisture. Add spinach to the bowl with the artichokes.

To the bowl add the cream cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise. Add both of the grated cheeses, reserving a ¼ cup of each to sprinkle over the top. Combine everything with a spatula. Add paprika, salt and pepper to taste.

Spread the mixture into a 1.5 litre casserole dish and top with remaining cheese. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve immediately with taco chips, crackers, or veggies.

This is all that remained after the party.


  1. I strangely found the artichokes with the jarred olives and pickles and not with the other canned veggies. So if you can’t find them, try the condiment section. Be sure to get ‘hearts’ and not ‘quarters’.
  2. When it comes to draining spinach it’s really a toss up of how much to drain. There is a lot of moisture in the spinach so as long as you’ve given it a good wringing out you’ll be fine.
  3. It helps in the mixing stage if the cream cheese is nice and soft so if you’re taking it right out of the fridge, toss it in the microwave for a few seconds
Posted in snacks | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Strawberry Arugula Salad

Sorry for the hiatus, I have been cooking but obviously not writing!

I recently picked up “The Best of Chef at Home: Essential Recipes for Today’s Kitchen” by Michael Smith. I’m a big Food Network junkie and Michael Smith never fails to have classic, simple, and tasty recipes. I really love this cookbook as it provides variations for all recipes and there is a picture for every recipe. I’m surprised there are even cookbooks out there that don’t have a million pictures. It is an extra large selling-point for me.

Here’s a recipe I’ve made three times in the past week. The dressing recipe makes about 1 cup and will last one week in the fridge. For the salad listed you’ll need about ¼ cup of dressing. Reduce the dressing if you’d like but trust me when I say you’ll want to make it again tomorrow.


  • 1.5 cups sliced strawberries
  • ½ cup pine nuts or chopped almonds1
  • 6 cups arugula or mixed greens (including arugula)


  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup liquid honey
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard2
  • ½ teaspoon ground fennel seed3
  • Sprinkle of sea salt & fresh ground pepper

Prep time: 15 minutes

Makes 1 large dinner salad and enough dressing for a week


To toast pine nuts or almonds, pre-heat oven to 350F. Space pine nuts evenly on a baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes or until fragrant. These burn easily so keep an eye on them depending on your oven strength. Allow nuts to cool before you add them to the salad.

Combine arugula, strawberries, and cooled nuts in a large bowl.

For the dressing, combine all ingredients in a container with a tight seal and shake very thoroughly. The salt has a tendency to get stuck at the bottom so really give it a good shake.

When ready to eat, drizzle dressing over salad and serve immediately.


  1. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: TRUST ME ON THE TOASTING. You will not regret it. Also, chopped almonds are much cheaper than pine nuts. I’ve made the salad with both and it’s just as good so the choice is yours.
  2. I HATE mustard with a fiery passion. There is no mustard taste in the final product. The mustard instead acts as an emulsifier and keeps the oil and vinegar from separating.
  3. Fennel seed has a smell similar to black liquorice which is not very popular, much like the mustard the dressing does not taste like liquorice. If you’re hesitant, start with less and taste-test until you’re satisfied. So far I’ve only found whole fennel seeds which I have ground up in a coffee grinder or Magic Bullet. The smell is very strong and so after you’ve ground it up you’ll want to soak the grinder in hot soapy water and may require a run or two in the dishwasher.
Posted in salad | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment