Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Creamy Broccoli Soup with Mint and Ricotta Cheese




    More snow, more freezing rain, and the only thing I want to do is shop till I drop. I must of walked a total of 5 hours at the mall yesterday, one of the best 'outdoor' winter workouts I've had this season ;) I love the craziness of last minute x-mas shopping. I love heading to Fairview Shopping center, one of my favorite local malls growing up. From those 25 minutes of finding parking (the parking lot holds well over a thousand vehicles), beautifully displayed windows, lineups at the cashes (oy-vey), line-ups at Starbucks (oy, oy vey)  seeing the boxing day signage go-up, overhearing hundreds of people saying, "do I get her this one? Or that one?'... It's a real 2013 marketing\ retail jungle out-there.

    So after a day of snow, freezing  rain and shopping in some sort of jungle, the only  thing I want to eat is a warm bowl of creamy broccoli soup, ah... I love this soup because it's delicious, extremely easy-to-make and perfect for unwinding. Enjoy this one guys!



    CREAMY BROCCOLI SOUP WITH MINT AND RICOTTA CHEESE
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
    Prep 15 min|  Cooking Time 15 min| Total time 30 min | Serves 4 - 6 | DAIRY
    Adapted from Jamie Oliver

    INGREDIENTS

    INSTRUCTIONS

    2 tbsp of butter

    1 onion, chopped

    2 celery stalks, cleaned and chopped

    1/4 cup of flour

    3-4 cups frozen or fresh broccoli

    1 tsp of mint

    1 cube of parve chicken
    flavor

    3/4 cup of milk

    2 1/2 cups of hot water

    2 tbsp of mint, rough chopped

    1/4 cup of heavy cream, optional


    Garnish
    1 tbsp mint, rough chopped

    drizzle of olive oil

    dollop of ricotta cheese

    Pepper to taste



    1.  In a heavy bottom pot, on medium heat, saute the butter, onions, celery,  and mint for 3-4 minutes.
    2.  Once softened, mix in the flour.
    3.  Add in the broccoli and kosher salt.
    4.  Dilute the chicken soup flavor into the hot water and pour it into the broccoli.
    5.  Cook for 10 minutes, lower heat a bit
    6.  Blitz with a hand blender or, place the soup into a heat prof bowl, in a a bath of ice, allow to cool and pour it in a blender to blitz for 1 minute.
    7.  Put the soup back into the pot, add the milk and cook for 4-5 minutes.
    7.  Remove from the heat. To serve pour the soup in little bowls, add the ricotta, olive oil, ground pepper, rough chopped mint.


    Revised 23-02-2016

    Wednesday, December 18, 2013

    Creamy Pumpkin Thyme Soup



    Ok, I somewhat take pride in being a little nerdy, especially when it comes to the kitchen. Super Soup Sunday is a new ritual in my home. Every Sunday during the cold winter months, I make a different kind of soup. After all the -10 to -20 we've been experiencing here in Montreal, there is nothing quite as homey as a meal that's creamy, filling, warm and full of wholesome flavors, definitely my kind of comfort food.

    I decided to explore various pumpkin recipes, one like this creamy pumpkin thyme soup which is truly yummy, wholesome and super easy to make!

    INGREDIENTS Serves 8 to 10 
    • 400 g to 450 g fresh pumpkin
    • 3 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
    • 1 tsp of salt 
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 3 sprigs frozen or fresh thyme, stems removed (washed accordingly)
    • 1 garlic clove, sliced
    • 7 whole black peppercorns
    • 1 cup of cream (Nutriwhip)
    • 1/2 cup to 1 cup of water

    INSTRUCTIONS
    1. In a stock-pot boil water with the pumpkin inside. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium for 30-35 minutes until the pumpkin is softened. 
    2. Set aside the the pumpkin and let cool enough in order to remove its skin. 
    3. In another pot, boil the chicken stock, onion, salt, garlic, thyme, peppercorns and the pumpkin when ready. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes uncovered.
    4. Purée the soup in small batches using a food processor or blender.
    5. Return to pot and bring to the boil again. Reduce heat to low and simmer for another 15 minutes, uncovered. Stir in double cream and water. Pour into soup bowls and garnish with thyme.

    Saturday, November 23, 2013

    Jerusalem Artichoke Latkes


    It's officially latkes season and all I can think of is the different ways we can upgrade this potato latkes dish. Either with sweet potato or spinach or making them spicy or curried. This year I decide to make this Jerusalem Artichoke variation. These can be made in dairy topped with Greek yogurt or served as part of a main dish topped with a chicken or turkey stew.

    INGREDIENTS Makes 20 to 24 Latkes
    • 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
    • 1.5 pound Jerusalem artichokes, thoroughly washed
    • 1 large yellow onion, peeled
    • 3 large eggs, beaten
    • 2 tbsp minced fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional)
    • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (or spelt flour), plus more as needed 
    • About 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil for frying
    INSTRUCTIONS
    1. Line a large platter with kitchen towel.
    2. In your food processor fitted with a grater attachment, coarsely grate the potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, and onion.  Gather the corners of the towel and wring as much excess liquid as possible from the vegetables. Transfer the wrung vegetables to a dry mixing bowl. Add the egg, salt, pepper and optional parsley, stir to combine. While stirring the mixture, gradually add the flour, stirring well to incorporate.
    3. Line a large baking sheet with paper towels.
    4. In a large sauté pan over moderately high heat, heat 1/4 inch of oil until hot but not smoking. Test the latke batter by frying a small amount of batter in the hot oil—it should hold together and not fall apart when flipped. If necessary, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, but try to add as little flour as possible to create light latkes.
    5. Working in batches, drop 2 tablespoon of batter into the hot oil — or use an ice cream scooper — and use the back of a spoon to press the batter into 1 1/2-inch diameter pancakes. Fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Flip the latkes just once and continue frying until golden brown, about 2 minutes. 
    6. As they finish cooking, transfer the latkes to the paper-towel-lined baking sheet.
    7. You can serve with Greek yogurt topped with chives






    Wednesday, November 20, 2013

    Bananagram Soufganyiot



    I had two left over bananas, and considering Hanukkah is right around the corner, I decided to recreate my previous Spice Pumpkin Soufganiyot recipe into a Banana Graham one. Although similar, this recipe highlights banana flavor within a graham coating adding a nice twist and alternative to sugar coating.




    INGREDIENTS  // Makes about 40

    // for the doughnuts //
    1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
    1/3 teaspoon all-spice
    1/3 cup vegetable oil
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    1 egg
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    2 bananas, mashed
    1/2 cup soy milk or low-fat milk

     // for the coating  //
    1 stick of unsalted butter or margarine, melted
    1 graham pie in crumbs


    INSTRUCTIONS
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease two 24-cup mini muffin tins with nonstick spray.
    2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and allspice. 
    3. In a separate large bowl, combine the oil, brown sugar, egg, vanilla, mashed banana and milk until smooth. 
    4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Be careful not to overmix the batter.
    5. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, about 1 tablespoon in each cup. 
    6. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until passes the toothpick test.
    7. Remove the muffins from the oven and allow to cool for 2 minutes, or until just cool enough to handle. 
    8. With the melted butter in one bowl and the graham crumbs, dip each muffin into the butter then roll in the graham to coat. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve immediately or freeze.

    Sunday, November 17, 2013

    Spiced Pumpkin Sufganiyot

    These delicious Pumpkin All-Spice Sufganiyot are served perfectly with a cup of chai tea. 












    Thanksgivukkah is a once-in-a-lifetime American celebration consisting of the first day of Chanukah falling on Thanksgiving. The last time this occurred was 125 years ago in 1888. And the next time Chanukah will fall on November 28 will be in the year 79811; (Wikipedia) indeed this coincidence calls for a celebration!

    Thanksgivukkah is inspiring so many different latka-harvest meal ideas and this month's Joy of Kosher recipe challenge is about creating perfect recipes to celebrate both festivities at once. Although I'm Canadian, I know a thing or two about American Thanksgiving food. And this Thanksgivukkah, I decided to spice-up sufganiyot (technically muffins, shh it's a secret) by adding pumpkin, all-spice, nutmeg and by baking them instead of deep-frying them. Although the sugar coating makes these rich, you can skip that step, or perhaps fill them up with a cream cheese-based custard. At first my kids were upset we were making pumpkin doughnuts, but now they understand how surprisingly good baking with vegetables can be and ended-up loving these. 




    INGREDIENTS  Makes about 40

    FOR THE DONUTS:
    • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
    • 1 teaspoon allspice
    • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree (roast your pumpkin and puree it in your food processor)
    • 1/2 cup soy milk or low-fat milk 

    FOR THE COATING:
    • 1 stick of unsalted butter or margarine, melted
    • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
    • 2 tablespoons cinnamon

    INSTRUCTIONS

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease two 24-cup mini muffin tins with nonstick spray.
    2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. 
    3. In a separate large bowl, combine the oil, brown sugar, egg, vanilla, pumpkin and milk until smooth. 
    4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Be careful not to overmix the batter.
    5. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, about 1 tablespoon in each cup. 
    6. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until passes the toothpick test.
    7. Remove the muffins from the oven and allow to cool for 2 minutes, or until just cool enough to handle. 
    8. With the melted butter in one bowl and the sugar and cinnamon combined in another, dip each muffin into the butter then roll in the cinnamon sugar to coat. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve immediately or freeze.


    Happy Chanukah Everyone!

    Tuesday, November 12, 2013

    Kugel to the Next Level: Norene's Buttermilk Kugel

    Buttermilk Noodle Kugel
    Norene Gilletz
    Previously on my blog, I shared the pleasures of visiting Norene Gilletz, Canada's top kosher cookbook author, in her home. I don't think my experience would have been the same if we didn't get to indulge in her late mother's Buttermilk Noodle Kugel (קוגל kugl). For those who are unfamiliar, kugel is a baked Ashkenazi Jewish pudding or casserole, similar to a pie, most commonly made from eggnoodles (Lokshen kugel) or potatoes, though at times made of zucchini, apples, spinach, broccoli, cranberry, or sweet potato. It is usually served as a side dish on Shabbat and Yom Tov. (Wikipedia)

    Norene made a delicious kugel with noodles, a recipe that can use any type of noodle, especially delicious with rice noodles. This recipe makes a delicious meal for Thanksgivukkah.  



    INGREDIENTS (Serves 12, keeps 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator and /or freezes well unless you use rice noodles)
    • 1 pkg (12 oz/ 375 g) rice noodle OR medium noodles (yolk free are fine)
    • 4 eggs (or 2 plus 4 egg whites)
    • 1 cup of cottage cheese
    • 3 Tbsp sugar (or granular Splenda) 
    • Salt to taste
    • dash ground cinnamon (optional)
    • 4 cups of buttermilk

    DIRECTIONS
    1. Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse well. Return noodles to saucepan.
    2. Steel blade food processor: Process eggs with cottage cheese until blended, 12 50 15 seconds. 
    3. Add to noodles along with remaining ingredients and mix well. 
    4. Pour into sprayed 9 X13 inch glass baking dish
    5. Bake in preheated 375°F oven for 50 to 6 minutes, until golden brown. Serve hot.

    122 calories, 14.8 carbohydrates, 0.3 Fiber, 9 g protein, 3.1 fat.
    From The New Food Processor Bible, Norene Gilletz, 2011, fourth edition)

    Friday, November 8, 2013

    Second Helpings with Norene Gilletz: Canada's Kosher Culinary Icon

    Norene Gilletz, Canada's top kosher cookbook author serves up her delicious rice noodle kugel.

    Seven years ago cooking became one of my biggest joys. Granted, I wasn't a trained chef, nor was I a restaurateur. I turned to culinary arts as a getaway from rocky marriage days. I was a young mother roaming IGA grocery lanes, pushing two babies in a double stroller, discovering all kinds of ingredients. "Do you know where I can find cream of tartar?"  I  asked an elderly woman in the baking aisle "...it's an ingredient I need for a Martha Stewart recipe," I added. Surprisingly clueless of who Martha Stewart was, she kindly replied, "the only cookbook you need is Norene Gilletz's Second Helpings, Please." Luckily, that was one of the first cookbooks I bought, and used to learn how to make apple cake, challah, banana bread, latkes, hamentashen, sweet and sour meatballs and more. 

    An original, the first ever Second Helpings, Please! cookbook.
    It includes signatures of all the contributors on the first page.


    "People long for classics, and food transports us
    through time." ~ Norene Gilletz


    Of Russian and Polish decent, Norene was born on May 29, 1940, in Winnipeg. Belle Rykiss, her mother, inspired Norene to cherish and make Jewish food. In 1960, Norene moved to Montreal and joined the B'nai Brith Women Mount Sinai Chapter. During that time, the concept for developing a fundraising cookbook was initiated and Norene Gilletz, played a crucial role putting this culinary classic together. After three years and a half of gathering and testing recipes, the first edition was published in 1968. Since then, the book was re-printed over fifteen times and proceeds from the sale of the book were used for Jewish Women International (JWI) the leading Jewish organization empowering women and girls.

    Norene has been recognized as the leading author of kosher cookbooks in Canada. In addition from being the author of numerous kosher cookbooks i.e. Healthy HelpingsNorene's Healthy Kitchen, and The New Food Processor Bible, she has influenced thousands of Jewish homes as a freelance food writer, food consultant, cooking teacher\lecturer, culinary spokesperson, and owner of www.gourmania.com. Norene had the chance to meet renowned French chefs like Jaques Pepin and Julia Child.  She was featured on Martha Stewart Living Radio Show plus she was recently honored, last October, at KosherFest's Social Media dinner along with Susie FishbeinChef Laura Frankel, Gil Marks, Levana Kirschenbaum, and Menachem Lubinsky.

    Two Sunday's ago, I found myself in her Toronto kitchen, having a cup of coffee over delicious homemade bran muffins and buttermilk noodle kugel (plus I got to enjoy peanut-free peanut butter cookies and biscottis, testers for an upcoming cookbook). We got to look-over and discuss the latest kosher cookbooks on the market that needed her review (coincidentally including Montreal's latest, And Then There was Cake).  We chatted for hours, and realized we had more than Jewish food in common. Both Gemini's, we both lived in the West Island of Montreal in our past, we both experienced single-motherhood (and understand the hardships of the dating scene) and we both love Paula Abdul (Norene is actually her cousin). I truly had a delightful time, benefiting from her wise advice ;)


    Norene and her cutsy dog.

    Norene Gilletz's cookbooks. Her mother's original copy of The Food Processor Bible,
    Norene's Healthy Kitchen. And the pile of books in the back that needed her review.
    Seven years have past and my two little babies are now little girls. I have the nachas of turning to a book like Norene's Second Helpings, Please! as a means to teach my children how to bake, but even more appreciate the joys of Jewish living. Thank you Norene! :-)

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

    Moroccan Inspired Pear and Corn Bastillas



    As part of Kosher Connection, Joy of Kosher's food blogger community that undertakes a monthly kosher recipe challenge, I had to push my cooking creativity to the max. This month's chop challenge had to incorporate two of the following ingredients: pears, canned corn or Mike & Ikes. 

    My inital reaction was 'Ew, corn and pear?' I definitely felt challenged. After a good night rest, I thought about my Moroccan background and how my culture incorporates sweetness to vegetables, and combines fruits to main dishes i.e. caramelized raisins in couscous and tagines. At first I was going to make traditional Moroccan bastillas with chicken, coriander, corn, lots of spices and a pear dipping sauce, but I changed my mind along the way because I wanted to be able to enhance the taste of corn and pears together, rather than dilute them. So here is my rendition of a 'poultryless' mini Moroccan pear and corn bastillas. This is my first time participating in a cooking challenge, my shabbat guests marveled on them and overall, I was very pleased in uncovering this winning culinary combination. These are perfect for a holiday appetizer or perhaps for brunch served with goat cheese or sour cream.


    INGREDIENTS Makes 6 to 8 rolls depending on the size

    • 6-8 fine pastry sheets, thawed
    • 1 egg
    • 1/3 cup of oil for frying
    • Paper towel


    Pear Filling

    • 1 tbs of vegetable oil
    • 1/2 cup of water
    • 1 1/2 tsp of cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp of ground ginger
    • 4 Barlett pears, sliced
    • 1 1/2 tbsp of sugar
    • 1/2 tsp of rose water


    Corn Filling

    • 2 tbsp of oil
    • 2 medium onions
    • 1 12 oz can of sweet corn
    • 1/4 cup of raisins
    • 1 tsp of sugar
    • 1 tsp of cinnamon
    • Salt to taste


    Apricot Dipping Sauce

    • 1/4 of apricot jam
    • 2 tbs of water













    PEAR FILLING
    1. In a bowl mix 1/2 cup of water, oil and spices. On medium heat, pour the mixture in a saute pan and gently mix in the pear slices. As the mixture heats up, the pears soften, gradually add water in a way to ensure the pears do not stick to the pan.
    2.  Sprinkle half the sugar over the pears. Again, add water and the remainder of sugar and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Pears should soften but not to the point of breaking. 
    3. Sprinkle the rose water and let it simmer for another couple of minutes.

    CORN FILLING
    1. In another pan, on medium heat, put oil and onions, caramelize for 10 minutes. 
    2. Slightly lower the heat and ad the can of corn, cinnamon, salt and sugar and mix for 5 minutes. 
    3. Stir in the raisins for another 3 minutes. Let cool.



    THE WRAPPING
    1. Whisk your egg in a bowl. 
    2. With a cooking brush, brush on the egg on the edges of the filo sheet.
    3. Place 2 tbsp of the corn mixture an inch from the top of the sheet and center; place 3 slices of the pears vertically and then roll.
    4. Once you have reached the center of the filo sheet, you fold in the right side inwards, repeat the same step from the left side. 
    5. Once you reach the end, you might want to ad more egg to seal it properly. 
    6. Repeat 5 to 7 more times.
    7. In a deep pot, heat oil on medium, once heated lower a bit and fry the bastillas until nicely browned, about 2 to 3 minutes. 
    8. Place them on a platter topped with paper towl. Allow the paper towel to absorb the oil from the bastillas. 


    THE SAUCE

    1. In a sauce pan, on low-medium heat, mix in the jam and water thoroughly. 
    2. Place your bastilla on a platter, you can either drizzle the sauce on top when serving or place it in a bowl on the side for dipping. Voila, here you have a Moroccan inspired corn and pear appetizer recipe, perfect for a holiday appetizer, and even for a brunch his can be perfect for a brunch served with goat or ricotta cheese. 








    Saturday, October 12, 2013

    A Cookbook Review: The Modern Menu by Kim Kushner

    The Modern Menu Kosher cookbook
     was launched on April 1st, 2013. Photo credit from www.kimkushnercuisine.com

    Kim Kushner
    There are many great kosher cookbooks available on Amazon.ca and one of my new favorites happens to be by Montreal-born, Kim Kushner, entitled The Modern Menu. Coined as "Simple. Beautiful. Kosher." The Modern Menu, launched April 1st, 2013, is a refreshing cookbook consisting of 12 creative and fairly easy to make menus.

    A graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan, Kim Kushner has been giving cooking classes for over 10 years; she is a pr
    ivate chef for New York's most 'discerning' eaters and is a recipe contributor for major New York publications. In her new cookbook, Kim demonstrates how her lifelong love of food, her cooking techniques along with her family's Jewish Modern Orthodox traditions result in delicious modern cuisine, that also happens to be kosher.

    Some of the recipes which can be found in this coobook are:
     Jon's Roast ChickenSweet & Sour Broccoli Salad and Gingered Butternut Squash and Sweet Potatoes. Photos by Andrew Zuckerman.


    Her menu themes revolve around concepts like: vibrant, crisp, piquant, warm, nourishing... each concept includes an appetizer,  main course, 2 to 3 side dishes. For example, the vibrant section includes:

    Kohlrabi and Cabbage Salad with Maple Lemon Dressing
    Eggplant with Spicy Harissa Dipping Sauce
    Baby Lamb Chops with Pesto Croute
    Couscous with Dried Fruit and Almonds

    The Cinnamon-Hazelnut Pavlova with Raspberries is one of the minimalist yet spectacular desserts featured. Photo by Andrew Zuckerman

    As for sweets you'll find:

    Lychee-Melon Fruit Salad with Pistachios and Honey
    Cinnamon-Hazelnut Pavlova with Raspberries
    Medjool Dates Stuffed with Walnuts (a traditional sweet I grew up at home with)
    Broken Dark Chocolate Cake
    and close to a dozen more...


    MONTREAL COOKING DEMO
    On September 23rd, over 70 people gathered at the YM-YWHA for Kim's first Montreal cooking demo. That evening, she cooked-up 5 Minute Chummus (a staple in her home), Mediterranean Green Salad with feta and figs (as she calls "delish!") and Marinated Vegetable Salad all from The Modern Menu. 


    KIM KUSHNER'S COOKING TIPS
    For those who couldn't make the event, Kim shared some key cooking tips including: 
    • Make dressings in advance and store in the refrigerator
    • For those allergic to sesame in the chummus recipe, she recommends using roasted garlic in place of tahini
    • Use Zaatar to make homemade pita chips
    Although she loves Manhattan and looks forward to cooking all over NYC i.e. Brooklyn, Long Island and Detroit, what she misses most from Montreal food, is La Marguerite challah and of course, Montreal bagels!" 

    One of the salads made at the cooking demo. Mediterranean Green Salad with feta and figs 




    The Modern Menu by  native Montrealer, Kim Kushner
    Photo by Andrew Zuckerman

    All in all, most of the recipes I tried from this cookbook turned out successful, from the Salmon en Croute, bourekas, Jon's Roast Chicken, Balsamic-Marinated Chicken with Olives and Sun-dried Tomatoes, Grilled Eggplant, Sun-Dried Tomato and Bocconcini Salad. This cookbook not only reflects aspects of traditional Jewish Moroccan, Mediterranean and Italian cuisine as many of her recipes benefit from sun-dried tomatoes, sauteed onions, jams and herbs.

    I think Kim is adorable and anyone who reads her cookbook can see how her love of cooking is reflected throughout her book. It's always nice to see a native Montrealer cooking on the Today Show!



    For more information go to: http://www.kimkushnercuisine.com/
    Modern Menu Hardcover / Price: $39.95 USD | Paperback / Price: $21.95 USD or $23.50 CAD at Coles in Montreal

    Easy-to-Make Lavender Havdalah Sachets

    Sewing little sachets and filling them with dry lavender is easier than you think.

    Easy-to-make bessamim by simply placing lavender in pre-made organza sachets.


    Havdalah (Hebrew: הַבְדָּלָה, meaning 'separation') is a Jewish religious ceremony that marks the symbolic end of Shabbat and Jewish holidays, and ushers in the new week. The ritual involves lighting a special havdalah candle with several wicks, blessing a cup of wine and smelling sweet spices or herbs. Shabbat ends on Saturday night after the appearance of three stars in the sky. (Wikipedia)

    MAKING LAVENDER BESSAMIM
    Back from our visit at La Maison Lavande, we had lots of lavender to dispose of. Placing dry lavender inside Havdalah sachets is one of my favorite uses of this flower. These can be easy to make by placing them in Dollarama organza sachets. You can purchase these in sets of 3 or 10 depending on the size. 

    If you want to get a little more sophisticated, sewing pieces of cloth and tying them with ribbon can be another hobby. For easy instructions check-out this video via Martha Stewart episode on sachet making.

    Shavouah tov everyone! And have an amazing week!


    Monday, October 7, 2013

    Lavender Shortbread Cookies



    INGREDIENTS  Total Time: 50 min | Prep 20 min | Cook 30 min | Yield: 15 bars
    • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cool unsalted butter, cut into pieces
    • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 cup cornstarch
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon dried lavender flowers

    INSTRUCTIONS

    1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
    2. Cream the butter until soft in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add 1/4 cup sugar and mix until incorporated. Stir together the flour, cornstarch, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix at low speed just until the ingredients are almost incorporated, then add the lavender, and mix until the dough starts to come together. Flour a work surface, turn the dough onto it, and knead it 5 to 10 times, to bring the dough together and smooth it out.
    3. Reflour the work surface. With a rolling pin, roll the dough out to a little less than 1/4-inch thick to fit an 8 by 8-inch square baking pan lined with parchment. To transfer to the pan, roll the dough up onto the rolling pin, lift it up, and unroll into the pan. (Or, press the dough thoroughly into the pan with your fingers.) Prick the shortbread all over with a fork, or use a pique-vite (dough docker) if you've got one, to prevent any buckling or shrinking. Sprinkle the surface evenly with 1 tablespoon of the remaining sugar.
    4. Bake for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, deflate the dough by knocking the pan once against the oven rack then rotate the pan to ensure even cooking and a flat surface. Bake 10 to 15 minutes more, until golden all over and very lightly browned. As soon as it comes out of the oven, sprinkle the surface evenly with the remaining tablespoon of sugar. Let cool about 5 minutes. Using a very sharp knife, cut into 3 rows by 5 rows making about 1 1/2-inch by 3-inch bars. Let cool completely in the pan. Remove from the pan and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.


    Adapted from foodnetwork.com

    Sunday, October 6, 2013

    Sweet September at La Maison Lavande


    Taking a rest by the rows of lavender crops



    There is something serene about driving on  a pathway in the midst of countless farms, especially on a sunny Sunday in September. I don't have superpowers, unless you consider a big heart powerful ;) but I have a feeling that Montreal is going to experience an amazingly mild winter this year.


    Visiting farms with my daughters happens to be one of my biggest Quebec joys and this end of September, we lucked out on a gorgeous sunny afternoon, perfect for a visit to not 1, but 2 farms! I happened to drive by rang de la Fresnière street in St-Eustache where I crossed dozens of farms and attractions, some of which included: the Exotarium, stables, corn fields, cabane à sucre, an austriche farm and my two 'pit-stops' the Lavender farm La Maison Lavande and the Verger Magie de la Pomme  apple orchard.

    LA MAISON LAVANDE



    Entrance to La Maison Lavande, opened from 10 AM to 5 PM

    Lavender is one of my favorite aromas, it's simply soothing and delightful. I love placing a dry bouquet of it on my night table, spraying linens with the vaporizer, placing sachets of lavender potpourri in drawers or use lavender massage oils to relax. La Maison Lavande is a perfumery and farm that established a range product line of lotions, soaps, aromatherapy, sea salts; even all-natural household cleaning products and handmade lavender chocolates.   

    My early afternoon visit made me realize the abundant things we can do with lavender, including baking cookies or making ganaches. The premises is charming, informative and peaceful. Many people prepared picnics eaten at tables while others can have a massage within the lavender field. Although the lavender crop was removed this time, it was still worth seeing. In case you cannot make the visit, you can order their products online as well at La Maison Lavande. Check these photos for a glimpse.

    Seeing a little rustic country home, my daughters were reluctant to get out of the car, the incentive to draw them in was going to the washroom ;) it always works. The way to the massive field of lavender crops ended-up impressing them. In the boutique, my eldest daughter wanted to try all the hand creams, taste the chocolates (but they weren't kosher) and buy bouquets of lavender. I treated them with sachets of dry lavender that they sprinkled under their pillows that night.

    Photo from La Maison Lavande

    This farm offers a comprehensive line of lavender products from: bath salts, shower gels, hand creams, body wash, massage oils, lip balms and soaps.  Left photo from La Maison Lavande

    So many Lavender options: dried bouquets, oils, lotions...

    A little photoshoot at the farm  
    Off we go to the apple orchard, goodbye La Maison Lavande!

    Tuesday, September 17, 2013

    New Found Memories at Le Marché de L'Ouest



    The market up-close

    We often take the little things in life for granted. Things like places, faces, circumstances we see or experience. As a result of past trials, I've learned to embrace life as it happens, the good, and even the not so good, because somehow, everything happens for a reason. The Marché de L'Ouest was kinda like my neighborhood shouq, just slightly more organized, 'Americanized' and less crowded. 


    Exploring the Marché de L'Ouest's fresh produce straight from the Quebec farm.

    I''ll never forget those youthful days, the ones when I almost drove over a farmer's kiosk as my father was teaching me how to reverse park at the Marché de L'Ouest (OUCH!). Or better yet, the Fridays when I was an 8 year old (with long braided pig-tails) tagging along with my mom at the Marché de L'Ouest's Marché Pêche-Pêche fish market where I would stare right through the crab tank with complete disbelief at the notion that people actually ate the poor creatures.

    Shopping with my chicas in the same market I used to shop with my mom. 
    25 years later, I find myself bringing my daughters to one of my most nostalgic outdoor markets. It brings warmth to my heart, knowing such a place filled with childhood memories can be shared with loved ones, especially my children.

    Remodeled since the 80's, Le Marché de L'Ouest is a quaint place to shop for fresh foods and especially seasonal flowers for your garden i.e. hydrangeas, hibiscus, roses, begonias...

    This market is the perfect place for Rosh Hashanah shopping. 
    In addition to the outdoor market, there are various kosher vendors and cute boutiques within the mall. These include:

    Dozens (right beside the Dollarama entrance)
    If you are looking for one of the best eyebrow threaders in town, I recommend you visiting my Israeli esthetician Anat, she has a knack for reshaping eyebrows.

    Paradise Kosher
    Indispensable if you're kosher in D.D.O, the first successful kosher bakery-deli-shawarma-catering store, called Paradise Kosher, opened up several years ago and sells all kinds of ready-made dishes, Meals from meat balls, Moroccan salmon, Chinese chicken, meat, cheeses, and baked goodies. When in D.D.O, my usual order consists of bourekas, baguettes and turkey colcuts. During the holidays, they also offer special menus

    The take-out counter at Paradise Kosher deli at Marché de L'Ouest
    Bulk Barn
    Bulk Barn Foods Limited is considered Canada's largest bulk food retailer with stores located in every province. Established in 1982, Bulk Barn has over 200 stores. Their head office is located in Richmond Hill, Ontario." (Wikipedia) If you're a baker, or stocking up on Simcha Torah candies, Bulk Barn is the place to buy kosher candies in bulk. If you are not familiar with their concept, the store is filled with huge barrels of a massive variety of nuts, chocolates, candies... although not all are kosher, the kosher ones are specified on the labels.

    Candy bins at Bulk Barn. 

    My daughter and I posing for the camera :)


    Let the good times begin! :)