Sour Cherry Almond Muffins

sour cherry almond muffins - trustinkim.com

Why have I never made an almond and cherry baked good before? My apartment smelled so wonderful after baking these; the almond smell is dreamy! These muffins are a bit more on the mini-cake side, meaning I don’t think they’re the healthiest muffins I’ve ever made. That’s not to say I didn’t have one for breakfast a few times   . . . and they’re really good with tea!

We ate one of these while they were warm, which is when they are at their best, but they were also great the next day. I froze the rest as soon as they were cool, and they were still really good when thawed.

I found the recipe on this site: Pretty Simple Sweet. The original recipe uses sweet cherries, but I used sour cherries, and I think they pair really well with the almond flavour. I tend to like to balance sweetness with tartness.

The recipe calls for baking the muffins for a few minutes at a higher temperature, then lowering the temperature for the rest of the baking. My oven is really finicky; I have to set it for higher than the required temperature, but then I have to lower it once it is at the right temperature or it will get too hot. So for me this was quite challenging. The good news is, by checking for a light brownness, and then using a toothpick to check if they had baked through, they baked successfully. Yay!

What you need:

  • 1 & 3/4 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
  •  2 teaspoons baking powder
  •  1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  •  1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
  •  1 large egg, slightly beaten
  •  1 cup yogurt (I use 3.5% fat, my homemade recipe)
  •  1/3 cup (80 mL) canola oil
  •  1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  1 teaspoon pure almond extract 
  •  1 & 1/2 cups (300 grams) cherries, halved and pitted 
  •  1/2 cup sliced almonds, plus extra to sprinkle on top

What you do:

  1. Preheat oven to 425F/220C. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners; I also sprayed them with baking spray.
  2. Toast the 1/2 cup of almonds in a frying pan or in the oven.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Add the sugar and stir to combine.
  4. Mix the egg with the yogurt, oil, and vanilla and almond extracts in a medium bowl.
  5. Pit and cut the cherries in half. If they are really juicy or if you’re using frozen berries, you can toss them in just a bit of flour to prevent bleeding. Prepare the cherries right before you are going to add them to the batter so that your finished product will look pretty.
  6. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold the batter with a rubber spatula just until combined. Be careful to not over-mix, which would toughen the final product. We want nice light muffins. You can expect the batter to be thick and lumpy.
  7. Fold in the toasted almonds and cherries.
  8. Spoon the batter into the lined muffin cups. Sprinkle each muffin with a few un-toasted almonds.
  9. Bake for three minutes, then reduce the temperature of the oven to 375F/190C and bake for 12-17 minutes more. Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick; the muffin should be tender but not wet.
  10. Cool the muffins still in the tins for about 10 minutes, then place the muffins on a wire rack to cool.
  11. Allow the muffins to cool completely before storing in an airtight container. They can be stored on the counter for a day or two, or frozen for a few months.
  12. Enjoy!

Magret de Canard (Duck breast)=YUM!

magret de canard - trustinkim

The first time I tasted magret de canard was at Chez Janou in Paris. We had been invited to someone’s apartment one evening, and I thought we were there for dinner. Turns out it was just for drinks. By about ten pm it became clear that there would be no food served, so we headed over to Chez Janou where I ordered the magret de canard for the first time. It was served medium-rare with roasted potatoes, and a red wine pan sauce.

When I made it this time (I’ve made it several times before, but always forgot to take photos) I served it on greens, but what you don’t see in the photo is the  potatoes roasted in duck fat, nor the pan juice I poured over the duck after I took the photo. I also served it with a baguette, which was perfect for mopping up extra juices.

In my opinion the duck breast in the photo is cooked to perfection. You might be thinking to yourself – isn’t that a little too red for poultry? Duck is a red meat, and the breast must not be cooked to well done or it will be dry. I was served a well-done duck breast on a subsequent visit to Chez Janou (they must have thought North Americans liked it this way) and it tasted like liver (ick). Some sources say that rare duck meat is unsafe, but most say it’s fine, and restaurants typically serve it even rarer than the one I have show here.

Here is a quick guide to testing for doneness so you don’t have to poke into the meat with a thermometer, using the feel of the meat compared to the feel of different parts of your face as a guide. When you prod the top of the breast with your finger, you are checking for the following:

  • feels like when you prod your cheek = rare
  • feels like when you prod your chin=medium rare
  • feels like when you prod your forehead=well done

To make the pan sauce you will use the bits of meat that are stuck to the pan acter cooking the breast, along with some wine and a bit of butter. The stuff left in the bottom of the pan is called “fond,” (silent ‘d’) from the French word for bottom. It is concentrated flavour that you don’t want to waste, and makes a really easy and tasty sauce.

You don’t have to eat the skin (but it is crispy and delicious), but you need to cook the breast with the skin on or it will be very dry. And that would be such a shame.

What you need:

  • duck breast
  • salt
  • red or white wine for the pan sauce
  • butter

What you do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  2. Remove the duck breast from the fridge at least half an hour before you plan to cook it. Score the fat using a very sharp knife, making sure you don’t cut all the way down to the meat. Salt the fat side quite a bit, then salt the other side a bit.
  3. Heat an ovenproof pan (I used cast iron) to high, then lower the heat to medium high. Add the duck breast skin side down and cook for 5 minutes – it should sizzle quite a bit. Flip the duck breast.
  4. Put the breast, still in the pan, in the oven for 4-8 minutes. Cooking time will depend on the size of the breast and how well you like it done. When cooked to the desired doneness remove the breast from the oven and place it on a plate or cutting board to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
  5. While the breast is resting, put the pan on the stove again and add a little wine to loosen up the fond. Let the wine cook down a little, then add a pat of butter to make a glossy sauce.
  6. I like to slice the breast before serving, and for a small meal the one breast can be shared between two people. After slicing pour some of the pan juice over the top.
  7. Enjoy!

Bruschetta

bruschetta - trustinkim.comTomatoes, freshly picked from the vine – is there a better taste of summer? Bruschetta is a tasty way to serve up some of these treasures from the garden, or the garden of a friend, or a Farmer’s market. Best made only with fresh summer tomatoes, but in a pinch, cherry tomatoes are often a best bet in winter.

I haven’t given amounts for this recipe because it’s easy to make, and you can alter amounts according to your taste and how much you want to make. Each tomato tastes a bit different, so the seasonings will depend on how much flavour is in our tomatoes.

What you need:

  • baguette
  • 1 clove garlic
  • the freshest tomatoes you can get
  • fresh basil
  • sweet onion
  • balsamic vinegar
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt

What you do:

  1. Slice and lightly toast the bread. You can toast it in the oven, toaster, or on the BBQ. The BBQ is a good option if it’s really hot and you don’t want to turn on your oven.
  2. Slice the garlic in half and rub it on the toasted bread. Set the bread aside.
  3. Mince a little bit of the onion, then chop the tomatoes and toss them into a bowl. Tear up or chop the basil and add it to the tomatoes.
  4. Drizzle a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the tomatoes, along with a pinch of salt – give it a toss. Taste and add more of each of these ingredients as you see fit.
  5. Just before serving, top each slice of bread with tomatoes. Alternatively, you can leave the tomatoes in a bowl and people can top their own.

Hummus Sandwich

hummus sandwich - trustinkim.com

I don’t often make meals that are as easy as this one, and when I do I usually don’t think of it as a recipe worth sharing. But this one is! It’s tasty, nutritious, and easy to make. Feel free to alter the ingredients as you see fit.

I don’t recommend this one as a make and take, since it would probably get soggy. But then, I’m a bit of a sandwich snob and I never like sandwiches that have been made ahead of time. 

What you need:

What you do:

  1. The first step is optional, but I think it makes the sandwich extra tasty: slice the ciabatta in half, then heat a frying pan. Add a drizzle of olive oil to the pan, then place the bread cut-side down to grill it a little. Less than a minute is probably good.
  2. Add hummus to the bottom slice of the bun, and add whatever else you are putting on it (you know how to make a sandwich.) Salt and pepper the tomatoes a little.
  3. Put the top on and eat right away!

Blackberry Liqueur

blackberry liqueur - trustinkim.com

Summer in a bottle! I picked a few tubs of blackberries down by the train tracks, and here’s what I made with them. This winter there will be blackberry cocktails and maybe some desserts featuring this gorgeous blackberry liqueur. We already had some drizzled on ice cream, and I plan to make a blackberry liqueur-champagne drink soon . . . 

This is really easy to make, but you need two days to complete the process. Most of the time is just letting the berries soak. And picking the berries – I have discovered that if you try to do this in a rush you get hurt. So many prickles! So I take my time, and it has been a someone meditative process. Being calm, picking only the berries that are ready to fall off the plant, the ripest and sweetest ones. 

The amounts used are based on the fact that I had 3 cups of blackberries. Adjust the amounts if you have more or less. It’s not an exact science. I looked at a lot of recipes to get ideas about what to do here, so this is a compilation of some of their ideas for amounts and processes. I added a few sage leaves, and I’m not sure yet if they are noticeable in the finished product, and are optional for this recipe.

The first batch turned out so well that I’ve just begun another one!

Simple syrup really is simple to make. Just add equal parts water and granulated sugar to a pot, let it heat until the sugar has dissolved, and let it cool. For this recipe I used 1/2 cup water to 1/2 cup sugar.

What you need:

  • 3 cups (750mL) fresh blackberries
  • 2 & 3/4 cups vodka (680mL) (I used Stolichnaya)
  • a few fresh sage leaves, optional
  • 1 & 1/2 cups (325mL) water
  • 3/4 to 1 cup simple syrup (180-250mL), to taste
  • cheesecloth for straining

What you do:

  1. Wash the berries and drain them. Place them in a large bowl or pot and mash them with a potato masher or the bottom of a bottle.
  2. Pour the vodka over the berries. They should be completely covered. Put a lid or plastic wrap over the container and let it sit in a cool place for about 24 hours. (It was really hot when I made mine, so there was no cool place to put it. I just moved on to the next step a bit earlier.)
  3. Strain the berries and vodka into another bowl, keeping the pulp. Cover the berry and vodka mixture.
  4. Place the pulp in another container and pour the water over it. Let this sit for 24 hours, then strain it, adding the juice to the vodka mixture.
  5. Use cheesecloth to strain the berries again, to get all the vodka and blackberry goodness out of them.
  6. Strain the vodka and berry mixture several more times through the cheesecloth until the liquid has no pulp in it. 
  7. Bottle the liqueur. It should keep for a long time in a cool cupboard, but I’m choosing to keep mine in the fridge since I have space.

 

Sea Asparagus

sea asparagus -trustinkim.com

I was fortunate to spend some time in Haida Gwaii recently, an archipelago off of B.C.’s coast. It is a gorgeous place, with lush forests and stunning coastlines. The Haida people have lived here since time immemorial and we experienced a thriving culture. We were able to see a lot of totem poles and other traditional art, and we experienced the sharing spirit of the place. 

While staying in Masset at the Copper Beech House we were honoured to be invited to a dinner where we had, among other things, this pan-fried sea asparagus. Of course I had to find out more about it, so Chelsea who runs the show at the Inn taught me what to do. She taught me where to harvest it, and how to soak it to get rid of a lot of the salt, and then how to cook it. (see below)

Sea asparagus makes a nice side vegetable dish, or in a small quantity it could be a lovely garnish for salmon. We had it with ling cod and spruce tip syrup, and some herbed baby potatoes.

Sea asparagus goes by many names: sea bean, samphire, glasswort, saltwort, and probably others. Here is a link to an article about sea asparagus if you’re interested in learning more about it. Also this one. will give you more information on where to harvest. You can buy it at some Farmer’s Markets, but you can forage it for free if you live in the right area!

What you need:

  • sea asparagus
  • butter or olive oil

What you do:

  1. After harvesting the sea asparagus, clean it of any bits that don’t belong, brown parts especially.
  2. Rinse the sea asparagus, then soak it in fresh water for about an hour.
  3. Heat some butter or olive oil in a frying pan. Cook the sea asparagus briefly, tossing with tongs. It should still be bright green, so that it doesn’t become soggy. 
  4. Serve immediately.
View from Tow Hill - trustinkim.com
View from Tow Hill, Haida Gwaii

 

Old Massett Totem Pole - trustinkim.com
Totem Pole in Old Massett, Haida Gwaii
eagle close up - trustinkim.com
I was fortunate to have a visit from this eagle. He landed terrifyingly close to me, so I took a few steps back and snapped his pic.

 

No-Bake Nut Butter Cookies

no-bake nut butter cookies

A perfect treat when you don’t want to turn on your oven, these chocolate-coated nut butter cookies are simple and tasty. I needed something sweet to bring to a picnic, something that adults and kids would enjoy, and these were perfect. Plus I was happy to not heat my home up with the oven. And also perfect, because . . . well, peanut butter and chocolate are a match made in heaven!

The recipe calls for oat flour. I just whizzed some rolled oats in the food processor until they were finely ground.

This recipe makes about 3 dozen tiny cookies. They are quite rich, so I opted to make them really small rather than the two tablespoons that the original recipe calls for. I made my cookies with peanut butter, but you can use the nut butter of your choice.

If you omit the chocolate these would make a great power cookie for hiking or biking. Unless you’re hiking or biking in cool weather, when the chocolate wouldn’t melt.

You can store the cookies in the fridge for about 10 days.

What you need:

  • 3/4 cup (188 mL) nut butter
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) honey
  • 1 teaspoon (5mL) pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (750mL) oat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 cup (188mL) chocolate chips

What you do:

  1. Line a baking pan with parchment paper, or wax paper if that’s all you have.
  2. Heat the nut butter and honey in the microwave or in a pot on the stove. Whisk in the honey.
  3. Add the oat flour and salt, then mix until combined. 
  4. Scoop one tablespoonful of the mixture at a time and use your hands to form each into a ball. Flatten the cookie into a disk and place it on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Use a fork to make the crosshatch pattern typical of a peanut butter cookie.
  5. Refrigerate the cookies while you prepare the chocolate. I used a double boiler, but you can carefully melt it in the microwave if you prefer.
  6. Dip each cookie in chocolate, then place it on the parchment again. Let the cookies sit until the chocolate has set. I did this in the fridge because it was a hot day when I made them, and also I was running late for my picnic!
  7. Enjoy!
pb & chocolate match made in heaven - trustinkim.com
“Match Made in Heaven”