Recipes are just guidelines in the art of cooking

recipesRecipes can be sacred in families – closely guarded secrets, passed down through the generations, treasures only a select few may have the privilege of receiving from a grandma or a family friend. And at the same time, others like to share recipes and modifications we make in our own kitchens with others.

Honing a recipe can take time and requires playing with the recipe until it suits your taste, and more importantly, the tastes of your guests!

Such is the case for some recipes in the Never Enough Thyme kitchen that have evolved over time – some are still evolving! Taste is personal and the art of cooking can sometimes get lost if you follow the recipe exactly. Where is the love and your own personal touch?

Perhaps some wouldn’t agree, and I certainly come from the perspective of cooking for a living; but the danger of following a recipe to the point of no return loses the instinct of the act itself. There is a fine line between consistency and creativity and every person following the same recipe will have a different outcome.

Cooking from the heart takes instinct and courage and the masters of this are many moms who love cooking for their family. My own son, Aiden, tells me he loves my cooking, especially my chocolate chip cookies – a recipe I collected and have enjoyed for many years. But I bet a different mom with the same recipe would have different results, and her kids would love them too.

Collecting and sharing recipes is a gift. Here is just one recipe from our vast collection that we’d like to share with you.

Herbed Crepes with Smoked Salmon

Ingredients

  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • vegetable oil
  • smoked salmon

Filling

  • 3 tbsp. sour cream
  • 1/2 block of cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp. parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 lemon, squeezed
  • 1 tsp. horseradish
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Whisk eggs, milk, and melted butter together. Add the flour, salt, and pepper. Whisk until smooth.
  2. Place in refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, cream together the filling ingredients and set aside.
  4. Preheat a pan and pour in vegetable oil.
  5. Ladle crepe batter into pan. This will make a very thin pancake.
  6. Once golden on one side, flip to cook other side. Allow to cool when finished.
  7. Layer smoked salmon and horseradish cream inside crepe and roll it up.
  8. Refrigerate and cut into 1 inch slices when ready to serve.

 

Image: Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Go glam with a vintage Oscar party

The 84th Annual Academy Awards are coming up on Sunday, February 26 and that means it’s time to start planning and sending out invites to your Oscar themed party.

My husband and I (Dierre) went to an Oscar cocktail party one year where we dressed up as different actors and actresses from throughout the eras of Hollywood. The large and lavish party included cocktails, appetizers and of course, a screening of the Oscars.

You could really take this theme any way you’d like and go as big as you want, right down to gold and black décor and take-home Oscar awards for each guest. I love the idea of a retro theme of Old Hollywood glam with black & white photos of the guests, costumes from the 40s and 50s and of course, an upscale fancy appetizer to really take guests back to a more glamorous time.

How about this modern twist on a retro appetizer – crab dip.

Crab flat bread

4 oz. cream cheese, softened

125 mL roasted red pepper dip

¼ cup mayo

2 green scallions, chopped

3 dashes of Tabasco

3 tbsp. shredded asiago

3 tbsp. shredded parsley

salt and pepper

1 tin crab in water, drained

Naan bread

In food processor, place cream cheese and pulse until softened. Add pepper dip, mayo and Tabasco; pulse and combine together. Pour cream cheese mix into bowl and add scallions, parsley, crab, salt and pepper and combine.

Spread crab mix over Naan bread, similar to pizza sauce, then sprinkle with asiago. Bake in oven at 375˚F for approximately 12 minutes or until golden.

Also, don’t forget about Valentine’s Day tomorrow and consider taking dinner-for-2 or -4 home to your loved ones. We’re cooking up a delectable three course meal…

First course: local butternut squash soup with maple roasted pecans.

Second course: butter basted beef tenderloin with pan seared scallops, cheddar potato pie and honey mushroom sauté OR goat cheese and cranberry stuffed chicken breast, roast vegetable strudel and honey crisp apple slaw.

Third course: individual white chocolate raspberry ripple cheesecake OR caramel apple spice cake. We also have a variety of heart-inspired cupcakes and gifts for your special someone.

If you want to order a dinner-for-2 or -4 from Never Enough Thyme, you can pick it up last minute but we’d really appreciate it if you ordered ahead of time so that we can make sure there is enough for everyone who is interested. Call us at 519.669.0374.

Warm bread for cold winter months

With cold weather in full swing and a hot pot of soup or stew on the stove, sometimes there’s nothing better than freshly baked comfort food in the form of a loaf – bread. It goes well on the side of these hot dishes or even on its own.

We love baking a fresh loaf of bread and experimenting with the classics – the feel of the dough, the smell of the kitchen when it’s baking and the light and fluffy doughy goodness is unbeatable. Plus, it’s always a great feeling to smell and taste the result of the elbow grease that goes into kneading a good loaf of bread.

One of our personal favourites at Never Enough Thyme is soda bread where baking soda is used as the rising agent instead of yeast. A basic soda bread simply includes flour, salt and buttermilk where the reaction between the buttermilk and baking soda would form tiny bubbles, giving this bread its distinct look.

But of course, we’ve spiced the traditional bread up a bit and love to make this brown butter soda bread…

Brown butter soda bread

1/4 cup butter
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup oats
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp fresh chopped thyme
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground pepper
1 3/4 cups buttermilk

Place butter in hot pan and swirl around gently until it stops foaming, browns and smells nutty. Stir flour, oats, sugar, thyme, baking powder and baking soda and pepper in mixing bowl, add buttermilk and browned butter. Mix with dough hook until combined. Divide the ball in half and shape into two balls.

Flatten the ball into a 6” round and brush with egg white wash, sprinkle with a tablespoon of oats and score an X on top. Bake for approximately 45 minutes. This bread does not need much kneading as no gluten needs to develop.

After you make this, stop by our food shoppe to pair it with some delicious soup at 90 Earl Martin Dr., Unit 4 in Elmira.

A simple start to 2012

Though you’re probably still attending, and maybe even hosting, Christmas get-togethers, if you’re thinking about hosting a New Year’s party then it’s time to start planning that, if you haven’t already.

As a time to reflect upon the past year and celebrate the one ahead, what better way to do so than with food and drinks shared with loved ones? Often, New Year’s parties can be over-the-top and overpriced when they’re hosted at venues other than your own home. But we happen to think that simple is better and would recommend an intimate evening with close friends and family, some simple hors d’oeuvres and a few signature cocktails. Oh and of course, some bubbly to share for the countdown.

To keep things simple for both you and your guests, we recommend serving a couple of finger foods that can be prepared ahead of time instead of a full course, sit-down dinner. This way, you can enjoy your company while they’re there instead of being in the kitchen the whole time, mingle more by passing around the appetizers and use simple cocktail napkins for easy clean-up.

Your menu may depend on your guests – whether there are any food allergies, picky eaters or little ones in the crowd. But we love this hors d’oeuvres recipe for bang bang chicken satay and think it’ll wow your guests, too.

Bang bang chicken satay

Cut boneless skinless chicken breasts into five long strips, from pointy to round end. Thread onto a skewer.

Chili Ginger Sauce

1/2 cup sweet chili sauce

1 tbsp mirin

1 tbsp soya sauce

2 tsp sesame oil

3 leaves of mint, chopped

2 tsp chopped ginger

Combine all ingredients into a bowl and brush over the satays, bake in oven at 375°F for approximately 10 to 12 minutes. Chicken should reach 160°F. Garnish with sesame seeds and serve.

But, if all else fails and you find yourself completely exhausted after the Christmas rush, contact Never Enough Thyme or check out our online ordering menu and we’d be happy to handle the food part of your New Year’s party for you.

Time saving tips for Christmas goodies

We know all too well how busy a time of year Christmas can be, with shopping to do, parties to attend (and host), decorations to hang and presents to wrap. This all leaves little time left over to bake for all of your holiday parties. We suggest starting early.

Sounds like a no-brainer, but you also don’t want your cookies to be stale or moldy by the time the gatherings come around. That’s why you can bake a big batch of cookies several weeks in advance then freeze them and take them out in time to thaw for the party.

Similarly, you can also pre-make the dough and just freeze that then all you have to do is roll it out, cut it into shapes and bake it. Or make it even easier by making the dough, having it cut into the shapes you want and freezing it in layers. Then you just have to bake the cookies for a tad longer than the recipe calls for since the dough will be frozen.

This latter option is one of our favourites because you get the hard part out of the way weeks before and can still bake them “fresh” for your guests who never need to know your secret. Plus, the aroma of freshly baked cookies will make your house even more inviting and ready for a festive evening.

Keep in mind that some cookies won’t lend themselves to freezing due to the texture, like macaroons and anything with egg whites. However, you can still make these types of cookies in advance and store them in airtight containers. They will still be fine when you decide to serve them.

If you want a variety of cookies for your festive plate but only have time for one large batch, you could do a cookie swap with friends or coworkers. This means you would make several dozen cookies in one variety and your friends would each do the same, then you’d swap cookies so you end up with a few different varieties, and again, no one needs to know that you didn’t bake them.

One of our favourite cookie recipes to make this time of year is this one for cranberry pistachio icebox cookies. They’re festive and work well as a pre-made frozen batch. Try for yourself!

Pistachio Cranberry Icebox Cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1/2 cup shelled pistachios (2 1/4 oz; not dyed red)
1/3 cup dried cranberries (1 1/4 oz)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup decorative sugar (preferably coarse)

Special equipment: parchment paper

To make dough…

Stir together flour, cinnamon and salt in a bowl.

Beat together butter, granulated sugar, and zest in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing until dough just comes together in clumps, then mix in pistachios and cranberries. Gather and press dough together, then divide into 2 equal pieces. Using a sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper as an aid, form each piece of dough into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Square off long sides of each log to form a bar, then chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until very firm, at least 2 hours.

Slice and bake cookies…

Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Brush egg over all 4 long sides of bars (but not ends). Sprinkle decorative sugar on a separate sheet of parchment or wax paper and press bars into sugar, coating well.

Cut each bar crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices, rotating bar after cutting each slice to help keep square shape. (If dough gets too soft to slice, freeze bars briefly until firm.) Arrange cookies about 1/2 inch apart on lined baking sheets.

Bake cookies, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until edges are pale golden, 15 to 18 minutes total. Transfer cookies from parchment to racks using a slotted spatula and cool completely. If desired, dip cooled cookies in white chocolate for and added touch.

Baker’s notes:

  • Dough bars can be chilled up to 3 days or frozen, wrapped in plastic wrap and then foil, 1 month (thaw frozen dough in refrigerator just until dough can be sliced).
  • Cookies keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 5 days.

Check out our other blog posts for more baking tips, tricks and recipes. Also, check out Kate’s Kause online and see where the efforts of our Christmas “Cookies for Kate” will be going towards. During Christmas, we’ll be selling Christmas cookies for $5 per dozen and $1 from every dozen will be donated to Kate’s Kause so that an all-accessible playground can be built in Elmira.

Modern twists to Thanksgiving

When you think of Thanksgiving what undoubtedly comes to mind is turkey with all the trimmings, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie for dessert and there’s nothing wrong with that; but, if you’re tired of the same old dishes at your Thanksgiving feast, then you’re like us and need a new adventure. That’s why we’re always looking for unique ways that we can take these traditional dishes and spice them up a bit. You get the best of both worlds – you and your family still get to enjoy the crowd favourites and you get to think outside the butterball and try something new.

One tip we have, particularly for smaller families or if it’s just you and your spouse, is to buy turkey breasts instead of a whole turkey, which is probably not necessary for a smaller crowd. Where do you stuff the stuffing, you may wonder? We suggest using the butterfly method to cut the turkey breast, stuff it with the stuffing and then roll the breast in a dry rub and tie it with butcher twine to ensure it doesn’t fall apart while you braise the dish in a frying pan. Then roll the breast in foil and roast it in the oven. When it’s ready to eat, finish it off with our ginger and brown sugar glaze and enjoy!

Stuffing is always a favourite with us and our families and we particularly love experimenting with this dish because with so many varieties of bread and extras you can add to it, the possibilities for stuffing are endless. This Thanksgiving, consider going with a different stuffing to wow the family, like our corn bread stuffing that shakes things up a bit with a non-traditional base.

Corn bread stuffing
2 tbsp butter
1/2 red onion, diced
1 stalk celery
1 garlic clove
1/4 tsp pepper
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp fresh sage
6 cups cornbread, cut into pieces
3 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup chicken stock

Sautée onion, celery and garlic in butter in a pan for 5 minutes on medium heat, allow to cool. Cut bread into pieces into a bowl and add sautéed veggies, eggs and chicken stock. Season with herbs, salt and pepper. Place in bottom of parchment lined pan.

Turkey rub
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp vegetable oil

Combine all dry ingredients and evenly rub into the turkey breast, add vegetable oil. Let stand for 25 minutes.

Glaze
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 clove chopped garlic
1 tsp chopped ginger
1/2 tsp sambal olek

Combine ingredients into a paste.

Place turkey (stuffed with the corn bread stuffing) in a hot pan. Once turkey is seared, spread on the sugar glaze, place in pan with the additional stuffing and finish in the oven at 400°F until tender and the center reaches 160°F. Allow to rest for 5 minutes.

When you have lots of leftovers after Thanksgiving is over, ask us how to repurpose them for a new meal when the family gets sick of eating the same thing.