In her book, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School, author and Le Cordon Bleu graduate Kathleen Flinn highlights kitchen tools, basic cuts, and why you really need only a couple of good knives. Her assessment is both accurate and helpful as many of us have the misconception that we need the over-the-top eleven piece knife block set full of blades (some of which we will never use) in order to cook well.
Everyone has their favourite knife ~ the one they use most of the time, whether it be a vegetable or paring knife, santoku knife, or chef’s knife. It may be a twenty-five-dollar chef’s knife you picked up at the big box store, or an expensive Wusthof or Henckel selected for it’s full tang (where the blade extends all the way to the butt of the knife handle and is held together by rivets). Some people prefer a more expensive forged knife with a heavy bolster designed to help balance the knife in your hand as you are cutting. For some of you, as long as it feels comfortable in your hand and you’re able to slice and dice effortlessly, you really don’t care…
Flinn suggests the following two key considerations when buying a knife; “The steel and ‘the feel’. You want a knife with the kind of steel that can take an edge and hold it. Not all steel is created equal. Harder steel takes an edge better, resulting in a sharper knife.”(1.) “How a knife fits into your hand is the ‘feel’… Go to a place that has a good selection of knives…Feel the subtle differences in the weight and the grip of the handle. A comfortable knife is a highly personal thing.”(2.)
We suggest you buy only the knives you will actually use. Start with a good chef’s knife, a paring knife (with a blade a bit longer than your mother’s or grandmother’s), a nice bread knife, and when you’re able, supplement these with a santoku knife that has some curve to it’s blade for “rocking ability” (making it more multi-purpose) for effortless slicing, dicing and mincing. Santoku knives are often recognizable by the blade’s “scalloped” or dimpled sides. I also use my husbands extremely thin, sharp fillet knife periodically for removing membrane from wild poultry and game meats…he likes to clean fish for me so I miss out on actually filleting fish with it!
If your budget can handle getting one good knife, invest in the best knife you can afford. Look for full tang, good steel, and great feel! Take good care of it and it will be the best spent money on anything in your kitchen. Have your knives sharpened at lease once a year, and learn to properly hone (or fine tune) them yourself in between sharpening if you use them a lot. Most culinary or cookware stores that sell quality knives offer sharpening service.
I’ve waited for years to upgrade my favourite knife, and recently did so with zero buyers remorse. Pictured above: my new MIYABI 600S Morimoto edition santoku knife, made in true Japanese fashion by the Japanese factory of ZWILLING J.A. HENCKELS, purchased on sale at Grace In The Kitchen, Hazeldean Road, Ottawa, Ontario. Thanks Jamie Nadon, for your assistance in helping me select my new best friend, and a sweet new cutting board too! Standing in my kitchen just reached a new level of effortless enjoyment.
I’m in Home Grown Heirloom Persimmon Tomato heaven these days. Oh, and watch for my fresh herb salt (pictured) recipe coming soon, just in time to preserve your September herb harvest for months to come!
with joy over sharpness and cutting ease…
Happy slicing, dicing, mincing!
Diana E. Natalie
References: (1.),(2.) The Kitchen Counter Cooking School. Kathleen Flinn, Copyright, 2011. Penguin Books.
Apologies for the lengthy period of silence since the last post on Stand In My Kitchen…Recovering from surgery I spent a period of quiet respite at a friends cottage this summer, where I was introduced to a delectable quiche with a delicious crispy crust crafted of thinly sliced sweet potato. The recipe can be found HERE on my friend Sally’s lovely blog entitled Love Letters In A Pan. Once I was feeling like cooking again, this was the first thing I had to try…and it definitely won’t be the last time this beauty comes out of our oven here!
With joy over sweet introductions!
Diana E. Natalie
Photo: ‘Sweet Potato Quiche in the making…’
The original recipe for cupcakes, by Carole Fraser in North York, ON Canada, was published in the 2013 Taste of Home Special Edition ‘Cupcakes’. Works well as a cake batter ~ with a moist, rich brownie-like texture due to the addition of grated carrots as well as zucchini. We followed the cupcake recipe, using organic zucchini & carrot quickly grated with a food processor, unbleached all purpose flour and organic Spelt flour, premium dark cocoa, and real vanilla. We then put the batter into a 9-inch springform pan, rather than a muffin tin, and increased the baking time to 5o -55 minutes.
1 1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar (we used Florida Organic sugar)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon real mexican vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups unbleached All Purpose flour + 1 cup Organic Spelt Flour (whole or light)
3/4 cup Royal Dutch dark cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt (we used Liberte Greek yogurt)
1 cup grated organic zucchini (use a food processor for grating to save time)
1 cup grated organic carrots (use a food processor for grating to save time)
FROSTING: We used a basic Butter Cream Frosting recipe for our birthday cake, and Royal icing for the Super Mario face decoration. We found a template on the internet for Mario’s face, placed it on cardboard, covered with plastic wrap, and painted the royal icing onto the surface. We used fruit leather and various candy and marshmallows to decorate. Super Mario’s nose is a pared down jumbo marshmallow. What two-year-old wouldn’t want to pull that off and eat it?! CAKE METHOD:
Prepare grated zucchini and carrot and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Using a stand mixer or hand held blender, cream butter and sugar together in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla.
Combine the Flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Measure out the yogurt.
Add dry ingredients (flour mixture) and yogurt alternately to creamed mixture, beating well after each addition.
Fold in zucchini and carrots.
Pour batter evenly into 9-inch springform cake pan.
Bake at 350 degrees F. for 50 to 55 minutes – until a wooden pick inserted in centre comes out fairly clean. Cool. Remove from springform pan.
May be wrapped and stored in fridge for up to 48 hours before decorating. Cake remains moist.
A nice firm cake for decorating. Cut into smaller, dense slices, this cake serves 12 to 16 people.
With joy over chocolate cake and second birthdays, Diana E. Natalie
Note: All ingredients may be found at The Main Ingredient, 326 Charlotte St., Peterborough, ON. K9J 2V7
Muffins that taste like donuts? These aren’t far off for something made without any refined sugar or unfriendly oils! Make them ahead, store in an airtight container and enjoy for up to one week. Unlike other gluten free muffins which can sometimes dry out fairly quickly, these become more moist and taste even better after a day or two!
1/2 cup organic non-GMO cornmeal
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 cup brown rice syrup + 1/4 cup maple syrup (OR use 1/2 cup of maple syrup)
1 egg + 1 eggwhite
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
1/3 cup organic coconut oil, melted and cooled
1/3 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
1/4 cup almond milk or milk substitute
1/2 cup organic juice-sweetened fruit spread such as Crofter’s
Prepare muffin tin (grease or line with muffin papers). Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Blend dry ingredients together in a bowl using a wire whisk and set aside.
Beat wet ingredients together using a handheld or stand mixer.
Stir in dry ingredients until moistened – do not over mix.
Half-fill muffin cups. (Divide half of the batter between each of 12 muffin cups). Then carefully place one-half to one teaspoon of “just fruit spread” in centre of each muffin cup. (Is that me licking my finger in the picture below? Oops!)
Cover with approx. 1 Tablespoon of batter in each muffin cup, until all batter is used up.
Bake at 375 degrees F. for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into centre of muffin comes out clean.
As mentioned above you can make these muffins ahead, store in an airtight container and enjoy for up to one week. They moisten up and taste even better after a day or two.
Recipe makes 1 dozen.
with joy over gluten-free low glycemic muffins that taste like donuts,
Diana E. Natalie
P.S. All ingredients listed above are available at The Main Ingredient, 326 Charlotte St. Peterborough, ON.
Spring cleaning the freezer, we found a frozen container of Ricotta cheese, thawed it out, and used it and some frozen blueberries to make this amazing cake. One of those recipes that turns out so well and tastes so good we found ourselves dreaming all day about eating “just one more piece!” Eating this ‘cake’ for breakfast actually provides a decent level of protein from eggs, cheese, and milk, as well as fruit, and fibre if you use a whole grain flour in the batter. Super easy to make, you can likely experiment with some substitutions (i.e. alternate flours, sweeteners, oil, and dairy substitutes) with good success, as there’s plenty of egg and baking powder to make it rise up regardless. The cake should store well in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, although ours didn’t last long enough to prove it, as we ate it with breakfast, lunch, and dinner!
INGREDIENTS Part One ~ “Batter”:
1 cup flour (we used 1/2 cup Spelt flour + 1/2 cup unbleached All Purpose flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup milk (or milk substitute)
1/4 cup coconut oil melted & cooled. (Also use a bit of coconut oil to grease a 9 inch square glass baking dish).
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
INGREDIENTS Part Two ~ “Filling”:
1 1/2 cups frozen (wild) blueberries
INGREDIENTS Part Three ~ “Topping”:
1 1/4 cups ricotta cheese
1/3 cup Florida Organic sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 9″X9″ glass baking dish with a bit of coconut oil.
Stir together the flour, sugars, and baking powder from Ingredients Part One.
Add the milk, oil, egg, and lemon extract. Using stand mixer or handheld mixer, beat on low for one minute, then on medium speed for 1 minute (use spatula to incorporate any ingredients coming up the side of the bowl) until well blended.
Pour this batter into the prepared baking dish and spread evenly.
Ingredients Part Two: Sprinkle frozen blueberries evenly over the batter.
In separate bowl, whisk together the 2 eggs from Ingredients Part Three, ricotta cheese, 1/3 cup sugar, and vanilla extract.
Spoon this mixture evenly over the blueberries.
Bake (uncovered) 50 to 60 minutes – keep your eye on it near the end to ensure the top is done but not too brown.
Cool completely. Cut into squares, and ENJOY!!!
with joy over blueberries for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!
<3 Diana E. Natalie
P.S. All of the ingredients except the blueberries can be found at The Main Ingredient, 326 Charlotte St., Peterborough, Ontario.
Here we are at the end of the shortest but longest month of the year … February. (No exclamation mark, no smiley face, no hurrah.) If you live in Canada or anywhere in the Northern hemisphere for that matter (yes, it was even chilly in L.A. at the Oscar’s this year) you are ready for the windy month of March to usher in Spring and with it dreams of fresh salad greens, grown in your own garden perhaps?!
Meanwhile, if you are craving dark leafy greens as I am, try making this easy nutritious Kale salad to satisfy your cravings. The Kale in the grocery stores is beautiful right now!
1 Bunch leafy green Kale – washed, de-stemmed, chopped, and spun dry (or wrapped in a tea towel).
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup “real” aged parmesan cheese (grated or shaved)
1 seedless orange peeled and cubed
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice + 1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar (or 3 Tbsp lemon juice).
2 Tablespoons liquid honey
1/4 cup oil (we use either Grape Seed Oil, OR Extra Virgin Olive Oil, OR Avocado Oil).
2 Tablespoons finely diced fresh sweet onion
1 Tablespoon real mayonnaise (we use the kind made with olive oil).
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt (or himalayan pink salt)
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground blended pepper
Place the Kale (washed, stemmed, dried, and chopped) into a good sized salad bowl. Gently “KNEED” the Kale with your clean hands (squeezing and releasing in handfuls back into the bowl) to soften it as store-bought winter Kale tends to be ‘tougher’ than what you would grow in your own garden.
Place the rest of the salad ingredients into the bowl with the Kale.
Mix dressing ingredients together well with a fork or a small whisk, and pour around the inside edge of the salad bowl (around the salad).
Toss and serve.
Leftovers keep well for lunch the next day!
with joy over anything GREEN in February!
Diana E. Natalie
(Note: Organic apple juice-sweetened cranberries are available at The Main Ingredient, 326 Charlotte St. Peterborough, ON, along with the various salad oils, salts, and peppers mentioned above, and the raw sunflower seeds and lovely grated aged parmesan cheese).
The back-story to making this pie, is that thirty years ago (our first year of marriage) I attempted to make a chocolate cream pie for my hubby Bryan, and it was a major fail (ran all over the plate and tasted awful). This is my first re-attempt at a chocolate cream pie – or any cream pie for that matter!
So many thanks to Jill over at The Prairie Homestead for this perfect February chocolate treat! Bryan loved it! And so did the ‘dairy-free, grain-free’ friends we shared it with on Valentine’s Day.
We followed the recipe as exactly as we could and pictured here is our result even after a little trouble with the crust during baking ~ don’t worry, we’ve altered the original recipe ever-so-slightly to remedy any glitches, and explained things in detail to ensure a satisfying pie-making experience if you try it yourself!
Grain-free, Dairy free, and ‘almost refined sugar free’, the hit of chocolate and silky smooth texture of this pie is unforgettable. One question we were asked was, “Does it taste ‘coconuty’ with all the coconut milk, coconut oil, and addition of coconut flour in the crust?” The answer is, “not really! ~ all we could taste was CHOCOLATE. Yumm!”
This is a THINK AHEAD recipe! If you want to serve it one day, you need to make it the day before, or at least the morning of, if you’re serving it that evening! It needs all day or overnight to ‘set’ in the refrigerator.
1 3/4 cups blanched almond flour
3 Tablespoons unsweetened dark Dutch Process cocoa powder
3 Tablespoons coconut flour
1/4 teaspoon unflavoured gelatin
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 Tablespoons organic coconut oil ‘shortening’. (Note: coconut oil will liquify just above room temperature – for this recipe it works better if it’s firm not liquid).
3 Tablespoons liquid unpasteurized honey (we used clover honey).
Chocolate Cream Filling:
2 3/4 cups canned coconut milk (= 1 1/2 14 oz. cans) We used 1 can regular and 1/2 can ‘Lite’.
2 1/4 teaspoons unflavoured gelatin
4 large egg yolks (TIP: when you separate the eggs, save the whites – they will keep in the fridge for a few days and you can use them in other baking).
1/3 cup liquid unpasteurized honey (we used clover honey).
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (we used a pure bourbon vanilla)
2/3 cup semi-sweet (dairy free) mini chocolate chips
2 Tablespoons unsweetened dark Dutch Process cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
OPTIONAL: Whipping Cream, or Whipped (dairy free) Coconut Cream made from full fat coconut milk, for topping when serving pie.
Prepare the piecrust first. In a food processor, combine the almond flour, cocoa powder, coconut flour, gelatine, and sea salt. Pulse in the coconut oil and add the honey, pulsing until a dough ball forms.
Remove the dough from the processor bowl and shape into a disk, on plastic wrap, wrap it up and place in fridge to chill for a half hour.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly oil a 9 inch deep-dish pie plate. (We used a Le Creuset clay dish).
Once dough is chilled press it evenly from the centre of pie plate moving it outward and up the sides to the rim (laying plastic wrap over top of the dough while you press it in seems to make the process easier and keeps your fingers clean).
Poke the bottom of crust a few times with a fork, and bake 12 to 14 minutes until crust is looking done. We have a convection oven, so extended baking time to 2o minutes, during which time we removed it from the oven once to ‘coax’ the crust back up the sides of the pie plate with the rounded bottom of a measuring cup, as it had slid down a bit during baking. We returned it to the oven and it held its shape for the rest of the baking process.
Carefully remove piecrust from oven and allow it to cool completely.
Prepare Chocolate Cream Filling. Place coconut milk into a medium saucepan (pot), and sprinkle gelatin over top of the milk. Allow the gelatin to “bloom” about 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a smaller bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, honey, and vanilla. Set aside.
Once gelatin has softened, place saucepan over medium heat. Whisk constantly until the milk and gelatin are well combined and the milk is warmed. Once the milk is very warm (not boiling) slowly whisk 1/2 cup of the very warm milk into the yolk mixture – whisking constantly to combine. (This is known as ‘tempering the egg’). Slowly and in a small stream, whisk the tempered egg mixture back into the saucepan and keep whisking thoroughly.
Add the chocolate chips, cocoa powder, and sea salt, whisking well to combine. Bring the filling mixture to a gentle simmer and whisk for 2 to 3 minutes until it thickens. Pour this ‘custard’ filling through a fine mesh strainer into a shallow bowl or dish to cool. (Ours wasn’t too shallow so it took longer to cool – see photo above).
Once cooled, pour the filling into the cooled piecrust. Place in refrigerator to set (for at least 6 to 8 hours, or overnight).
When ready to serve, slice carefully, lift out and serve topped with fresh whipped cream or if you’re dairy free make coconut cream. Add chocolate shavings if desired.
Pie can be refrigerated up to 24 hours.
with double chocolate joy,
Diana E. Natalie