Steak and Smoked Salmon Crustini

steakbaguette

Here in Windsor it is April 24th – and still 40 degrees fahrenheit. By now, I have envisioned most of my cooking to consist of outdoor barbecue favourites, like Beef and Vegetable Skewers paired with a nice Garden Summer Salad and my Peach Champagne Bellini’s. But on this cold, rainy day I am forced to use my oven as my virtual barbecue. Despite my desire to cook in my bathing suit to, at least, fake myself into thinking we have hit hot weather.. I instead cooked up a baked Steak and Smoked Salmon Crustini with a Horseradish and Avocado Pesto. Delicious as an entrée paired with a Cucumber and Tomato Salad, or as a bite-size appetizer! Envision, and Enjoy!

Steak and Smoked Salmon Crustini

1 Grilled Medium-Rare Ribeye Steak, cut into thin pieces
1 French Baguette, sliced into 1-inch thick pieces
2 Avocados, halved and scooped out
3 teaspoons Horseradish Sauce
12 – 13 slices of thinly sliced raw Smoked Salmon (can be found at most supermarkets in packages)
3/4 – 1 cup shaved Parmigiano cheese
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Half of a lemon
3 cloves garlic

Serves: 12 Crustini’s

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. In a food processor or small blender, add the 4 halves of avocado, horseradish, garlic cloves, and juice of the lemon. Blend until smooth.
3. Lay out all pieces of sliced baguette (should be about 12 or 13) on baking sheet. Spread avocado and horseradish mixture across each piece.
4. Next, layer on one slice of smoked salmon for each piece, then pieces of steak, and Parmigiano cheese.
5. Bake for about 5 – 7 minutes, or until steak starts to bubble and pop.
6. Remove from oven, sprinkle with cilantro, and serve!!

TIP: Don’t overbake the crustini – as soon as you see the smoked salmon start to cook and turn white, it looses the texture.

steakbagplate

Yum!

Baking 101: Baking Powder Vs. Baking Soda

powdervssoda
(image courtesy of google images)

Sugar. Check. Flour. Check. Eggs. Check. Baking Soda – We have a problem.

I can’t tell you how many times I have underestimated my pantry stock (also reason #287 why you should have all your ingredients prepared before starting to cook or bake), and thus, have come to a fork in the road when I am missing a key ingredient. This is most especially crucial when it comes to baking, which comes down to basic chemistry in order to produce a successful result. But once question I have asked myself numerous times, and have been asked in return, is what is the difference between baking soda and baking powder, and can I substitute one for the other? The answer lies in science.

Baking soda is pure sodium bicarbonate. When baking soda is mixed with something acidic (such as buttermilk or yogurt) and moisture, a chemical reaction occurs in which bubbles of carbon dioxide form. Under the hot oven temperature, heat expands this process and this is what makes baked goods rise. Because this reaction occurs as soon as the ingredients are combined, recipes that call for baking soda must be baked immediately or they will fall flat.

Baking powder also contains sodium bicarbonate, but the acidifying agent, cream of tartar is already present. Two types of baking powder are available for baking use – single-acting baking powder and double-acting baking powder. Single-acting baking powder is activated by moisture, and therefore must be baked immediately after combining. Double-acting baking powder releases the carbon dioxide in two stages. The first, when the ingredients are combined at room temperature; and the second, when it reacts to the hot heat of the oven. Essentially, mixtures with double-acting baking powder can stand out longer before baking.

So when do you use baking powder or baking soda?

It all comes down to taste and ingredients. Baking soda has a bitter taste, and needs to counteract with an acidic ingredient like buttermilk or yogurt – this is especially found in cookie recipes. Baking powder on the other hand has both a base AND an acid, and in effect has a neutral taste – this works best with ingredients with neutral-taste (like milk) in recipes such as cake and biscuits. Because the ingredients directly affect the chemical reaction, it is possible to use baking powder when the recipe calls for baking soda, but it is not beneficial to use baking soda when it calls for baking powder because the recipe most likely lacks the acidifying ingredient. It is possible to make your own baking powder with baking soda by adding cream and tartar.

Happy Baking!

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

Finding the sweet spot for the perfect chocolate chip cookie can take a lot of time and practice – too dry, too wet, too flat, too puffy, not enough chocolate chips, too many chocolate chips (as if such a thing exists). This recipe is one I have used for years and find to be the closest thing to cookie heaven!

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

3/4 cup unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup chopped chocolate
pinch of salt

Serves: 30 Cookies

1. Pre-heat oven to 375°F.
2. Making sure the butter is at room temperature, cream together the butter, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract with a mixer.
3. Add in the flour, baking powder, and a pinch of salt.
4. Next, fold in chopped chocolate.
5. Beat together until all the ingredients are combined evenly.
6. Chill mixture for a few hours in the fridge, or even overnight if you’d like.

chococlatechipcookie2

7. Next, take chilled mixture out of the fridge and roll into small balls about 1 inch to 1.5 inches in diameter (see above).
8. On a greased baking sheet, bake cookies for about 10 – 12 minutes, or until slightly golden brown.
9. Let cool for about 10 minutes, and enjoy with a tall glass of cold milk!

TIP: For more chocolate-y goodness, add in 1/4 cup melted dark chocolate into your mixture when you cream the sugar, vanilla, butter and eggs together. Then, proceed to add the dry ingredients as normal. Yumm!

Spring Is Here!

gardening
(image courtesy of gardena.com)

Spring is here! Not only does that mean that I am back to work, but that gardening season has finally arrived! An easy transition into gardening that can be discovered early in the season is planting fresh herbs and spices. Growing herbs takes no special gardening talent, and can be done early enough in the season that you can have fresh, beautiful herbs before the frost even melts! The easiest way to do this is in small pots that can be convenienty accessable to you – like on the kitchen windowsill.

Early spring and late fall are the times in the year that you can start, and finish, to grow certain herbs and spices to make your growing season last even longer. But be careful – not all herbs react positively to indoor planting. Below is a small guide to the planting and transplanting of popular garden herbs.

-Basil-
Start Seeds Indoors: March – April
Start Seeds Outdoors: Anytime after last Spring frost
Height: 1ft. – 2ft.
Spread: 1ft.
Light: Full Sun
Soil Conditions: Rich, Moist
Growth Type: Annual

-Chives-
Start Seeds Indoors: February – March
Start Seeds Outdoors: 1 Month before last Spring Frost
Height: 1ft. – 1.5ft.
Spread: 1.5ft.
Light: Full Sun
Soil Conditions: Rich, Moist
Growth Type: Perennial

-Cilantro & Coriander-
Start Seeds Indoors: Not Recommended
Start Seeds Outdoors: Anytime after last Spring frost
Height: 1ft. – 3ft.
Spread: 4 inches
Light: Part Shade – Full Sun
Soil Conditions: Light
Growth Type: Annual

-Dill-
Start Seeds Indoors: Not Recommended
Start Seeds Outdoors: 1 Month before last Spring frost
Height: 3ft. – 4ft.
Spread: 1ft.
Light: Full Sun
Soil Conditions: Rich
Growth Type: Annual

-Fennel-
Start Seeds Indoors: Not Recommended
Start Seeds Outdoors: 1 month before last Spring frost
Height: 1ft. – 2ft.
Spread: 1ft.
Light: Full Sun
Soil Conditions: Rich, Moist
Growth Type: Annual

-English Lavender-
Start Seeds Indoors: March
Start Seeds Outdoors: Anytime after last Spring frost
Height: 4ft. – 6ft.
Spread: 1ft. – 1.5ft.
Light: Full Sun
Soil Conditions: Rich
Growth Type: Annual

-Lemon Balm-
Start Seeds Indoors: February – Early March
Start Seeds Outdoors: Mid March – Early April
Height: 1ft. – 2ft.
Spread: 1.5ft.
Light: Part Shade – Full Sun
Soil Conditions: Rich, Well-Drained
Growth Type: Perennial

-Parsley-
Start Seeds Indoors: March – April
Start Seeds Outdoors: Anytime after last Spring frost
Height: 1ft. – 2ft.
Spread: 1ft.
Light: Full Sun
Soil Conditions: Rich, Moist
Growth Type: Perennial / Biennial (requires 2 growing seasons to flourish)