Growing up in a Jewish household, we never had white sliced bread.
No. Seriously. Never. We had challah. Or onion rolls. Or pumpernickel. But white sliced? Never. The first time I tried white sliced bread was at a non-Jewish friend's house. Slathered with mayonnaise and bologna... I really didn't get the appeal.

30 years later, and I am still a rather large bread snob. The thing is, we've now moved to a predominately Italian area - which is an amazing place to be if you're looking for pizza, but not the best place to find a babka, let alone some kosher bread.

Good thing I like to cook.

Bread baking really isn't my forté, but I never stop trying new recipes and new techniques. It turns out that some of my favourites are actually some of the easiest to make. I recently started to perfect my pumpernickel, and last week I came across a really awesome Kaiser roll recipe. Slightly dense inside, crisp outer crust, bathed in eggwash and poppy seeds - they are incredibly reminiscent of the ones that I had in my school lunches as a kid.

These make excellent burger buns, or hearty sandwich bread alternatives. They are slightly dense and are a great base for something saucy, like a lentil sloppy joe or some pulled-pork style jackfruit.



Homemade Kaiser Rolls
a.k.a. Easy Bread Buns
a.k.a. The Most Excellent Burger Buns
recipe adapted from Taste of Home

ingredients

8g active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110°F)
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp salt
3 cups AP flour

1 egg
2 tbsp. water
poppy and/or sesame seeds (for sprinkling)

method
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add sugar and oil. Let stand for 10 minutes. 

Mix the flour with the salt. Add flour mixture a little at a time until it is all combined. If dough is extremely sticky, add up to 1/4 cup more flour.
Turn dough onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. 
Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide into 6 to 8 pieces. Shape each into a ball. Place 2 in. apart on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400°F. 
Beat egg and cold water; brush over rolls. 
Sprinkle with poppy and/or sesame seeds. 

Right before placing in oven, slash tops with a lame, razor, or very sharp knife.
Bake at 400°F for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. 

Allow to cool fully before slicing. 

Béchamel sauce is one of those basic sauces that every good chef should be able to master. The problem? Béchamel is just that - SO incredibly basic that, well, it's boring! There. I said it! BÉCHAMEL IS FLAVOURLESS! Every traditional béchamel that I've tasted has been super plain, and feels like it is lacking. My pet peeve is when someone makes mac-and-cheese but it's like 50% béchamel, and it tastes like nothing. Enter a few extra flavourful ingredients though, and you've got yourself the creamy white sauce of your dreams. The powerhouse flavours in my arsenal? Onions (both dried and caramelized), buttermilk, vinegar (no, seriously) and fresh sage. Yes, my béchamel is a little out of the ordinary - meaning, in that it has TONS of flavour. I've married together Bernaise sauce's acidity, hollandaise sauce's butter & béchamel's roux to make the best white sauce you've ever had. The best part: it's easy! It is also super versatile. Add some shredded sharp cheddar or smoked gouda and you've got yourself some mac&cheese sauce. Toss it with green beans and bake to make a green bean casserole that'll knock your grandma's socks off. (Seriously, you CAN make a green bean casserole WITHOUT condensed soup.) Use it on top of crèpes and become a brunch hero. Eat it with a spoon. Ok, no, maybe that's only me. But, you get the idea.


Easy Recipe for Flavourful Béchamel 
with Sage & Caramelized Onion

175g butter
150g flour
250ml milk
250 ml buttermilk
500ml 15% cream
2 tbsp. dried onion pieces
4 tbsp. butter
5 shallots, minced
2 bay leaves
6 fresh sage leaves
salt & pepper, to taste

In medium saucepan, melt 2 tbsp. butter. Add sage leaves and stir. Add in minced shallots. Cook over medium heat until shallots begin to turn golden brown. Add remaining 2 tbsp. butter. Stir until melted and combined. Remove from heat and set aside.

Melt 175g butter over medium heat in heavy bottomed saucepan. Whisk in flour all at once. Continue cooking over medium until mixture begins to bubble and soften.  (Congrats, you've just made a roux!)

Slowly add in milk, whisking constantly. Slowly add in cream & buttermilk, continuously whisking. Add bay leaves, dried onion & caramelized onion. Stir. Allow mixture to come to a boil. If mixture is too thick, add more milk or buttermilk (1 tbsp. at a time) until desired consistency is reached.






Fellow food bloggers with full-time jobs, I tip my hat to you. As a teacher, the months of September and October have eaten my soul been quite tiring, and I'm not sure how you other bloggers all have the juice to pump out post after post. Prepping, cooking, plating, shooting, cleaning up, and finally, writing it all down... it takes a LOT. I absolutely love it, but, holy cow, there just isn't enough time (or sunlight!) in a day. (Speaking of sunlight, I thank food photography heaven for indoor shooting lights during this dark and dreary season, as it seems that there is never quite enough natural light to take any decent shots of anything!) 

Cold, rainy, dark days also call for warm, comforting food - but also, I'd prefer that comfort food to be the kind that you can just come home to and throw in the oven no defrosting required. The internet / Pinterest is full of freezer-friendly meals, however a lot of them require tons of advance prep, or they require you to defrost before cooking, or they end up lacking in texture and flavour once reheated. You think that at pitch-black, pre-caffeinated 6am, I can remember to defrost something for dinner? Ain't nobody got time for that. I can't even remember to pack my lunch. 

I did have some rare free time one weekend, and I wanted to create something that was relatively easy, made little mess, and was a cinch to reheat - without defrosting. Enter the freezer-to-oven twice-baked stuffed sweet potato. This adobo flavoured marvel is just as delicious the day you make it as it is 3 weeks later when you re-heat it. 



Freezer to Oven Vegan Meal
Twice-Baked Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
an original recipe by allison sklar 

ingredients
6 medium sweet potatoes
4 tbsp. olive oil
2 pinches sea salt
1 large Spanish or Vidalia onion, diced
1 cup black beans, cooked and drained (or canned - drained & rinsed)
1 cup corn kernels (either frozen or canned)
1 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1 cup ready-made salsa (homemade tomatillo salsa recipe HERE!)

method
Preheat oven to 425F.
Line roasting tray with parchment paper.
Slice potatoes in half lengthwise and place face down on roasting tray.
Drizzle with 2 tbsp. olive oil and season with salt.
Roast for 30 to 40 minutes (less time for smaller potatoes), or until fork pierces easily into center.
Remove from oven and allow to cool enough to handle comfortably.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in pan.
Sautée diced onion until translucent.
Add beans, corn and salsa. Stir until heated.
Once potatoes are cool, flip them over and scoop out most of the flesh, leaving a small border around the peel.
Mash up the removed flesh & combine with bean mixture and chopped cilantro.
Fill potato skins with mash mixture. Serve hot.

IF FREEZING: Allow to cool completely. To freeze, wrap in greased aluminium foil and place on baking tray. Allow to freeze completely before stacking.

To cook from frozen, preheat oven to 425F. Place foil-wrapped potatoes on baking tray. Cook for 35-40 minutes, until potatoes are hot.

Serve with shredded cheese, mashed avocado and extra salsa if desired.









Living in Montreal is pretty awesome for a multitude of reasons. Food wise, we have more restaurants than we can possibly ever eat at, and you can easily find authentic tasting cuisine from nearly every country in the world. We have an incredible selection of grocers, small and large, and it's pretty easy to find nearly any special ingredient that you're looking for. 

The one thing that we don't have? Trader Joe's. I love everything about Trader Joe's, and I'll take any opportunity I can get to cross the border just to have a taste of their delicious garlic na'an dipped in cowboy caviar. The thing is, I don't often have this opportunity, so when I recently ran out, I knew I would have to either a) live without it, or b) make my own. Obviously, I went with option B. And let me tell you, as much as I love my TJ's, now that I've made this, I may not need to make as many trips down south as I used to.



Tomatillo Cowboy Caviar (Salsa Verde)
an original recipe by allison sklar 

1 lb tomatillos, husks removed, diced
2 medium onions, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup corn kernels (canned, or cooked)
1 cup black beans (cooked)
2 tsp cumin seed
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup cilantro
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 diced jalapeno pepper (more if you like it spicy)
1 tsp salt

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Preheat oven to 375F.
In a large mixng bowl, combine tomatillos, onions, garlic, corn, black beans, cumin seed & oil.
Spread mixture onto baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes.
Remove from oven.
Transfer about half of the mixture into a food processor or blender.
Add water, vinegar, cilantro, jalapeno & salt to blender.
Pulse until roughly chopped.
Transfer mixture, along with reserved half, to a large saucepan.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, simmering for about 45 minutes, until most of the liquid has reduced and sauce thickens.
Transfer to jar with airtight lid.
Allow to cool & refrigerate.
Best served cold.




Crêpes are one of those foods that I used to think of as 'special occasion food.' I did not grow up eating them, and knew them only from breakfast restaurants, and a few scattered crêperies around the city. They always seemed a little fancy to me, so I shied away from as I thought that they were too complicated or labour-intensive. Boy, was I wrong! This particularly delicious recipe has a batter that is mixed in the blender - just toss your ingredients in and blitz! Couldn't be simpler. Using a 6 inch non-stick pan ensures that each crêpe is the same size and shape - which is great for fancy stacks, crêpe cakes, or perfectionists! These crêpes are so versatile that we found ourselves trying different topping combinations a few nights in a row, having a great excuse to eat breakfast for dinner multiple times. Savoury or sweet, these thin French style pancakes are my new go-to brunch food. The best part? They can be made in advance and frozen - for up to a year! I know this from experience, as we saved some from our wedding, and they were equally as delicious on our 1st anniversary.

French Style Crêpes
thin pancakes - ideal for crêpe cakes 

Note: Make dairy-free crêpes by replacing milk with coconut milk, and butter with coconut oil

ingredients

2 1/4 cups milk, warmed to 110F
2 cups ap flour
6 eggs
6 tbsp. butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla*

approx. 1/4 cup oil, for cooking

method

NOTES: You can make these in advance and re-warm in the oven at your convenience.
If making a large batch, pre-heat oven to 175F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Place all ingredients, except oil, into blender and pulse until completely smooth.
Heat oil in round flat-surfaced skillet or frying pan, ideally the same size as you would like your crêpes to be. I like to use a 6'' pan.
Pour about 3 tbsp. of batter into pan (or, just enough so that the pan is coated.)
Allow to cook for 2 minutes before flipping over.
Remove from pan, and place on parchment lined sheet in a 175F oven until ready to serve.


*Note: Omit the vanilla and reduce sugar to 1/8 cup if you would like to use these in savoury applications.