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Speculoos – Belgian Spice Cookies

26 Feb

These cookies are like gingerbread cookies crossed with Biscoff biscuits (I’m a big fan of both). They are thin and crunchy and IMO totally addictive. They do take some planning, because you have to refrigerate the dough overnight. But once made, they keep well in a sealed container for over a week (if you don’t eat them all by then!)

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Ingredients

  • 1½ cups all purpose flour
  • ½ cup oat flour or almond meal
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Beat sugar and butter together in a large bowl until light.
  2. Add egg and beat until fluffy.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together flour and spices.
  4. Gradually add flour mixture to sugar mixture just until combined.
  5. Divide dough in half. Flatten each half into a rectangle. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  6. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to about ¼ inch thick.
  7. Cut dough into small rectangles, about 1-inch by 2-inches, or cut into shapes with cookie cutters. If dough feels dry, add a bit of water.
  8. Garnish with slice almonds (optional)
  9. Bake at 350F on parchment-lined baking sheets until the cookies have darkened and the edges have begun to brown, about 14 minutes.
  10. Remove from heat and cool.

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Amazing food abroad: Madame Janette’s, Aruba

27 Jul

Ask anyone where to eat in Aruba, and Madame Janette’s will likely be on the list. It’s not a place you need to try once if you take a trip to Aruba…. You’ll want to go back a second time. (Yes, we did go twice, during our 8-day trip to Aruba. They were perfect as our first and last dinners on the island).

Madame Janette's - bread and pickled onionsFrom the high-rise hotels in Palm Beach, Madame Janette’s is only a 10-minute taxi ride away. The restaurant’s large patio, lit up with strings of coloured lights, glows in the middle of a quiet residential area. The atmosphere is amazing whether you’re sitting out on the terrace under the lights around the little gazebo where a guitarist plays all evening, or on the covered deck area around the terrace.

Each meal kicks off with a basket of soft garlicky bread, served with garlic butter and pickled onions. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of the bread basket – this is really yummy bread!

Madame Janette's - Hungarian Goulash SoupHungarian Goulash Soup

Madame Janette's - Kasi’s ChorizosKasi’s Chorizos 

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Above: Madame’s Termidor Gratin – chunks of lobster and shrimp gratinated with spinach and Gouda cheese. It’s definitely one of the heavier appetizers, but great for sharing.

Another big draw at Madame Janette’s is the extensive beer list – at least sixty bottles, about half of which are Belgian beers. Whether you want a Belgian Trappist beer, a German wiessbier, the original Czech Budvar, or something from San Francisco, Madame Janette’s has it, and serves it with the proper glass.

Below: The Old Butcher Steak – cooked to a perfect medium-rare as my husband requested. The almond mashed potatoes on top were a terrific twist.

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Belgian (Liege) Waffles

4 Aug

The secret to authentic Belgian waffles is Belgian pearl sugar, which is a coarse, refined white sugar. It doesn’t melt at typical baking temperatures. so it  caramelizes on the exterior of the waffle and leaves pockets of crunchy sweetness on the inside. Don’t confuse it with Swedish pearl sugar, which is smaller, harder, and will not caramelize as well.

I used Lars’ Own Belgian Pearl Sugar for my waffles, and the box is printed with a basic waffle recipe (below). They came out great – chewy and dense, soft on the inside but crispy on the outside, just like the ones at the Waffles Cabins at New England ski resorts.

Liege waffles

Ingredients for 8 waffles

  • 3½ cups flour (I used all-purpose)
  • 1 packet dry yeast
  • ¾ cup lukewarm milk
  • 8 oz. softened butter (2 sticks)
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla (optional)
  • cinnamon (optional)
  • 8 oz. Belgian pearl sugar

Directions

  1. Dissolve yeast in milk.
  2. Gradually add all ingredients except pearl sugar to the flour.
  3. Let dough rise until it doubles in size (approx. 30 minutes).
  4. Add Belgian pearl sugar.
  5. Divide dough into small patties and bake in a heated and greased waffle iron.

Leonidas chocolates in Vancouver!

29 Jul

Last summer, one of my favourite Belgian chocolate shops opened its first location in Vancouver, near the Convention Centre! The new store sells chocolates imported from Belgium, including creamy, melt-in-your-mouth truffles and a variety of pralines (my personal fave being a dark chocolate truffle lightly coated in crushed almonds). In Belgium, Leonidas makes delectable chocolates at a terrific price – you get a much better bang for your buck than shops like Godiva, and I think they taste better too. In Vancouver, Leonidas chocolates are a bit of a splurge, and the selection isn’t as enormous as in the Belgian shops. These six chocolates (priced by weight) set me back about $9, but they were very much worth it.

If you ever find yourself in Belgium, you can buy these by the kilogram!

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