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When Fall arrives, I always find myself preparing dishes that warm me up on the inside and “sticks to your ribs” so to speak. So with that in mind, I thought sharing my quick pasta sauce method would be a great recipe that anyone can make quickly and at the same time enjoy a freshly made rich tomato sauce. The great thing with my tomato sauce recipe is it adapts well to different flavour accents like basil, white wine, mushrooms, etc; the additions are numerous, so get creative!

This method requires diced tomatoes either fresh or canned, your choice, tomato paste, and various aromatics – diced onions, garlic and green pepper. You can add some dried or fresh herbs. I commonly use dried oregano, basil and thyme. Rosemary can be an excellent addition as well. Its robust aromatic flavour really permeates the entire sauce adding a great taste.

Spaghetti Sauce

The other fantastic thing that I love about this dish is that it is very quick to put together. Start by sautéing your aromatics and herbs in a little oil. If you are going for the full experience you can use olive oil, but you can use whatever your preferred cooking oil is; however, I would avoid using coconut milk.

Once your aromatics and herbs are cooked down, add your tomatoes. If you use fresh tomatoes add a little water as well to help create your sauce for a chunky texture, or puree your tomatoes for a smoother finish. Simmer the sauce for about 5-10 minutes and then add some tomato paste. Add your salt and pepper and a touch of sugar to help balance the acid of the tomatoes. Cover and let simmer for at least 15 minutes. I normally let it simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes while I tackle something else.

Mushroom stuffed Ravioli

Once your sauce is ready you can serve it with your favorite fresh or dried pasta of any kind. I love to eat it with capellini or tortellini pasta, but whatever you fancy will work. You can also add meat or leave it as a vegetarian sauce. Either make meatballs on the side or brown off the ground meats while sautéing your aromatics and herbs.

And there you have it, a quick simple homemade tomato sauce that you can enjoy on any night. This sauce freezes well and is one of those dishes that gets better the next day!

Capellini Pasta

 

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So this month I thought that it would be good to cover some tips on layering and filling a cake. Sometimes this can be tricky, and for some bakers it’s at the last moment when they start to see that it was their layers that have created a problem. That leaning cake, or the bubble belly, and what about that seeping cake.; these are just a few of the most typical issues that can be caused when layering and filling a cake.

It always helps to have the tools that will make your job easier. Some of my go to tools that I use when I have to layer and fill a cake are my sharp serrated knife, my piping bag fitted with my round tip, a small offset spatula and my cake.

The first step to layering and filling a cake is…that’s right, layering the cake. This step involves you cutting your cake into even layers if you have a taller/thicker cake. Some bakers who like thicker layers choose to layer or stack whole cakes as opposed to cutting through cakes to create the layers. Cutting a cake that is not warm is key. Warm cakes break very easily! In fact the colder your cake the less likely it is to break while you are cutting through it. I often cut through my cakes why they are still slightly frozen.

Using a sharp knife helps reduce the amount of crumbs and helps you achieve clean layers when you have finished slicing though. For this example we will be using round cakes. Using a turntable while you cut helps to keep the knife level and achieve layers that are oftentimes more even. When beginning to cut, lightly mark around the cake where you would like the thickness of your first layer to be. While making a sawing motion and allowing the knife to do the work, spin the turn table as you gradually cut through the cake. Once you reach the centre the layer should lift off cleanly. You can repeat this step for the required number of layers you want out of your cake, just remember don’t make them too thin as they will be incredibly fragile and try to keep them as even as possible. We don’t want any leaning cakes

Next is filling and stacking.

Depending on the consistency of your filling or icing that you would like to sandwich between your cake, you can either use a piping bag or an offset spatula. Thicker fillings can be used in a piping bag. If you are using a piping bag, pipe a ring around the perimeter of the cake about 3-5 mm inward from the edge of the cake. Then pipe inside your rim with the remaining filling and smooth it out with your offset spatula. If your are not using a piping bag gently spread your filling on the top layer of your cake leaving a 3-5 mm rim around the edge. Try not to put too much filling as this is what causes oozing after the layers are stacked on top of each other.

Once you have covered the top with filing, lightly place your next layer on top and gently press down. Pressing down will make the filling move to the edge of the cake and the space that was left helps to prevent leaking. Continue this process until all your layers are stacked. The higher you have your cake you may want to consider adding structure to ensure it doesn’t start to lean as you build up.

And there you have it… layering and filling basics! Hopefully this helps with tackling some of those pesky filling and stacking issues.

Happy baking y’all!

Chef Sam's September Photo

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Hey yall, it’s me again and summer is finally here, so I figured why not welcome it with open arms. This month it’s all about BBQ! Why not start your culinary summer season right with perfecting your signature BBQ chicken. Have you ever had BBQ and its either super burnt and dry, because the cook had to make sure it was cooked all the way through. Or, what about that BBQ chicken that looks super juicy and nice on the outside, and when you cut into it you discover; it’s not cooked!!

I wanted to give you all some super helpful tips that were shared with me when I was a little girl by my brother (who is an international professional chef…can you tell I’m beaming…Lol!) and they have never failed me when Barbequing. I ended up becoming the official grill chef at home before I was 11.

Tip #1: Season your meat. Traditionally in our culture we ensure that the meat is WELL seasoned. It can be marinated in a bevy of spices, fresh herbs and vegetables. So why not crack open that pantry. Don’t be afraid to try spices you may not use often to give your marinade a unique flavor each time.

Tip #2: Start with a clean well oiled grill. This step is crucial because you want to make sure that to end right you have to start right. Making sure your grill is clean and well oiled ensures that your tender loving chicken won’t stick while it’s grilling to perfection.

Tip #3: Don’t get flip happy. Once you place your chicken on the grill, just relax, have a drink and don’t be tempted to constantly open the grill and flip the chicken. Each time you do, more heat escapes from the grill and with every flip you risk the chance of breaking up your chicken. Once the chicken turns opaque and has a little give, give it a flip!

Tip #4: Clear juices are your natural timer. If you are wondering when your chicken is ready for BBQ sauce, just check for clear juices. A tender squeeze or press on your piece of chicken will expel clear juices once cooked through (and when I say clear I mean clear). Your chicken at this point will be ready to be dressed in your BBQ Sauce.

Tip #5: Sticky chicken = finger licking. You want to keep your chicken on the grill with the BBQ sauce just until your chicken starts to get a nice shine to it and looks just a bit sticky. What you are looking for is all the sugars in the BBQ sauce to start to caramelize. At this point your chicken will be perfectly done with just the right amount of char from the grill.

I hope these 5 tips help bring you delicious BBQ all summer this year.

BBQ Chicken, Coleslaw, Corn on the Cob, Guacamole, Mango Salsa, Tomato Salsa

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This month I thought it would be a good idea if I gave some tips on a really important step when baking or a “baking basic” as I like to call it. I thought about some of the most important baking steps, and pan preparation is at the top of the list.

It’s the worst when you work so hard at getting your measurements right; make this great batter or dough; set it to cook and it turns out fantastic. Only to go and remove your baked creation and it gets destroyed because it’s stuck!

Knowing how to prep your pans can save you when it comes to sacrificing your time, tasty bakes and most importantly – your pans. One thing to consider when you begin is different pans require different attention. Intricately shaped pans, spring foam pans, round or square; it’s good to know your pan. Does it bake evenly? Does it stick in certain areas? Are there any nooks that you have to pay attention to? These are just a few things to know about your equipment. Remember: the older the pan the more personality it has! So I can’t stress how important it is to be familiar with each one individually.

Pan Prep Image

Every baker has their own preference on the medium they use to prep their pans. Most often you can find majority of these items in your fridge or pantry. Butter, shortening, flour, or pan spray are the most popular mediums. In the kitchen of some bakers, you may find parchment paper or something called “pan grease” – a mixture of flour, shortening and oil.

The methods are similar when using butter or shortening. Once you have decided on the fat you will use, you can then coat it all over the inside surface of the pan using paper towel or parchment paper. Make sure you get it everywhere!

Take a small amount of flour, put it in the pan and move it around until the inside is completely covered. It’s super important to ensure everywhere is coated. Everywhere! This will ensure that parts of your cake won’t break or stick when you attempt to remove it.

Once the pan is covered completely, dust out any excess flour. Too much flour on the inside of the pan will present on the surfaces of your bake. And there you have it!

The second method is the one which I use; a combination of pan spray and parchment paper.

To prep your pan with these mediums, begin by spraying the entire inside surface of the pan lightly with the pan spray. Then, take a piece of parchment paper and trace the bottom shape of the pan, cut it out and place it inside along the bottom of the pan. Make sure it covers the entire bottom surface.

Pan Spray Image

Some bakers may choose to line along the inside walls of the pans with parchment as well. This can be a bit tricky as well as time consuming, especially the more detailed the shape of your pan is.

You can also choose to flour your pan the same way you would as described in method 1, except here you are replacing the fat with pan spray. This may be especially helpful if you are using a shaped pan or a pan that you know tends to stick.

And there you have it, your pan is prepped!

Parchment Round Image

Normally these methods can be used when completing most bakes. However, a recipe will explain the pan preparation method to be used if it differs. A couple of things to keep in mind when your bake is complete: WARM BAKES ARE FRAGILE! Even though you may have prepped the pan like a champ, still be gentle when removing your bake.

Hopefully these pan prep tips will help you guys with your future bakes. Happy baking y’all!

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After recently returning from a trip to Cozumel, Mexico, I can’t help but have salsa on the brain! With summer approaching, I figured that this month would be a great one to talk about making salsas. The fresh cooling sensation of eating a homemade salsa compares to no other salsa experience and it is super easy to make.

Tomato Salsa

Salsa is one of those dishes I find is very versatile, the base ingredients include tomato, jalapeno, sweet onion, cilantro, salt and pepper. That’s it! Chop up these few ingredients mix them together, serve and enjoy! You know salsa can go with so many things such as: tacos, chips, salad, and grilled proteins; chicken, fish or steak. I mean the list is endless!

One of the things I love the most is that you can take those base ingredients and make a simple substitution and come up with a fantastic variation. For example, substitute the tomato for pineapple or mango, or both. If you prefer a salsa that is more sweet than savory; substitute the tomato for corn and voila, there are so many combinations.

Corn Salsa

Salsa is a very special dish, it can have such complex flavours made from such a simple preparation and ingredients. There are so many variations, apart from those that I mentioned. I encourage you to get creative!

If you want to take it up a notch, why not pair it with some homemade corn tortilla chips. Super simple just cut, fry, toss a little salt at the end and enjoy! Cinco de Mayo is around the corner and BBQ season is about to kick off so I hope these salsa suggestion add a lot of flavour to your summer ’17 season.

Corn & Tomato Salsas with homemade Tortilla Chips

For more information, please visit www.samssweetdesserts.com

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Weighing In with Chef Sam will feature short tips on different skills, techniques and tools that can be used when in the kitchen while either working on sweet or savory creations.

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One of the things I like making the most is my own granola. Even though it may look super complicated because of the number of ingredients it can include, it is actually extremely easy to make. What I like the most about making my own granola, is that I can customize it to suit whatever flavour profile I am craving at the moment.

Granola generally involves the combination of some sort of grain (most often oats), an oil, sweetener (usually liquid), and any other additive you want to include like, dried fruits, nuts, seeds, chocolate chips, etc.

I had some hemp ingredients that I wanted to try out so I decided to make my granola with oats, coconut, almond slices and hemp seeds, honey and hemp oil.

Granola Ingredients

Here’s a tip, I find quick cooking oats work the best as the granola doesn’t take much time to bake. This way you will get a tender oat texture once your granola is finished.

Once you decide what you want to include in your granola, mix it, place it on a sheet tray and bake it in the oven. It’s done as soon as you get the slightest whiff of it and it turns a golden brown.

Granola 2

And that’s it! Your own homemade granola.

For those of you who want to take it a bit further, try incorporating your newly created granola into another recipe. I decided to create my own cookie, and it turned out great. Give it a try and let us know how things turn out.

Oatmeal Granola Cookies

For more information, please visit www.samssweetdesserts.com

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