Blueberry & Ricotta Muffins

I read some really great chefs and cooks online and have come across hundreds of recipes I’d like to try at some point in time. However, when one of my favourite foodies comes out and says a recipe is ‘to die for’ – I know it’s worth the time to try out.
These muffins did not disappoint – absolutely delicious. Simple to make, not too sweet, moist and mouthwatering delicious. Check out some of the other great Ciao Florentina recipes on her site.

Blueberry and Ricotta Muffins

Adapted from Ciao Florentina

Serves: 12

Dry Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
Wet ingredients:
1/3 cup canola oil
5 tablespoons whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup fresh blueberries
Streusel Topping:
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon butter
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients separately then using a spatula stir the two together until incorporated. Don’t over mix.
  3. Fold in the blueberries then fill 12 muffin cups 3/4 of the way full. Top with 1 tablespoon of streusel topping then bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 20 minutes.
  4. Cool on a wire rack for 10 min. Enjoy!

The Sushi Tails: Perfect Sushi At Home


Every tale should have a happy ending, and fortunately this one is no exception. On my latest attempt to make perfect restaurant quality sushi at home my kids declared that my journey had ended successfully. My sushi was the best sushi they had ever tasted! Now, while I know my taste-testers might be a little subjective I have to admit the sushi is pretty darned good. And… I can make it at home for about a quarter of the price that I can get it at any restaurant. This is certainly as much as I’d hoped to accomplish from the outset and more! So give it a try and let me know how yours comes out. My kids favourite was maki with salmon, avocado, carrot, cucumber, crispy bits (crushed Panko bread crumbs) and lightly spiced mayo.


A small investment in some critical tools will make sure your sushi making experience at home goes off without a hitch. As I mentioned in my earlier post about sushi ingredients: you’re already saving a ton of money by making sushi at home. Make sure you have the right tools to make it a great experience  and the freshest ingredients so that you can become a super sushi-making home chef.

The Magic Ratios:

After a LOT of experimenting with varying amounts of water, rice and vinegar here’s what i came up with for perfect sushi rice at home.

x grams dry sushi rice
x * 1.10 ml water
x * .25 ml seasoned vinegar

For example:
500 grams dry sushi rice
550 mwater
125 ml seasoned vinegar 

Sushi Rice

Perfect Sushi at Home

Serves 5-6


1000 g quality sushi  rice (such as Kokuho)
1100 ml water (the magic ratio is 10% more water in ml than rice in grams)
250 ml seasoned vinegar (the magic ratio is 25% vinegar in ml than your dry rice was in g)
20 nori sheets
1 peppers, julienned
1 English cucumber, seeded and julienned
1 carrot, julienned
3 tablespoons Japanese bread crumbs
4 oz sushi grade salmon, skinned and de-boned, cut into narrow strips
6 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 tablespoon hot water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon maple syrup
4 tablespoons spicy mayo


  1. In a small bowl mix together the soy sauce, hot water and maple syrup. Add in the dried mushrooms and allow them to rehydrate. Once rehydrated cut them julienne.
  2. Place the rice in a large bowl and rinse with ice cold water. Swirl the rice with a paddle a few times to remove the starch. Drain the water away. Repeat this process until the water rinses clear – about five times.
  3. Put the rice and the measured amount of water into a rice cooker and set to manufacturers setting for white rice.
  4. Transfer the rice to a large, wide wooden bowl. Pour the seasoned vinegar over the rice and using a paddle mix the rice being careful to chop with the side of the paddle and then lift the rice to turn. The trick here is not to mush the rice together but rather to chop between the grains of rice, allowing the vinegar to incorporate.
  5. Once the vinegar is incorporated continue to mix and begin to fan the rice. Take care again not to press the rice together but rather to gently chop and fold. You want to cool the rice to about body temperature. Do not cool entirely to room temperature.
  6. If you are not making sushi straight away, cover the rice with a clean dampened tea towel to stop it drying out (prepared sushi rice will keep at room temperature for up to 4 hours.) Do not refrigerate!
  7. Before assembling your sushi place a small bowl of water nearby to dip your fingers in. This will keep the rice from sticking to your hands.
  8. Cover your bamboo mat with plastic wrap to prevent rice from sticking to it. Position nori sheet shiny side down on your bamboo mat. 
  9. Dip hands in the water mixture and grab a small handful of sushi rice. Cover bottom three-quarters of nori sheet with thin layer of rice, leaving the top quarter of the sheet empty.
  10. Layer a thin layer of fillings on top of rice on the bottom third of the nori sheet. Add a sprinkling of breadcrumbs or spicy mayo if desired.
  11. With a wet finger lightly moisten the exposed strip of nori at the top of the sushi roll (this will seal it together when rolled.)
  12. Begin rolling your sushi roll by pushing the mat forward until the mat is completely around the sushi roll and until the top and bottom edges of the nori meet. The mat can be used to shape your sushi but don’t press too hard.
  13. Set your first sushi roll on a plate. Make as many additional rolls as you like. To cut use a very sharp knife, slicing each roll into six equal pieces. Wet the knife in water between rolls. Enjoy!

The Sushi Tails: The X Factor


On this quest to make sushi rice at home I thought it would be a good idea to enlist the help of some professionals. When I told my friend (who we’ll simply call Chef Jonathan to protect the innocent) about this little sushi-making project I’m on, he was super excited to get me in the kitchen so we could cook sushi rice together. Now, Chef Jonathan is a professional Executive Chef who has done an apprenticeship in New York City for 3 months at the famed Nobu restaurant. For those who know a thing or two about sushi, Nobu is about as authentic and high-end of a sushi experience that you will find outside of Japan. So while Jonathan was not technically allowed to make the sushi at Nobu (it takes years of training before they will even let you touch the rice, never mind the sushi!) he certainly picked up a thing or two watching some of the master sushi chefs in action.

We started off talking about a lot of the details of making sushi that I’ve already documented in this series — the use of fine ingredients; the ratio of water to rice; the importance of fanning, chopping, and folding. As Chef Jonathan poured the sushi rice into his pot, and was about to add the water he suddenly stops, spins to me and says excitedly “I nearly forgot the secret ingredient! Follow me!”

He then beckons me to follow him through the busy kitchen of chefs and boiling pots, past the supply galley and linen cabinet, along a dimly lit back hallway between the laundry piles and rusting furnace to an open pantry closet with its door hanging askew. At this point I felt a little bit like Mr. Peltzer following Mr. Wing’s grandson through his shop to buy a Mogwai… Chef Jonathan reaches to the back of one of the shelves and pulls out a large black gold can with Japanese writing up and down the sides. “Miora!” he says beaming with delight. “The secret ingredient of sushi restaurants.”

While there are plenty of Japanese instructions and explanations printed all over the can the English label slapped on top for export purposes looks like it was printed on a dot matrix printer from 1990 and simply says:

Powdered Ferment, Miora Gold
Ingredients: Natural Amylase, Irotease, Starch, Glucose
For Professional Restaurant Use Only
Keep Refrigerated

Chef Jonathan explains that the powder helps the rice from becoming too gloopy and makes sure it is just the right right consistency. I take a look at the fine powder in the tin he’s just popped open and I have my suspicions. “Two teaspoons of Miora per one cup of rice.” says Chef Jonathan. ‘Two heaping teaspoons of skeptical’ I think to myself… Before leaving I made sure Chef Jonathan gave me some of his secret powder to take home with me to experiment with. When I got home I popped the Miora in the fridge and headed straight to my computer to do some research.

It turns out Miora became an additive to sushi rice sometime shortly after World War II.* From a chemical point of view Amylase helps break starch into glucose, while Protease breaks protein down into amino acids. Effectively the Miora’s Amylase helps generate sugar in its simplest state (read: brain candy) and the amino acids help create that elusive taste of umami. Many Miora powders also contain MSG. So essentially sushi restaurants are converting your rice into the sushi equivalent of crack-cocaine. Sweet, salty, sour, and umami  in the rice combined with more salt and umami from the soy sauce and fish, in addition to the bitterness of the wasabi… and effectively this combines to get your palate and brain craving the stuff again and again. What restaurants have stumbled upon is a way to get you hooked on their food. Your brain succumbs to thousands of years of evolution simply content in the fact that all indications point to the fact that this sh!t is GOOD!

Long story short, Miora is likely used in many (read: most? all?) of the sushi restaurants you visit. It’s a way they can make sure their sushi ‘pops’ in flavour and is highly addictive, keeping you coming back for more. It’s made in a lab and certainly has some suspicious ingredients you wouldn’t assume are going into sushi — one of the simplest of natural foods. Some varieties of Miora contain MSG — a whole other post we can get into some other time…Whether it also helps with the consistency of the rice, as Chef Jonathan claims, I can not say for sure. However, if I’m making sushi at home for my family I want it to be as healthy as possible. Whatever the benefits of Miora might be for large sushi establishments it is certainly the X Factor I don’t mind skipping out of any sushi I’m going to make at home!

* from The Story of Sushi by Trevor Corson

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