Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Meme 2: Me in 50 Q&As

A meme picked up from http://kazza.id.au/ features 50 questions about myself. Being the meme-lover that I am (and I know I'm one of the very select few) I won't tag anyone, but if you'd like to take this one and run with it, leave me a comment to let me know! I'd love to see your responses!

  1. Can you touch your nose with your toes? With arm support, yes!
  2. Who were you with last night? Um, I think the dog, the cats and my sister were here
  3. Are most of your friends in your life new or old? Old. Not in age, but it feels like we’ve known each other for ages!
  4. Do you like candy necklaces? Ick. Sweetened pastel-coloured chalk is not something I care to ingest. I'm snobbish about my candy.
  5. Do you eat raw cookie dough? Would if I could (used to love stealing my mom’s shortbread cookie dough from the cutting-board scraps).
  6. Pancakes or French Toast? Pumpkin pancakes, but only my own. Regular pancakes by my Dad or Grandpa though.
  7. How do you like your eggs? Over medium for fried, cheesy scrambled (with Mozzarella Cheesestrings!) or as a pumpkin-spice omelette.
  8. Creamy or crunchy peanut butter? Creamy, but alas, no longer on my “good list”
  9. Instant or home-made mashed potatoes? Home-made, with fat free sour cream, salt, pepper and garlic powder, then broiled until brown & crispy on top!
  10. Can you handle the truth? Usually I find a way to deal.
  11. What is the compliment you get from most people? “You look better today”
  12. If you were another person, would you be friends with yourself? I don’t know if I could handle being friends with myself… mind you if it was me being friends with me definitely because then we could do the stuff that no one else would want to (food shopping, etc).
  13. Is anyone on your bad side right now? Cel is on and off of my black list every other second just because of his insensitive comments, and Drs. Selucki and Allard have permanent spots there…for telling me that I have an eating disorder. Me, of all people!!
  14. Whats the best drinking game? One for watching movies, like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings.
  15. Do you like your music loud or soft? Depends. Sleeping or yoga, soft and melodic. Driving and working out, energetic and loud.
  16. Do your jeans have rips, tears, and holes in them? Only one pair and they were designed that way (I think)
  17. When was the last time you fell over or ran into something? About 30 minutes ago coming into my bedroom. Stupid doorframe + sleeping pill combo!
  18. Whats the first movie that gave you nightmares? E.T. The scientists in those suits tenting the house scared the S%$* outta me. I was 6 at the time, but ever since I cannot watch that film!
  19. If you could sleep with one famous person, who would it be? I wouldn't, the ones that would normally be at the top of my list I wouldn’t really consider “safe bets” for avoiding unfortunate events. Plus, I’m engaged and I don’t believe in infidelity, ever.
  20. Have you ever sung in front of the mirror? Hell yeah, the mirror, the car, the kitchen, the garden, and sometimes in front of people too (though only very close family i.e. Andrew, my mom, dad and sis).
  21. Do you talk a lot? Depends on the subject, I’m very opinionated and stubborn but sometimes I just like to listen. Most of my “talking” is done through writing or cooking.
  22. Do you make up your own words? Sometimes, but mostly by accident. “Foilage” is a famous one, one of my key phrases was “almost missed”.
  23. Are you typically a jealous person? Nope, and I trust that those who mean a lot to me have the same trust and belief in my fidelity.
  24. What is something you say a lot? “Really?”, “I heard somewhere that…”, “Do you know what’s in that?”, “I wish I could eat that, is smells so good”, “Did you like it? How was it?”
  25. What was the last movie you saw in theaters? Hairspray, and it was FREAKING AWESOME!
  26. Deep Thoughts About Life and You in it? My thoughts on life are filled with hope for my personal and professional future, excitement about marriage and family, depression that some chapters of my life have ended, and worried as well as confident about the challenges ahead.
  27. Would you rather sleep with someone else, or alone? I love sleeping with Andrew when we’re in a large enough bed for the two of us (though first year Uni in my dorm room was oh-so-fun, right babe? LOL). Though the room does have to be on the cooler side.
  28. Who have you kissed on your top friends? Top friends? What the heck is that? I have 3 best friends, dated 2 of them and am engaged to one of those 2… so if that’s what you’re asking, then 2.
  29. Do you still talk to the person you had your first kiss with? You know, I kind of wish that I could. I was like 10 at the time but he was still one of the nicest guys. I wonder where he is now…
  30. Do you stay friends with your ex's? Not with the first, the second and I are growing apart L but I’m trying to fix that before I lose him comepletely. There is no third… he’s mine for EVER!
  31. First Loves Are Never Over; is this true for you? Nope, I used to think so though.
  32. Think of all your exes. Would you take any of them back? Can’t say I would. One was a jerk, the other’s gay. Kinda narrows the field.
  33. What attracted you to your recent ex? His intellect and just how he acted around me was so sweet. Taught me a lot about friendship though and I’m sad about how I broke it off. It could have been a bit better.
  34. What didnt you like about your recent ex? Not much, he’s a great guy, very sweet but he was kind of an “off” kisser (not bad, but without experience). Hope he and his current SO (if he has one) are doing well in that alley, though!
  35. When was your last kiss? Thursday as Andrew watched me off in my car (one of those sad “goodbye” kisses, even though it’s only for the weekend… sigh…)
  36. Are you/have you been in love? Yes, and have no intention of losing it!
  37. Would you wear a boyfriend/girlfriends clothes? Hell yes! Do all the time (thanks for the sweater pookie… and your shorts and shirts too LOL)
  38. What would you say if an ex said "I love you." Somehow I’m thinking this wouldn’t happen, but if it did I’d be like, “I didn’t know you had those feelings for me again, and I’m sorry but I know that Andrew is the one for me.
  39. Do you consider love a mistake? Misguided / false love for the sake of someone else (like children) or for social status (a la the teenage world) is a mistake, but a true relationship where the maturity of reason connects with the immaturity of delight is never a mistake, even if it lasts just a moment.
  40. What do you find romantic? Little things like fresh picked wildflowers, the fact that he always knows when I’m cold or need a massage or when he stops me from pushing myself too far when we’re out. Also that generous way he treats everyone, including my sister and both his wonderful parents. And I can’t forget the amazing phone calls we have swapping stories about our random (though mostly separate) lives. Plus when he does things for me or my family that I never thought about before, and when he bravely tastes a new dish that I’ve made for him and gives me honest feedback.
  41. Turn-on? Confidence and inner strength, willingness to try new things
  42. Turn-off? Bad breath, tardiness, not caring about things that mean a lot to me, close-mindedness, unwillingness to explore the world outside your front door.
  43. Do you prefer knowing someone before dating them or just diving in? I prefer to know someone first, at least a little bit. Blind dating was never a function I was willing to participate in.
  44. Have you ever wished it was more socially acceptable for a girl to ask a guy out? I don’t think there’s a problem with it either way, I mean neither Andrew not I asked each other out, it was a logical progression from acquaintance – saviour / victim – friend – romance. No asking required. That’s the best kind, though it doesn’t mean we don’t have an anniversary…Jan 7, 2005, when we spent an hour holding hands and just connecting.
  45. Have you ever been naked in a public pool? Does a lake count as a type of big public pool? If not, then no. But hey, even a 5 year old on a shower-less sailboat has to wash somehow!
  46. Have you ever had sex on the beach? No, never had the drink either. The act just sounds… uncomfortable.
  47. Have you ever been cheated on? Not that I know of, I don’t think either of the exes really would have.
  48. Are you too forgiving? I'm not forgiving enough, especially to those who deserve it most.
  49. Believe it’s possible to remain faithful forever? Yes, and I fully endorse it. One life, one true soulmate.
  50. Do you feel pretty, and witty and gay? Not at the moment, since it’s ¼ to 1 in the morning!

So now for total randomness:

You Are a Banana Split
Fruity, flavorful, and diverse.Who can beat a true superstar?


You Are Eggs
Traditional and totally grown up, you truly believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.You don't skimp on nutrition or quality. You're likely to take the time to make yourself a decent meal each morning.You're a great cook, even if you aren't a showy one. You can make a feast out of simple ingredients.The food you eat may be basic, but you prefer to think of it as classic.



You Are Sauvignon Blanc
Engaging and energetic, you have a lot to offer the world - most of it they've never seen anywhere else!You are the type of person who carves your own path in life... and you invite everyone else to come along.The only thing predictable about you is that you could have anything up your sleeve.You're all about sampling all of life's experiences. Both the savory and unsavory ones.
Deep down you are: Laid back and young at heart
Your partying style: Anything goes... seriously!
Your company is enjoyed best with: Smoked meats or spicy food



What Your Latte Says About You
You don't treat yourself very often. You find that indulging doesn't jibe with your very disciplined life.
You can be quite silly at times, but you know when to buckle down and be serious.
You have a good deal of energy, but you pace yourself. You never burn out too fast.
You have a healthy relationship with caffeine. You're definitely not dependent on it.
You are responsible, mature, and truly an adult. You're occasionally playful, but you find it hard to be carefree.
You are dramatic and intense, but you are never moody.



You Are Italian Food
Comforting yet overwhelming.People love you, but sometimes you're just too much.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Vegan Pierogy Dough with a Not-So-Vegan Filling

I considered naming these "cute potato and cheese balls of yummy goodness" but it doesn't quite roll off the tongue so quickly. So just what is (are) Pierogy? According to Wikipedia (and who knows the accuracy of that),

Pierogi are semi-circular dumplings of unleavened dough, stuffed with
cheese, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, cabbage, onion, meat, mushrooms, hard-boiled eggs, dry cottage cheese (the last two are rather Mennonite-specific), or any combination thereof, or with a fruit filling like blueberry. Mashed potatoes with dry cottage cheese, onion and pepper are the most common filling.
This recipe of mine has cheddar cheese, garlic, onion powder, pepper and mashed potatoes in the filling. The dough itself is made vegan with the use of an egg replacer and silken tofu. For a fully vegan pierogy, just sub in vegan variations of the cheese, butter and milk, and voila!

Unfortunately, I have long lost the source for this recipe, though it does work very well! Andrew's being sent off to school with a batch of these too, hope he likes them!

Vegan Pierogy Dough à la Sarah
1 egg replacer, prepared
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vinegar
10 1/2 ounces silken tofu (Mori-Nu Firm is great for this)
1/2 cup water
Pierogy Filling (recipe follows)

  1. Stir prepared egg replacer into the flours and salt and set aside.
  2. Blend the vinegar, tofu and water till smooth.
  3. Combine with the flours handling till the dough has a medium stiff consistency.
  4. Roll out dough on a floured board forming a rectangle. Cut into equal circles.
  5. Place about 1 1/2 tablespoon filling on each piece.
  6. Wet the edges of the dough. Stretch one side of the dough to meet the opposite side and press together, sealing the pierogi.
  7. Bring a large pot of water to a simmer.
  8. Drop each pierogi carefully into the water and cook in the simmering water until the pierogi rises to the surface.
  9. Remove and drain. They can be sealed in a plastic wrap and kept in the fridge or frozen at this point.

Pierogy Filling (use vegan variations if required)
4-5 Yukon Gold potatoes, boiled until very tender and drained, hot
2 Tbsp butter
Splash milk
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 tsp onion powder
Coarsely ground black pepper
1/3 cup grated old cheddar cheese

  1. Mash potatoes with butter, milk, garlic, onion powder and pepper.
  2. Place over low heat and stir cheese through until well incorporated.
  3. Use in your favourite pierogy dough.

Psst... WHB #93 roundup is here!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Ginger-Garlic Teriyaki Sauce and Marinade

I started doing stir-fries out of the blue one day, and since then I've been playing around with different sauces and marinades for the veggies, seafood and tofu that sometimes get thrown in. I love teriyaki, but hate the bottled stuff that tastes like slightly soured corn syrup and never has enough kick for me. So I came up with my own! This is one of my fave stir-fry sauces, because it soaks into everything and condenses just enough on the heat to coat everything nicely without becoming "gluey". That said, I don't reccomend this as a dipping suce or glaze unless you condense it a lot first... it is very fluid.

Ginger-Garlic Teriyaki Sauce and Marinade
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp dark brown sugar
1-inch piece ginger root, grated
3-4 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
1/2 cup boiling water

  1. Combine soy sauce and vinegar in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.
  2. Dissolve sugar in soy sauce mixture, mix in ginger and garlic.
  3. Pour boiling water into the mix, screw the lid on the jar, and shake well to combine.
  4. Let stand in the fridge at least 1 day before use to allow flavours to blend.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 44.2
Total Fat: 0.0 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 817.7 mg
Total Carbs: 9.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.0 g
Protein: 1.1 g

I thought it was neat that this quick little sauce of mine was actually an antioxidant powerhouse, thanks to the fresh ginger and garlic that get pressed into the mix. World's Healthiest Foods states that:

  • Ginger is a good source of potassium, magnesium, copper, manganese and vitamin B6. Ginger extracts have been shown to have both antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor effects on cells.
  • Garlic is an excellent source of manganese, a very good source of vitamin B6 and vitamin C and a good source of selenium. One reason for garlic's beneficial effects may be its ability to lessen the amount of free radicals present in the bloodstream. According to a study published in Life Sciences, a daily dose of 1 ml/kg body weight of garlic extract for six months resulted in a significant reduction in oxidant (free radical) stress in the blood of patients with atherosclerosis.

With that in mind, I'm submitting this sauce recipe for Sweetnick's ARF / 5-A-Day Tuesday!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Blog or Bust #2: Healthy Summer Desserts!!

So, needless to say the first go-around of the Clumsy Cook's Blog or Bust event was a great success! Wonderful recipes abounded and I'm sure everyone who took part in the event (or looked at the round-up, for that matter) felt a little better about their bodies afterwards! The theme for Blog or Bust #2 is Healthy Summer Desserts.

Ah, dessert... my forte! So now it was just up to me to pick out one. Something light, nibble-ish, without a knife and fork requirement. That left me with cookies or mini-muffins. Then I remembered a recipe that I use for my bakery! Refreshingly tart lemon blending with the wonderful aroma and sweetness of honey bring to mind thoughts of flowers, buzzing bees, and lemonade stands. Unfortunately for me the area we moved into is almost devoid of children (or people, for that matter, since they are still building right next door) so I'm missing out on both my Dickie Dee fix and the contributions to the local kiddies' piggy banks. These cookies are completely vegetarian (though not vegan because of the honey factor), and they are egg- milk- and butter-less, not to mention free of refined sugar! Talk about healthy, allergy-free indulgence! Just be sure to use a flavourful, flowery honey for these cookies if you make them. I particularly like Alfalfa or Fireweed for this, and if you can find it this is amazing, but use your favourite!

By the way, do kids even have piggy banks any more? I still have mine, a big hand-casted Kermit the Frog given to me for my 3rd birthday by my aunt and uncle.

But anyways, here is my contribution to the sweet teeth of the summer sun: When the Bees Met Lemonade!

When the Bees Met Lemonade Cookies
Makes about 12-15
¼ c honey
2 ½ T margarine
½ T lemon zest
1 c flour
¾ tsp baking soda
  1. Cream honey, margarine and zest
  2. Blend dry ingredients, add to above.
  3. Resist the urge to make it less sticky... it all works out in the end!
  4. Grease a cookie sheet, drop dough by rounded tablespoons.
  5. Bake 7-8 min @ 350F

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 78.6
Total Fat: 2.1 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 21.0 mg
Total Carbs: 14.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.3 g
Protein: 1.1 g

By the way, here's another reason for the healthiness of these sweet nothin's! Courtesy of the Canadian Honey Council:

Honey has been known to have antibacterial properties for more than a century.
Although it has been used as a medicine since ancient times, initially it was just known to be an effective remedy. Now it can be seen that the effectiveness of honey in many of its medical uses is due to its antibacterial activity. It is well established that honey inhibits a broad spectrum of bacterial and fungal activity. There has not been much distinction made between the different types of antimicrobial activity in honey to which the various microbial species are sensitive.

Antibacterial activity in honey can be caused by:

  • Osmotic effect, whereby water is drawn away from the microorganisms reducing
    their ability to survive,
  • Acidity, honey is acidic, its pH being between 3.2 and 4.5, which inhibits
    growth in many pathogens,
  • Hydrogen Peroxide, which is produced enzymically in the honey by the bee,
    and
  • Phytochemical Factors, these non-peroxide antibacterial factors are believed
    to be the many complex
    phenols and organic acids often referred to as
    flavonoids. These latter complex chemicals that do not breakdown under heat or
    light provide honey with its 'unique' antibacterial properties.

Friday, July 27, 2007

WHB: Chocolate Mint & Zucchini - Taming the Invasion

Happy WHB everyone!! Anna is hosting this weekend's round-up, and I had to think of a way to participate in this go-around! If you haven't checked out her site, it's fascinating! The amount of restaurants presented is astronomical!

This weekend I made a batch of zucchini bread to try and quell the invasion that has been quietly taking over my garden and my mother's vineyard. I figure that if I nip it in the bud this year I won't be faced with something like this, which is over a foot long. Hmm, I wonder how many loaves that would make...

Another invasion taking place in my garden is of mint. I foolishly planted 4 different types of mint this year: Peppermint, Pineapple Mint, Banana Mint, Marshmallow mint and Chocolate Mint!! Needless to say they are taking over their respective planters too, and I was having a mental block of how to use them. Then it hit me... zucchini chocolate bread works... why not chocolate chocolate mint zucchini bread! Fat-free and delicious, I must tell you, though sadly not vegan. You could substitute plain soy yogurt or soured soymilk, and use an egg replacer though.

Chocolate-Mint Chocolate Zucchini Bread

1 1/2 c unbleached flour
1/3 c granulated sugar
1/3 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp granulated sugar
4 tbsp fresh chocolate mint leaves, chopped
1 tsp water
1 c zucchini -- unpeeled and grated
1/4 c fat-free sour cream
1 egg white -- whipped to soft peak

  1. Preheat oven at 350.
  2. Prepare pan a 8 x 4x 2" loaf pan with cooking spray and flour; set aside.
  3. In a bowl, combine flour, 1/3 c granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder and cocoa.
  4. Place the 2 tsp granulated sugar, the chocolate mint and water into a food processor.
  5. Pocess until very finely minced, almost a paste.
  6. Combine mint paste, zucchini, sour cream, and egg white in a large bowl.
  7. Combine dry ingredients with wet ingredients just until moistened.
  8. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 60 minutes.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 102.1
Total Fat: 0.5 g
Cholesterol: 0.5 mg
Sodium: 7.7 mg
Total Carbs: 23.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.3 g
Protein: 2.2 g

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Rays of Summer Grillin': Easy Cheesy Turkey Burgers!

Back in the day (and by that I mean back in grade 10), my mom and I began a Weight Watchers program mostly for me to lose the rather large amount of excess weight I had begun to carry on my frame. No longer could I say that it was my "big bones" or "baby fat", since when I first stepped on that scale the little blinking numbers registered 226 lbs! Since then we've adopted much better eating habits that will stick with us for life. One of the recipes that we picked up from their cookbook was for turkey burgers, and with a few little tweaks our editions became so good that even after we both hit goal (and before I developed my nasty problem) we made these regularly. In fact, they were our "Friday Night Treat" and that always seemed to be the day my friends would stop by for dinner (or usually in my case stayed for dinner 'cause they practically lived there!).

Pepper-Jack Turkey Burgers
Makes 4 patties
3/4 pounds ground turkey breast
2 green onions, chopped
1 tbs low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbs ketchup
1/4 tsp each of coarse black pepper, garlic powder and cumin
1/3 cup shredded peppered monterey jack cheese
8 slices turkey bacon, cooked

  1. Combine onions through spices in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add ground turkey and combine until mixed well, but not mashed to oblivion (no one likes tough turkey!!)
  3. Stir shredded cheese throughout.
  4. Shape into 4 patties, indenting the centres of each to fix the "burger bulge" (when they poof as they cook).
  5. Grill until cooked through, about 6 mins a side.
  6. Top each patty with 2 slices of cooked turkey bacon and serve on hearty rolls.

Calories: 174.9
Total Fat: 6.7 g
Cholesterol: 54.6 mg
Sodium: 591.0 mg
Total Carbs: 2.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.1 g
Protein: 24.3 g

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Going Middle-Eastern: Tabbouleh

My dad's having my sister and I over for dinner tonight, and his wonderfully kind (and funny) girlfriend Martha told me she was bringing Tabbouleh. I had made this once or twice before but never really developed a taste for it. Anyways, I offered her my recipe and figured that I should post it both here and on GroupRecipes since who knows where in the house my files could end up next!!

Tabbouleh is a light and very healthy whole-grain and herb salad from the Middle East. It makes a great accompaniment to lamb shish kabob and tzatziki from what I remember.

Tabbouleh
Serves 4 as a small side dish
1/4 cup bulgur
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
5 plum tomatoes, diced
1/2 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
2 tsp lemon zest
salt
  1. Simmer bulgur for 5 mins in the water.
  2. Cover it and let it stand off heat for 20 mins.
  3. Combine the remaining ingredients, pour over the cooked bulgur and toss.
  4. Refrigerate a minimum of 3 hours before serving.
As a side-note of trivia from Wikipedia, the largest recorded bowl of tabbouleh was made on June 9, 2006 in Ramallah, West Bank. It weighed 1,514 kilograms!

By the way, the pic of my dad and Martha was taken of them as they headed to what I believe was a Southwestern costume party. Dad had asked me what he should go as because he didn't want to do the whole cowboy / indian thing (even though he is part Metis!) and I suggested roadkill as a joke. Well as you can see... he ran with it!!! Love you, dad!!

P.S. The round-up for ARF / 5-a-Day is here!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Chocoholics Everywhere, Unite!

It's no secret that I adore chocolate. Especially when served warm, like as a hot fudge sauce, a molten lava cake, and especially a steaming mug of hot chocolate! Unfortunately a dairy and fat intolerance leves me unable to partake in some of the truly decadent items like Nickel's Chocolate Cake (which seems odd on their menu given that the leader of the chain is the teeny tiny Celine Dion) or the Caramel Brownie Cheesecake from LaRocca. Small amounts of the good solid stuff are still on the menu, as is cocoa powder, so I'm not completely cut off!! Chocolate facts and a recipe seemed to be the perfect complement to my adoration post, and so I present to you my Hot Chocolate Recipe along with this list of facts from K-chan at I Can't Believe I'm Back in Toronto.

  • Chocolate does not pair very well with wine because the acid fights against the cocoa solids.
  • The best pairing is a drink that has sugar in it such as beer or port. The bubbles in beer also help to cleanse your palate.
  • When melting chocolate, you should use either a stainless steel or copper bowl because they are good conductors of heat. Do not use a glass bowl because glass is a very poor conductor.
  • When stirring and handling melted chocolate, you should use a high heat spatula because regular ones could disintegrate and ruin your product.
  • When double-boiling chocolate, keep the water on a very low boil because water could splash into the bowl. If water gets into your chocolate, it turns into fudge and it cannot be corrected. If this happens, you can still use the chocolate (for hot chocolate, etc.), but not for making bonbons.
  • Ganache is a combination of chocolate and fat (35% cream and butter). Ganache can be used for the soft centres of truffles, hot chocolate mix, icing, mousse, and fillings of cookie sandwiches, among other things.
  • When making truffles, the chocolate coating around the ganache must be airtight in order to keep bacteriaout and prolong shelf life. If the seal is airtight, truffles can last for up to 10 days unrefrigerated.
  • Chocolate should be kept at room temperature. Refrigeration subdues flavour.
  • If you're serious about chocolate making, you might like to purchase a laser read thermometer that can take the temperature of a substance without touching it.
  • The chocolate that professionals use, in its starting form, is called chocolate couverture, which you can buy in chips. The chip form makes it easy to melt the chocolate evenly.
  • It's the cocoa butter in chocolate that gives it that melt-in-your-mouth feel. Cheap chocolate (like in chocolate bunnies) has a waxy mouthfeel because it has vegetable oil in it instead of cocoa butter.
Now for the recipe!

Vegan Creamy Hot Cocoa Mocha
Makes 1 steamy mug of goodness!
1 teaspoon rich cocoa powder
2 teaspoons brown sugar
pinch salt
3/4 cup soy milk (I use low-fat)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp Butter Toffee syrup
1/3 cup hot strong coffee
  1. Mix cocoa, brown sugar, and salt in a mug.
  2. Heat soy milk in the microwave (be careful, it can curdle if it boils!!).
  3. Pour a little bit of boiling water into the cocoa mixture and stir to a paste.
  4. Add the hot soy milk, vanilla, syrup and coffee and blend well.
  5. Enjoy!

Truffles photo courtesy of Grocer's Daughter Chocolate, Hot Cocoa photo courtesy of Jupiter Images.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Farmer's Market Inspiration

The ARF / 5-A-Day Tuesday event over at Sweetnick's is coming up once again, and I'm not one to want to miss out on such an event! Eating right is very very important to me, you see, for my health isn't great, and I will fill you in on the details in a later, non-food post. I eat pretty much every fruit and veggie under the sun, excersise regularly and pretty much live off of whole foods. But I digress. I love sweets. And I didn't want to do another baked good for this ARF Tuesday so I scouted around at my local Farmer's Market (which is literally 5 stalls along a parking lot... sigh) for some inspiration. It came in the form of these:Carrots! Possibly one of the greatest gems of the plant family. According to the Carrot Museum in the UK (yes, there is such a thing!):
  • They are rich in antioxidants Beta Carotene & Alpha
    Carotene
  • They have high levels of Phytochemicals and Glutathione,
    Calcium and Potassium, and vitamins A, B1, B2, C, and E, which are also
    considered antioxidants.
  • Ingesting carrots is good for the skin.
  • They contain a form of calcium easily absorbed by the body.
  • Carrots also contain Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese,
    Phosphorous and Sulphur.
  • It is highly recommended that vitamin A be consumed from the
    diet rather than from supplements because vitamin A from a dietary
    source offers the maximal potential of health benefits.
  • Alpha carotene may be more powerful than beta carotene in
    inhibiting processes that may lead to tumor growth.
  • Carrots are pivotal in:

    • Boosting immunity (especially among older people).
      Reducing photosensitivity.
      Improving symptoms of HIV.
      Easing alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
      Helping to heal minor wounds and injuries.
      Reducing the risk of heart disease.
      Reducing the risk of high blood pressure.
      Cleansing the liver, and when consumed regularly, can help the
      liver excrete fats and bile.
      Fighting bronchitis.
      Fighting infection

    Holey moley!!!

    Now, I still don't have a camera at my disposal *sob* but I can share a recipe that one of the very kind farmer's wives gave to me for a snack that her niece made for a "health day" at school. It's a little odd but she swears that it's amazing and smooth, and that the carrots add a "bodied" sweetness while the nuts give texture and crunch. The ground ginger gives them a little "pep". Ready for the treat? Here it is: Nutty Carrot Caramels. I'm serious! I'm going to give these a shot though, and maybe pawn off a square on Mom, Dad and the poor guinea pig Andrew. Who knows, maybe the few remaining farmers in our area are on to something!

    Nutty Carrot Caramels
    16 Caramels
    1 3/4 cups sugar
    3 tbsp water
    1 lb. carrots, grated
    1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
    1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
    1/4 cup almonds, toasted and chopped
    2 tbsp lemon juice

    1. Dissolve the sugar in the water in a saucepan over low heat.
    2. Stir in the carrots, then bring to a boil.
    3. Boil for 30 minutes, or until mixture is very thick.
    4. Remove from heat and stir in the ginger, walnuts, almonds and the lemon juice.
    5. Pour into a greased 8" square pan.
    6. Allow to cool, then cut into squares.
    7. When completely cool, remove from pan.
    8. Cut and wrap each piece in waxed paper.

    Sunday, July 22, 2007

    WHB: Squeaking in with Rosemary!

    Oops! Where did this weekend go? My mind and body have been somewhat separated as of late, apparently!! Ah well, no matter. I am quickly sneaking in my entry for WHB with an entry for Rosemary. This week this event is kindly being hosted by The Chocolate Lady from In Mol Araan!

    Anyways, Rosemary. Another of the base herbs in the kitchen, another one that I grow in my own little garden plot, and one of the unmistakeable smells in my Grandma's roasted chicken dinners that I adored as a kid. Unfortunately, my camera was not very forgiving when I shot this image, and now I only have this representation of what my garden offers. Wonderfully aromatic, delicate and peppery, it is usually added to poultry-based dishes and roasts. It also plays well with rice, potatoes and fish, as well as lamb. Like I said, a base herb. It's also one of the best "garden" herbs to grow, as it helps to deter cabbage moths, bean beetles and carrot flies from ruining your crops! Not to mention, it pairs well with those veggies too! Things that grow together, go together, as they say.

    Rosemary, like most other herbs, is also a wonderful medicinal tool. Scientists at the University of Cincinnati say that the scent of rosemary is an effective memory stimulant (according to GardenGuides.com). It can also help prevent cancers, relax sore muscles and soothe digestion when used in small amounts, such as a tea.

    As far as a recipe goes I'm pretty sure everyone knows the basics of making roasted chicken with herbs, but I'll stick out my neck and put in what I can remember of my Grandma's recipe. Since she never measures, everything is approximate but go with the flow and let your nose tell you what to do!

    Rosemary-Garlic Roast Chicken and Carrots
    good glug olive oil (to coat bottom of saute pan)
    3 cloves garlic, crushed
    1 sprig fresh rosemary
    5 large carrots, chunked
    3 pound whole chicken, room temperature, rinsed well and patted dry
    1 small onion, quartered
    1/4 cup chopped fresh rosemary
    salt and pepper
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
    2. Saute crushed garlic and sprig of rosemary in hot olive oil just until the garlic starts to brown. Remove from heat, allow to cool. Discard the cooked garlic and rosemary.
    3. Place the carrots in the bottom of a roasting dish.
    4. Stuff the chicken with the onion and chopped rosemary.
    5. Rub the skin of the chicken with the herb and garlic infused oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.
    6. Place on top of carrots in the roasting dish.
    7. Roast in the preheated oven for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until chicken is cooked through and carrots are tender. You may need to cover the roasting pan part-way through cooking to prevent over-browning.

    Saturday, July 21, 2007

    Something New and Untried: Japanese Chiffon Cheesecake

    I'm freely admitting that I haven't tried this recipe yet. But, like most of the foodie world out there, I still want to share my discoveries! I have a fascination with Japan and their customs, food, religions, and culture. I have a pen-pal from Japan also, and when I was in elementary school we had an exchange teacher named Erica who taught me how to make miso soup, use chopsticks and count to ten (which I cannot do, now, though I do use chopsticks frequently).

    However, aside from sushi, teriyaki, green tea and one ill-fated tempura experience involving oily and uncooked shrimp, I have not been able to experience any sort of "authentic" Japanese cooking. My mom frequents Japanese restaurants through her work lunches with the "higher powers" and mentioned once having a "souffle" like cheesecake that was not overly sweet, but rather airy and with a light citrus tang. A web search led me to a few different creations, and a few adaptations a la moi resulted in this recipe. I hope it works out well enough for my mom's tastes, I will update when I make this. However, if you make it before I get a chance, please do leave a comment or tell me how it worked in an e-mail!! I would love to know and changes, suggestions or comments!

    Japanese Chiffon Cheesecake (originally from RecipeZaar, adapted by me)
    7 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
    1/4 cup milk
    ¼ cup superfine sugar
    ¼ cup Splenda
    3 eggs, separated
    1/4 cup cornstarch
    1 tablespoon lemon juice
    1 tablespoon lemon zest
    1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Spray a 9-inch cake tin with cooking oil spray.
    3. Beat cream cheese with milk to soften.
    4. Add Splenda, egg yolks, cornstarch, lemon juice and lemon zest. Beat until smooth.
    5. Beat egg whites in a separate bowl until foamy.
    6. Gradually add sugar and cream of tartar, beating on high speed until medium peaks form, about 8-10 minutes.
    7. Gradually fold beaten egg whites into the cream cheese mixture.
    8. Pour into cake pan and smooth the surface.
    9. Place cake pan into a larger roasting pan and place in lower rack of oven.
    10. Pour enough boiling water into the roasting pan to come half way up the side of the cake pan.
    11. Bake 35-40 minutes, until a pick inserted in the middle of the center comes out clean.

    Amount Per Serving
    Calories: 111.0
    Total Fat: 7.0 g
    Cholesterol: 22.1 mg
    Sodium: 61.8 mg
    Total Carbs: 11.0 g
    Dietary Fiber: 0.0 g
    Protein: 1.7 g

    Thursday, July 19, 2007

    Food Facts on a Busy Day

    Not much time to do anything today... Acupuncture in downtown T.O., the gym and assorted chores are keeping me hopping! Here's something to tide you over while I cook up something new:
    • A single half cup (125ml) of most Haagen-Dazs ice cream flavors delivers more saturated fat than a McDonald's Big Mac.
    • Starbucks chocolate chip cookies have 400 calories per piece
    • Over 600-million Cokes per day are consumed worldwide
    • Consumption of snack foods in the US is up 233%; soft drinks up 114%; beer up 100%
    • The average American eats 28 pounds of cheese a year, mostly Cheddar and mozzarella.
    • People who read nutrition information on food labels eat 5% less fat than people who don’t.
    • The smell more people can identify most often is coffee. Peanut butter is #2
    • 25% of U.S. 4th graders are pressured by friends or classmates to use drugs or alcohol
    • The Montreal Expos the first major-league team vendors to sell Beaver Tails!
    • Squid is the #1 ranked pizza topping in Japan. Australians prefer eggs; pickled ginger is #1 in India. The French like fresh cream.
    • A typical fast-food strawberry milkshake is said to contain a mixture of more than 50 chemicals (video).
    • Americans now spend more money on fast food than on higher education, personal computers, computer software, or new cars
    • Americans consume nearly 16 billion hot dogs each year.

    Yum, eh?

    This is where link-surfing takes you...

    Just wanted to drop a quick note to mention this awesome picture... I love pen + ink nature sketches!!The pic can be found here, at Amelia's blog Off the Mark and Roaming. I found the link to her blog through GroupRecipes (by the way, if you found me by way of the awesome site, say hi!)

    Also, The Leftover Queen has been very kind and allowed me to join the Foodie Blogroll!! If you haven't already done so, check out her site for info on the blogroll, plus amazing ideas and recipes. Thanks again!!!

    Wednesday, July 18, 2007

    Remembering a Moment with Grandpa

    The most precious family memories for me are usually some of the simplest. Sailing to Beausoleil Island in Georgian Bay every weekend during the summers, cinnamon rolls with my aunt and uncle out west, learning the basics of "Go Fish" with my Grandma, and sharing cookies and a story with Grandpa.

    I must say, I almost didn't post about these because I was extremely unhappy with the results. It came from Anna Olson and I published my twist on GroupRecipes. I am going to play around with amounts and ingredients the next time I make this recipe, but if you attempt this version be warned: you are essentially making a butter-based pie dough. With a severe lack of flour. If you aren't experienced with butter pie doughs (like me) this version is not the one for you. Also, the given amounts for the filling make waaaaaay too much. The leftovers, though, make great topping for ice-cream or toast. And don't let that pretty stock photo fool you, these cookies look nothing like the originals. Hopefully they taste okay, though, since Grandpa's getting them tonight!

    I've deemed these cookies "Grandpa Cookies" because of the memories attached to the inspiration, Fig Newtons. Hopefully they turn out for you better than mine did, because they truly are a special treat. Plus, with only 1/4 cup of sugar in the entire recipe, diabetics can partake too!

    Grandpa's Figgy Cookies
    Dough
    1/4 cup all purpose flour
    3/4 cup whole wheat flour
    1/4 cup brown sugar
    1/2 tsp baking powder
    1/4 tsp baking soda
    1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
    1/4 tsp salt
    1/2 cup cold unsalted cultured butter
    1 whole large egg
    1 large egg yolk

    Filling
    1 cup diced dried figs
    1/2 cup grape or orange juice
    1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
    4 tsp lemon juice
    2 tsp ground cinnamon
    1 egg white mixed with 2 Tbsp water for egg wash

    1. Combine all filling ingredients in a small saucepot and bring up to a simmer.
    2. Simmer until the figs absorb all liquid, about 15 minutes.
    3. Let cool and purée in a food processor before chilling completely.
    4. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
    5. Cut in butter until dough is a coarse mealy texture.
    6. Add whole egg and egg yolk and blend in until dough comes together.
    7. Shape into a disc, wrap and chill for an hour.
    8. Preheat oven to 375 °F.
    9. On a well floured surface, roll out dough into a rectangle, just under ¼-inch thick.
    10. Using a knife or pastry cutter, cut strips of dough that are about 5 inches wide.
    11. Spoon filling along center of each strip. Don't over-fill!
    12. Brush one side of pastry dough with egg wash and fold the other side of pastry over filling, so that egg washed side meets it.
    13. Trim edges.
    14. Lift filled cookie tube to a greased or lined baking sheet and press down to flatten slightly.
    15. Repeat with remaining strips.
    16. Brush tops with egg wash.
    17. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until a light golden brown.
    18. Cool cookies on sheets before cuting the bars strips into bites.

    P.S. Remember the Clumsy Cook's Blog or Bust event??? The round-up is here!!
    P.P.S. Find the ARF / 5-A-Day round-up here!

    Tuesday, July 17, 2007

    Yummy, Diabetic-Friendly (and fake!) Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

    My favourite new breakfast spread has come to me courtesy of a large and unkempt rhubarb plant that Andrew's parents have along the side of their house. Knowing that his mother is a diabetic, my soon-to-be stepfather is diabetic, my mother is dieting before the wedding and I have blood sugar spikes like nobody's business as well as a nasty fat intolerance, the obvious strawberry-rhubarb pie (which I adore, by the way) was simply not practical.

    This led to me scouring the internet for tasty and fairly healthy rhubarb recipes. After sifting through piles of cakes, pies and tarts, I finally stumbled upon one for Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam. Aha! I thought. This might work! Jam is good, the diabetics and I can utilize portion control and the glut of rhubarb can be used up! As I read through the recipe, I realized that I was in even more luck than I previously thought. No strawberries required, and I could use up a good ol' package of Sugar-Free Jell-O that had moved houses with us some months before. A few ingredient substitutions and one day later I had my very own (almost) calorie-free jam!

    The original recipe is from http://www.allrecipes.com/, but I have modified it to be more diabetic- and diet-friendly for the family. I love it in an omelette sandwich in the morning! Yes, I know it's weird, but pssshhhhht.

    Rhubarb-Strawberry Jam
    4 cups chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb
    1 1/2 cups Splenda granular
    3/4 cup water
    1 small package Sugar-Free strawberry or raspberry Jell-O (4-serving size)
    2 tsp lemon juice

    1. In a large saucepan or stockpot, stir together the fresh rhubarb and Splenda. Cover, and let stand overnight.
    2. Bring the rhubarb, Splenda and water to a boil over medium heat.
    3. Simmer, stirring, for 15 minutes.
    4. Remove from heat, and stir in Jell-O powder and lemon juice.
    5. Keep refrigerated.

    Yum!

    Monday, July 16, 2007

    I've Been Mentioned!

    Thanks to Marye at Baking Delights for featuring my (sort of) recipe for Banana-Filled Peanut Butter Cookies! I appreciate the recognition, as I only know whether or not my stuff is any good by how it's recieved... I can't eat any of it! This is something that Andrew loves, though he asks me not to make it for him too often in order for him to stay in shape for Police Training! I'll re-post the recipe here, though it is available both at Marye's site and on GroupRecipes.

    The photo is from FoodTV, as is the original recipe (a la Anna Olson, who is the Canadian Pastry Goddess). I've tweaked the amounts and types of ingredients somewhat, to appeal to Andrew's preference for a not-as-sweet snack. I'm sure the original is just as good, however!

    Banana-Filled Peanut Butter Cookies
    Makes 12 sandwich cookies
    Cookie
    1/2 cup stick margarine, room temperature
    1/2 cup sugar
    1/2 cup packed brown sugar
    1 egg
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter (or add 2 T chopped peanuts)
    1 cup all purpose flour
    1/2 cup whole wheat flour
    1 tsp baking soda
    1/2 tsp salt

    Filling
    1 tbsp margarine
    1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
    1 tbsp light rum
    pinch each cinnamon and nutmeg
    2 small bananas, sliced
    1/2 cup light cream cheese
    1/2 cup smooth light peanut butter

    For cookies:

    1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
    2. Cream together margarine and sugars until pale and fluffy.
    3. Beat egg and vanilla, add to creamed mixture. Stir in peanut butter.
    4. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt.
    5. Blend with peanut butter mixture.
    6. Drop 24 balls onto an ungreased cookie sheet and press them with a floured fork.
    7. Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool on sheet.

    For filling:

    1. In sauté pan, melt margarine.
    2. Add sugar and increase heat to medium-high. Stir until melted and bubbling.
    3. Add rum, cinnamon and nutmeg.
    4. Stir in bananas to coat, pour into a bowl and set aside.
    5. Cream together cream cheese and peanut butter until smooth.
    6. Mash bananas and add to cream cheese mixture until smooth.
    7. Chill for 20 minutes.
    8. Fill between 2 cooled peanut butter cookies to make sandwiches.

    Sunday, July 15, 2007

    Lover's Porkchops & a Sweet Treat for the Grandparents

    Yay! Andrew came over yesterday to help me bake! We spent most of the afternoon hanging out in front of the TV, watching (what else?) the Food Network, before I made him the anniversary meal I had promised him before my mom stepped in with her plans the night we had the chocolate-raspberry cheesecake. His dinner was simple to make but made the whole kitchen smell amazing, and he finished off his plate with nary a word. The only suggestion he made was to simmer the pork longer in the apple-spice mixture a bit longer, or to score the meat so it can soak up the apple-y goodness. I guess it wasn't too bad, though, since I don't think I've seen him that content after a meal in a while! Alas, no photos, since the camera is still AWOL, but I served his pork chop with tahitian black rice and cauliflower.

    Lover's Pork Chops (recipe by me, can also be found at GroupRecipes)
    Serves 2
    2 centre-cut pork chops
    1 tablespoon brown sugar
    salt and pepper to taste
    1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    1 tablespoon unsalted butter
    1 tart apple - peeled, cored and diced
    1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.
    2. Brush chops lightly with oil and place in hot pan.
    3. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, turning 1/2 way through, or until done.
    4. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, salt and pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg.
    5. Add butter to skillet, and stir in brown sugar mixture and apples.
    6. Cover and cook until apples are just tender.
    7. Score pork chops lightly, add to apple mixture in pan.
    8. Coat with apple mixture and cook 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    Amount Per Serving
    Calories: 296.9
    Total Fat: 14.6 g
    Cholesterol: 75.9 mg
    Sodium: 38.3 mg
    Total Carbs: 17.2 g
    Dietary Fiber: 1.9 g
    Protein: 23.9 g

    Anyways, onto the baking! Yes, so Andrew helped me ENORMOUSLY with this latest endeavour into the kitchen, and I fully intend to save him a slice for a reward :). The recipe we used is a variation on one that Susan made and posted on her blog, and I thank her enormously for the recipe. When I made this cake for the first time with my mom it was for my birthday and it was the only way we could enjoy a birthday cake together as a family. It means a lot to me that this cake can tie us together, even for just a moment. Thank you so much, Susan!

    This time the cake was made for the grandparents' 52nd anniversary BBQ (which is tonight). I know they liked the cake the first time around, so hopefully their good will extends through to tonight! Here's my modified recipe:

    Can't Be Beet Chocolate Cake (Adapted From Susan @ FatFree Vegan)
    12 Servings
    398 mL can sliced beets, drained
    unsweetened apple sauce
    2 tbsp. water
    2 tsp. vanilla extract
    1 tsp. white vinegar
    1 cup whole wheat flour
    1/2 cup white flour
    1/2 cup cocoa
    1/4 cup sugar
    3/4 cup Splenda
    1 tbsp. cornstarch
    2 tsp. baking soda
    1/2 tsp. salt
    1/2 tsp. ground cloves

    1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Oil or spray two 8- or 9-inch cake pans.
    2. Put the drained beets into the food processor with 1/4 cup (clear) water, and process until pureed.
    3. Put the pureed beets into a 2-cup measure. Add enough apple sauce to reach the 2-cup line.
    4. Add the 2 tablespoons water, vanilla extract, and vinegar to the beets and mix well.
    5. Mix the dry ingredients together, add the beet mixture and stir until well-combined.
    6. Bake for 35 minutes Test by inserting a toothpick into the center; it's done when the toothpick comes out clean.
    7. Allow to cool completely before cutting and serving.

    Amount Per Serving
    Calories: 92.6
    Total Fat: 0.2 g
    Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
    Sodium: 61.4 mg
    Total Carbs: 21.7 g
    Dietary Fiber: 2.0 g
    Protein: 2.3 g

    This isn't a very sweet cake, nor does it rise very high, (the pic is one layer) but the taste is deep, earthy and satisfying. My mom and I agree that it is a vast improvement over traditional bakery chocolate cake! I'm fairly sure Susan had submitted her recipe once already for ARF / 5-A-Day over at SweetNicks, but I'm going to send mine in as well with some extraneous information about the humble beet. This information comes from Chicago Conscious Choice, and makes me particularly happy about these veggies I have growing outside my window!!!

    In addition to being cancer-preventing antioxidants, the anthocyanidins found in beets are anti-inflammatory; they support connective tissue regeneration, promote blood flow, and reduce cholesterol. Scientists and physicians have gathered much evidence to support the idea that by ingesting antioxidants people can reduce their cancer risk and increase their overall wellness.

    Beets fresh from the garden actually pack an antioxidant triple whammy, as you get the anthocyanidins in the root and the carotenoids and chlorophyll in the leaves. Use the beet tops soon after you buy the beets, as
    the roots keep well for a much longer time. Both the stems and leaves of the beet top are excellent when lightly boiled in salted water. The red stems strewn among the lush green leaves are delightful to look at and the contrast between the crunchiness of the former and the tenderness of the latter is pleasing to the palate. The roots can be steamed, boiled, baked, roasted, or parboiled then grilled.

    Saturday, July 14, 2007

    Gone Bananas!

    Sometimes I think the only reason I bake or cook at all is the aroma payoff. You know, the smell that greets you with a whoosh when you open the oven door or lift the lid on a slowly simmering stew. Whether it's cookies, brownies, cake or bread, baking smells in particular are always a welcome addition to my home's bouquet. I love hearing my mom come in from a busy workday to exclaim "Wow, what smells so good in here! What did you bake?" Hence, the name for the blog was born.

    Yesterday was definitely a baking day for me, somewhat to my detriment. By the end of it all I had the Sundried Tomato Olive bread, this banana bread and an exhaustion complex. No matter. The smell that filled the house for hours was a reward the whole family appreciated.

    I have no idea where this recipe originated, but as the future stepfather is diabetic I've made some changes as far as sugars / carb control goes. It still tastes delicious (so I've heard, the fat content is a bit high for me to indulge thanks to my intolerance). It's also a favourite on my bakery's menu! I guess you can't go wrong with that!
    Banana Bread
    1/3 cup brown sugar
    2 T white sugar
    1/3 cup shortening
    1 tsp vanilla
    1 cup white flour
    1 cup whole-wheat flour
    2 tsp baking powder
    1/4 tsp baking soda
    2 tsp cinnamon
    1 tsp nutmeg
    pinch salt
    1 cup mashed bananas
    1 T buckwheat honey
    1. Preheat oven to 350F, grease a loaf pan.
    2. Cream shortening and sugars.
    3. Add vanilla and blend well.
    4. Combine dry ingredients, seperately.
    5. Add dry ingredients alternately with mashed bananas.
    6. Mix to blend but do not beat!
    7. Pour / scrape into prepared pan.
    8. Bake 50 mins. Cool 10 minutes then unmould onto wire rack.
    9. Heat honey until very liquid, brush over warm loaf to glaze.

    Friday, July 13, 2007

    Weekend Herb Blogging: Basic Basil

    I'm loving this leap into the world of blogging events! Though I can't promise to take part in all of them all the time (I mean, I have to eat too, or what would I talk about?) I hope to be able to do as many as I can. This one is Weekend Herb Blogging, started by Kalyn's Kitchen, and hosted this weekend by Food Blogga. Full details can be found here, as well as a list of hosts for upcoming editions.

    So... Basil. One of the quintessential Italian herbs. Sometimes called the "spaghetti herb", this plant has been a favourite of kitchen gardeners for decades. The stems, leaves and even flowers can be used in cooking but must be added at the last few moments for optimum flavour (as with any fresh herb). Of course, you don't have to cook basil! Pestos and salad mixes are both awesome uses for the plant and great if you want the peppery flavour but don't want to heat up your kitchen. If you want, you can even use the leaves and flowers as garnishes on chicken and fish dishes, and a pot of basil looks beautiful sitting on your kitchen counter (as a side note, do not store fresh cut basil in your fridge! The flavour will soon dissipate and you run the risk of it picking up unsavoury aromas from the other things in your fridge. Put cut stems in a glass of water out of direct sunlight and use in a few days).

    Basil is also a wonderful anti-inflammitory, according to some sources. Apparently a basil leaf put on an ulcer will reduce swelling and pain, as will rinsing out the mouth with basil tea. Though neither of those sound particularly appealing, I guess you have to use what you can get if you are in that dire a situation!

    I, for one, don't like pesto (which I know is a case for culinary exile) but not because of the basil. I don't like pine nuts, and I can't tolerate the massive amount of oil most recipes call for. So instead I offer up a different use for the fresh herb... Bread!

    Unfortunately, the good ol' camera bit the bucket just as I was taking the photo of the finished product so alas, no picture along with this recipe. I can assure you though that it smells divine!!

    Sundried-Tomato and Olive Basil Bread
    Serves 10
    10-12 dry-packed sundried tomatoes
    1/4 cup white wine
    1/4 cup boiling water
    1 1/2 cups white flour
    1/2 cup bulgur, uncooked
    1/2 tbsp sugar
    1/2 tbsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp baking soda
    1 tsp salt
    Good handful fresh chives, basil and rosemary
    2 tbsp chunked good-quality asiago cheese (not pre-grated!)
    2 tbsp apple butter
    1/2 cups sour cream
    1/4 cup milk
    1 egg
    3/4 cup pitted black olives, chopped fine

    1. Snip the tomatoes into small pieces with a pair of kitchen shears.
    2. Combine the boiling water and wine, add tomatoes and soak 30 minutes. Drain.
    3. Mix the flour, bulgur, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.
    4. Cut the apple butter into the flour mixture until it gets to a coarse meal.
    5. Combine all the herbs and cheese in a food processor and chop very finely.
    6. Add herbs and cheese to flour and mix well.
    7. Seperately, mix the sour cream, milk and egg until well beaten.
    8. Mix milk mixture into the dry ingredients until very well combined.
    9. Add in the olives and soaked, drained tomatoes.
    10. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead until smooth, adding flour if necessary (about 10 minutes).
    11. Shape dough into an oblong loaf, place on a cornmeal-dusted cookie sheet.
    12. Slash the top of the bread.
    13. Bake 40 minutes in a 375 degree oven.

    Amount Per Serving
    Calories: 159.7
    Total Fat: 5.1 g
    Cholesterol: 28.6 mg
    Sodium: 182.1 mg
    Total Carbs: 23.4 g
    Dietary Fiber: 2.5 g
    Protein: 5.1 g

    This bread is wonderful eaten warm straight out of the oven or served with herbed olive oil and a bowl of good soup.

    Thursday, July 12, 2007

    Pumpkin Pie Spice

    Even in Summer, with its sun and warm weather, I often find myself wishing for the delights that Autumn brings, especially the smells. Ah, the smells of Fall... wood smoke, roasting turkeys and pumpkin pie. Truth be told, I have never ever liked pumpkin pie. I do, however, adore pumpkin when it is converted into something that either a) I can't recognize as pumpkin or b) it's put into pancakes and covered in syrup! For the latter option I make up this spice blend, as it's cheaper than the store-bought and tastes better (in my opinion). I've taken to adding it to omelettes in the morning, too!

    Pumpkin Pie Spice
    4 T cinnamon
    2 T ground ginger
    1 T nutmeg
    1/2 T ground cloves

    1. Combine everything in a small bowl.
    2. Mix with a whisk or fork until everything is very well blended.
    3. Use measure for measure when a recipe calls for Pumpkin Pie Spice.

    Wednesday, July 11, 2007

    Harry Potter and the Gigantically Expanding Bread

    Yaaay!!! Today is the release date for the Harry Potter: Order of the Phoenix movie (at least here in Oshawa, where I am). This is the 5th Potter movie in the series and the 4th one that I've been able to see on opening day. I missed the opening of the fourth one for a reason that now escapes me. Hopefully it will be a good ride, the only one I've been disappointed in so far was the 3rd one (Prisoner of Azkaban) which in my opinion was the result of completely butchering my favourite novel. But no matter. On to food!

    Yet another blogging event that I'm taking part in is one I've stumbled on at Columbus Foodie called Bread Baking Day. This event was started by Zorra (who usually blogs in German) as an ongoing follow-up to World Bread Day and frankly, I can't be happier! This month's theme is Bread With Fruit. Now, I love to bake bread, of all shapes and types, and I knew exactly what to make for this event. Of course, it helped that Good Old Dad had put in an order through my bakery for this particular loaf.

    So, for the second edition of this event (round-up will be posted August 1st) I humbly present you with Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Loaf, which should more accurately read loaves, as apparently there was a typo on my copy that stated that the yield was one loaf. As you can see, it clearly made more than a single loaf pan could hold! Even deformed-looking as it is, it still smells amazing and makes a hearty addition to French toast, breakfast sandwiches or even old toast and butter in the morning. It's my sister's favourite bread and one that's often requested by my father!

    Cinnamon-Raisin Swirl Bread (from Bumblebee Bakery)
    1 pkg active dry yeast
    1 1/2 T sugar
    1 c warm water
    1/2 c milk
    1 T oil
    4 c white flour
    1 T wheat germ
    1 T oat bran
    1/2 T salt
    1/4 c raisins
    1/2 c hot grape juice
    1 T butter, melted
    1 T cinnamon
    1 T sugar
    1. Dissolve yeast, sugar and water, let stand 10 minutes.
    2. Add milk, oil, salt, 1 1/2 cups of the flour, wheat germ and oat bran to the yeast, blend well.
    3. Add remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition.
    4. Soak raisins in hot grape juice at least 5 minutes, drain well.
    5. Add raisins and knead into dough.
    6. Turn out dough onto a generously floured surface and knead 10 minutes. Do not under-knead as the dough will be hard to handle.
    7. Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover and let rise one hour.
    8. Deflate dough, divide in half and form into two rectangular sheets.
    9. Mix cinnamon, melted butter and sugar.
    10. Brush each sheet with the mixture and roll up as for a jelly-roll.
    11. Place each in a greased loaf pan.
    12. Cover and let rise one more hour.
    13. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F, brush or mist loaves lightly with water.
    14. Bake for 25 minutes. Cool 15 minutes in pan before turning out to cool completely on rack.

    Tuesday, July 10, 2007

    Scaredy-Dog and a Borrowed Meme

    My unofficially adopted dog Shaggy is the world's biggest worrier. Every time someone leaves the house or blocks him off from an area that they're in, he whines, yipes and scratches for at least 10 minutes. Thunderstorms are even worse, as the slightest rumble of thunder (or anything that sounds like it) sends him flying into my bedroom and often results in his hiding under my wall-mount desk. This does not prove to be a very productive excersise for the dog, though, as we are currently in a developing subdivision where hardly a minute goes past without the crash of heavy machinery, equipment, materials or tools outside our door.

    Today, though, was a rainy day, and the pooch found his hiding spot as easily as ever. So to keep him company I began to browse through the world of food blogs. On FoodBlogga's site I came across a rather interesting meme that I thought would give me a little bit to think about while we waited for the sun to come out.

    I don't really know what to call this meme as there isn't a title given... but I love doing them so I couldn't resist!!
    What were you doing 10 years ago?
    I was enjoying summer vacation before continuing elementary school at MLCP.

    Five snacks you enjoy:
    Fresh peaches
    Vegan brownies with sweetened cream cheese
    Hot chocolate soymilk
    Crisp lettuce with chunky salsa
    Cherry tomatoes right off the vine
    Five songs you know all the lyrics to:
    The llama song
    Happy Birthday
    O, Canada
    Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star
    Bitch by Meredith Brooks

    Five things you would do if you were a millionaire:
    Buy a house with the world’s biggest and best-equipped kitchen and pastry shop
    Buy tons of Mighty Leaf Green Tea Tropical
    Make cheesecakes just for the hell of it
    Buy my dad his truck and my mom her Jag
    Take Andrew and I to Disney World followed by the rest of the planet

    Five bad habits:
    Obsessing over the stupid, everyday decisions in life
    Procrastinating, even when it comes to doing something I love
    Napping in the middle of the day
    Shopping 4 or 5 days a week (not usually buying anything, but still)
    Watching FoodTV most of the day

    Five things you like doing:
    Crosswords and the Jumble, especially out of the Toronto Star.
    Baking COOKIES!!! They are so fast, and smell amazing.
    Trying out new and tricky recipes to further my repertoire.
    Bowling with good friends.
    Exploring new locations with Andrew, be it downtown or our local lake front.

    Five things you would never wear again:
    A size XXL, I used to be 226 lbs! (except as a nightgown)
    Barbie-pink lipstick.
    A “skort” that was part of my daily uniform at MLCP.
    “Kiddie” perfume, you know, the kind that smells like a candy shop exploded.
    A navel ring

    Five favorite toys:
    Trivial Pursuit (I guess it’s a game, but close enough, right?)
    Cranium (ditto)
    Monopoly (a theme seems to be growing here)
    Carmela, my teddy bear that I’ve had since I was 4
    My laptop
    Sorry for the lack of recipe today, I will hopefully have something for you (including an event entry) tomorrow!

    Monday, July 9, 2007

    Summer, a Stir-Fry, and Stanley Park

    Being the fair-skinned redhead that I am, I tend to shy away from long periods outdoors in the summer sun. That whole lobster look really doesn't do it for me. Today, though, was just so beautiful that I couldn't resist noshing outside with my current read: Stanley Park by (Canadian!) Timothy Taylor.

    I must say how much I really do like this book: it combines my love of cooking with a good mystery story, adding touches of romance, family struggles and the battle of a small-time chef to stay afloat in the sea of corporate menus. The book was a nominee for the Giller Prize as well as a nominee for the BC Book Prize's Ethel Wilson Award for Fiction. It definitely helps that this wonderful novel is set in Vancouver, a place I have come to adore through my travels to visit my aunt and uncle (who live in Langley, a suburb). The descriptions of the different locales alone bring back fond memories of picnics and walks along the shore.

    Even in the hot hot weather, I was craving a stir-fry. A quick dig through the fridge produced a plethora of veggies and some of my home-made teriyaki sauce, and a snoop in the pantry gave me some bulgur wheat. Half an hour later a huge steaming bowl of goodness was steaming in front of me, and I was able to settle down and read a few chapters of my book before getting the familiar feeling of overheating.

    Stir-fries are a variety of clean-out-the-fridge recipe and by no means do you have to (or should) stick to a recipe. I figured though that for food blogging's sake, I would tell you how I did mine today.

    Sarah's Summer Stir-Fry
    Serves One
    3/4 cup salted water
    1/3 cup dry bulgur wheat
    Black pepper
    1 cup shredded Savoy cabbage
    2 cloves garlic, chopped
    3-4 florets each broccoli and cauliflower, chopped
    1 1-cm slice Vidalia onion, diced
    3 white mushrooms, sliced fairly thin
    Good pinch of red pepper flakes
    about 2 tsp garlic powder
    1 plum tomato, chopped
    1/4 cup or so low-sodium Teriyaki Sauce
    Few dashes vegan Worcestershire sauce
    1. Bring salted water to boil in a small pot. Add bulgur wheat and a few cracks of black pepper.
    2. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Cover pot, remove from heat and let stand 20 minutes.
    3. Meanwhile, steam cabbage, garlic, broccoli and cauliflower 6 minutes.
    4. Heat a large frying pan over high heat, spray with cooking spray.
    5. Add onion and saute until golden.
    6. Add mushrooms, red pepper flakes and garlic powder and cook, stirring, until everything begins to brown and become very fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.
    7. Add tomato and cook another 1-2 minutes.
    8. Add steamed veggies and toss together.
    9. Pour in teriyaki sauce and Worcestershire, toss through to coat veggies.
    10. Add cooked bulgur and stir to combine everything and slightly reduce sauce, 3-4 minutes.
    11. Serve immediately.

    Happy summer days, everyone!

    Sunday, July 8, 2007

    Dense, Fudgy Vegan Brownies

    Picture dense, chocolatey, delicately spiced, fat-free confections. Is this what immediately springs to mind?
    Didn't think so.

    However, pure, canned pumpkin is the secret ingredient in my brownies. I love this recipe, and have been making it for over a year. The batter itself is pretty tasty, and is sugar-free and chock-full of fibre. I have one every night as a bedtime snack, heated at 375 F for 20 minutes then spread with sweetened and vanilla-flavoured cream cheese. A large can of pumpkin from Stokeley's will make 3 batches of brownies in 8x8 inch square pans, and I often make all 3 batches at once. One pan I'll put in the fridge, and the other two I'll wrap in tin foil and freeze for later. Definitely a time-saver if you eat them every day like me!

    Dense, Fudgy Vegan Brownies (my own recipe)
    1 cup unsweetened packed pumpkin
    1/2 cup Splenda Granular (or sugar)
    2 teaspoons vanilla (or any flavouring of your choice)
    3/4 cup whole wheat flour
    1/3 cup cocoa powder
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 tsp cinnamon, cloves, chili powder, cayenne, or ginger (optional, my favourite is cloves)
    Boiling water (or hot coffee)
    1. Preheat oven to 350 F and lightly spray an 8 x 8 baking pan.
    2. Mix pumpkin, Splenda, and vanilla in a medium bowl.
    3. In another bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spice (if using) together.
    4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the pumpkin mixture.
    5. Mix until just combined, adding boiling water as required.
    6. Spread in prepared pan and bake 28min, until center is firm.**
    7. Cool completely in the fridge before slicing and eating.

    **If you're like me and make 3 batches at once, increase the baking time to 33 minutes.

    Scott Kessman from Associated Content had this to say about pumpkin:

    "First and foremost, the main healthful qualities of pumpkin nutrition are the large amounts of antioxidants and beta-carotene present within the pumpkin. Antioxidants, as most of us know by know due to increased awareness of the importance of healthy living, help strengthen our immune system. Beta-carotene converts to Vitamin A and helps reduce the risk of cancer and other dangerous diseases. Pumpkins by themselves are also very low in fat and calories, and high in potassium. They also possess a fair amount of Vitamin C and other nutrients, such as Niacin, Vitamin E, Calcium and Iron."
    I figured that with all that good stuff inside, I'd submit this for Sweetnick's ARF / 5-A-Day roundup!