Monday, March 31, 2008

Rolling Around, and Crazy Cranberries!

Okay, so I can't be lazy anymore, since I promised that I would update you on my baking classes at George Brown, which continued this past weekend! We made Swiss Rolls this week, which if you've never had one are sheets of light and airy sponge cake filled with a jam or cream mixture, covered in whipped cream and decorated. We had a choice of doing raspberry jam or lemon curd fillings in class, so I opted for doing one of each! I decorated the lemon roll with flaked almonds and used "biscuit crunch" (whatever the heck that is... it kind of looks like kibble to me...) on the raspberry one. Sadly, the ingredients for the filling and "creamish" were not exactly leaning towards realism, but I guess I can let it slide. Why, you ask? Well, I calculated the number of eggs we used as a class on that day alone, and came up with a staggering number... 312! Yeah, you read that right... 26 dozen eggs made into Swiss Rolls and sweet paste bases for next week's fruit flans... in one afternoon! When you factor in an average unit price of 11 cents an egg (last I checked for the bakery), they really aren't fooling around on the whole ovoid front!

My favourite part of the class was watching the demo... turns out 24 eggs will not fit into the small bowl of a stand mixer after it's been whipping for 10 minutes! Guess the instructors don't know everything, now, do they? I, at least, know that they taste decent - both my mom and Cel had big slices tonight with their tea, and I'm fairly sure my stepbrother's inhaled a fair portion too. Jeez, with all this extra cake hanging around, no one's going to want any of my home made birthday cake this weekend!

Anyways, onto recipes I can actually share with you! I have a wonderful recipe for cornbread that I've made a variety of different ways over the years (adding everything from blueberries to cheese to one lone instance of a whole habanero pepper... Andrew loved me for that one, especially since he ate it at work!). This time, I combined two of my favourite cornbread add-ins... cranberries and jalapenos. The result is something sort of sweet, tangy, and spicy all in a tender and (most importantly) moist package. It doesn't hurt that it's whole wheat either! When I get my hands on some blue cornmeal I'm going to make this again, just for the gorgeous colour combination!

Cranity Insanity Cornbread
Serves 9
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp soda
¼ tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp canola oil
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
¼ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 - 2 jalapeno peppers, minced
½ cup fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F, and grease a 9" square pan.
  2. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Combine buttermilk, oil, applesauce, brown sugar and peppers, beat into dry ingredients.
  4. Fold in cranberries.
  5. Bake 25 minutes.
  6. Best served warm, but freezes and reheats well.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 164.5
Total Fat: 4.1 g
Cholesterol: 1.1 mg
Sodium: 36.7 mg
Total Carbs: 29.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.0 g
Protein: 3.9 g

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Lazy? Damn Straight!

Yeah, I'm being a lazy butt tonight, and I haven't had the energy or willpower to cook anything new recently. Well, I mean, if you don't count the Swiss Rolls my fellow classmates and I whipped out in yesterday's class at George Brown College. I'll tell you about that tomorrow. First... check out these carrots and leeks I saw at the St. Lawrence Market!! Not a word of a lie, those things are the size of my forearm. One carrot could make a whole carrot cake! I kind of wanted to buy one, just for the sheer size of it, but really - it's been my experience that big does NOT always = tasty in the veggie world. However, me being small meant I could manouver the hordes of shoppers in the giant market with as little jostling as possible! I love it down there, and Kensington Market, and Chinatown, and Roncesvalles... I think I need to move to Toronto! No suburbs for this foodie!

I'm getting really PO'd at Blogger right now, though, since this is the 5th time I've had to re-type this passage, so I leave you now to enjoy my random Toronto photography while reading this semi-meme I stole off of one of my new blog-haunts: So...What Else, What Else, What Else? - It takes imdb.com's top 250 movies of all time and gets you to pick out the ones you've seen. My count's at 87... 35%... which is pretty good since I really hate movies (unless I'm really in a "movie mood", which isn't often) and 3/4 of these were made before I was born! Here's my rundown, I bolded my responses:

1. The Godfather (1972)
2. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
3. The Godfather: Part II (1974)
4. Buono, il brutto, il cattivo, Il (1966)
5. Pulp Fiction (1994)
6. Schindler's List (1993)
7. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
8. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) 9. Casablanca (1942)
10. Shichinin no samurai (1954)
11. Star Wars (1977)
12. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
13. 12 Angry Men (1957)
14. Rear Window (1954)
15. Goodfellas (1990)
16. Cidade de Deus (2002)
17. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
18. C'era una volta il West (1968)
19. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
20. The Usual Suspects (1995)
21. Psycho (1960)
22. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
23. Fight Club (1999)
24. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
25. Citizen Kane (1941)
26. North by Northwest (1959)
27. Memento (2000)
28. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
29. Sunset Blvd. (1950)
30. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
31. The Matrix (1999)
32. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
33. Se7en (1995)
34. Apocalypse Now (1979)
35. Taxi Driver (1976)
36. American Beauty (1999)
37. Léon (1994)
38. Vertigo (1958)
39. There Will Be Blood (2007)
40. Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain, Le (2001)
41. American History X (1998)
42. The Departed (2006)
43. Paths of Glory (1957)
44. M (1931)
45. No Country for Old Men (2007)
46. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
47. The Third Man (1949)
48. Chinatown (1974)
49. Leben der Anderen, Das (2006)
50. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
51. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
52. Alien (1979)
53. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
54. The Shining (1980)
55. Laberinto del fauno, El (2006)
56. The Pianist (2002)
57. Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi (2001)
58. Double Indemnity (1944)
59. Forrest Gump (1994)
60. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
61. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
62. L.A. Confidential (1997)
63. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
64. Boot, Das (1981)
65. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
66. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
67. Untergang, Der (2004)
68. Aliens (1986)
69. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
70. Raging Bull (1980)
71. Rashômon (1950)
72. Metropolis (1927)
73. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
74. Modern Times (1936)
75. Singin' in the Rain (1952)
76. Hotel Rwanda (2004)
77. Rebecca (1940)
78. Sin City (2005)
79. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
80. All About Eve (1950)
81. Sjunde inseglet, Det (1957)
82. Some Like It Hot (1959)
83. City Lights (1931)
84. Amadeus (1984)
85. Vita è bella, La (1997)
86. On the Waterfront (1954)
87. The Great Escape (1963)
88. Touch of Evil (1958)
89. The Prestige (2006)
90. The Elephant Man (1980)
91. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
92. Jaws (1975)
93. The Sting (1973)
94. Nuovo cinema Paradiso (1988)
95. Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
96. The Apartment (1960)
97. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
98. Braveheart (1995)
99. The Great Dictator (1940)
100. Blade Runner (1982)
101. Strangers on a Train (1951)
102. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
103. Batman Begins (2005)
104. Ladri di biciclette (1948)
105. High Noon (1952)
106. Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983)
107. The Big Sleep (1946)
108. Notorious (1946)
109. Salaire de la peur, Le (1953)
110. Back to the Future (1985)
111. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
112. Oldboy (2003)
113. Ran (1985)
114. Fargo (1996)
115. Unforgiven (1992)
116. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
117. Donnie Darko (2001)
118. Mononoke-hime (1997)
119. Cool Hand Luke (1967)
120. Ratatouille (2007)
121. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
122. Per qualche dollaro in più (1965)
123. Yojimbo (1961)
124. The Green Mile (1999)
125. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
126. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
127. Gladiator (2000)
128. Notti di Cabiria, Le (1957)
129. Into the Wild (2007)
130. Die Hard (1988)
131. Annie Hall (1977)
132. Battaglia di Algeri, La (1966)
133. Ben-Hur (1959)
134. The Deer Hunter (1978)
135. It Happened One Night (1934)
136. The Sixth Sense (1999)
137. Platoon (1986)
138. The General (1927)
139. Life of Brian (1979)
140. Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
141. The Killing (1956)
142. Smultronstället (1957)
143. Amores perros (2000)
144. Diaboliques, Les (1955)
145. Finding Nemo (2003)
146. The Incredibles (2004)
147. V for Vendetta (2005)
148. Brief Encounter (1945)
149. Heat (1995)
150. The Wild Bunch (1969)
151. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
152. Children of Men (2006)
153. The Graduate (1967)
154. The Princess Bride (1987)
155. 8½ (1963)
156. Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
157. Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)
158. The Big Lebowski (1998)
159. The Night of the Hunter (1955)
160. Juno (2007)
161. Stand by Me (1986)
162. Crash (2004)
163. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
164. Gandhi (1982)
165. Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
166. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
167. Snatch. (2000)
168. Harvey (1950)
169. Witness for the Prosecution (1957)
170. The Thing (1982)
171. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)
172. The African Queen (1951)
173. Trainspotting (1996)
174. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
175. Gone with the Wind (1939)
176. The Gold Rush (1925)
177. Groundhog Day (1993)
178. Wo hu cang long (2000)
179. Belle et la bête, La (1946)
180. Scarface (1983)
181. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
182. The Conversation (1974)
183. Patton (1970)
184. Duck Soup (1933)
185. American Gangster (2007)
186. Toy Story (1995)
187. Twelve Monkeys (1995)
188. Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922)
189. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
190. The Terminator (1984)
191. Sleuth (1972)
192. Cabinet des Dr. Caligari., Das (1920)
193. Umberto D. (1952)
194. Stalker (1979)
195. The Hustler (1961)
196. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
197. Glory (1989)
198. Ed Wood (1994)
199. King Kong (1933)
200. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
201. The Lion King (1994)
202. The Exorcist (1973)
203. Hotaru no haka (1988)
204. The Lost Weekend (1945)
205. Spartacus (1960)
206. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
207. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
208. Grindhouse (2007)
209. The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)
210. The Lady Vanishes (1938)
211. Magnolia (1999)
212. Stalag 17 (1953)
213. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
214. In the Heat of the Night (1967)
215. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
216. Lola rennt (1998)
217. Frankenstein (1931)
218. Big Fish (2003)
219. Casino (1995)
220. Out of the Past (1947)
221. Rosemary's Baby (1968)
222. Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
223. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
224. Mystic River (2003)
225. Once (2006)
226.Toy Story 2 (1999)
227. Du rififi chez les hommes (1955)
228. A Christmas Story (1983)
229. 3:10 to Yuma (2007)
230. Ikiru (1952)
231. Dial M for Murder (1954)
232. Hot Fuzz (2007)
233. Manhattan (1979)
234. Young Frankenstein (1974)
235. Mou gaan dou (2002)
236. Rope (1948)
237. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
238. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
239. Roman Holiday (1953)
240. In Cold Blood (1967)
241. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
242. Strada, La (1954)
243. His Girl Friday (1940)
244. Ying xiong (2002)
245. Harold and Maude (1971)
246. Quatre cents coups, Les (1959)
247. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
248. The Searchers (1956)
249. Barry Lyndon (1975)
250. Haine, La (1995)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

My Blog Sitter, and a MB Entry!

Since I'm away at George Brown for school today, I've assigned a rather furry creature by the name of Bitt to blog-sit for me today, and he requested to be sent into Peanut Butter Etouffee's Food Bloggy Pets of the Month event in payment!

...looks like he's laying down on the job a little, doesn't he? Well, I'm a good boss, so he's still going to be sent in. He's been assigned to night patrol from now on, though!!

Now, for the foodage... The Master Baker event is coming around again, and the theme for this turn is Easter Candy! With the abundance of half-price Peeps, Mini Eggs and jelly beans out there though, I figured I would go a bit more upscale with my use of an Easter gift from one of my friends, Georgiana: coconut cream truffles!

Since they're quick and simple to whip off for a snack emergency, I figured what better to do for Master Baker than a fancified muffin, centered with the decadent truffle? Well, taking my basic vanilla muffin mix, I added some coconut shreds, coconut extract and chopped peanuts before shoving one of the rich dark chocolate morsels in the centre of each muffin cup. 20 minutes at 400F later and voila, Coco-Peanut Trufflekins!

Coco-Peanut Trufflekins
Makes 6
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
3 tablespoons buttermilk
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
6 coconut truffles
  1. Stir all ingredients but truffles together until just blended and still slightly lumpy.
  2. Push truffles halfway into the batter-filled cups.
  3. Bake in greased tins 20-25 minutes at 400F, unmould immediately and cool on wire racks.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 244.6
Total Fat: 10.5 g
Cholesterol: 1.6 mg
Sodium: 13.1 mg
Total Carbs: 35.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.5 g
Protein: 4.8 g

Friday, March 28, 2008

We Ain't Got No Stinkin' 'Maters!

No, I haven't gone crazy, become a gangster or moved to New York. I am still a confirmed tomato-lover (in season only, please!), and I have no plans to stray over to the dark side. However, I was recently approached by a fellow cook on GroupRecipes for help with cooking for her 3-year-old son, who is allergic to: onions, pecans, carrots, rye, hazelnuts, walnuts, egg whites, wheat, soy, peanuts, cashews... and tomatoes! One of the major problems with this (besides the sheer amount of allergens in general) was that her son loves tomato sauce and ketchup... they were the main condiments in their house. But, could I help with finding some substitutes for those beloved products? I promised her that I'd try, and here's what the products were, delivered fresh for this week's ARF / 5-A-Day over at Sweetnicks.

Now firstly, if tomato allergies are a problem for you and you don't want to cook all your condiments from scratch, I did find a company called NoMato that makes tomato-free products like sauce, salsa and ketchup. Their link is here for more info and if they aren't in your area you can order online.

Since I didn't know about any of the allergens other than the tomatoes at the time, the following recipes don't take them into account. However, I'm sure there are suitable substitutes for those allergens as well... I just ran out of inspiration by the time I typed the response to her! I've highlighted the child's allergens in the following recipes also, for identification purposes when it comes to potential dangers in the ingredients, along with some substitutes that I hadn't thought of when I emailed my new acquaintance.

Tomatoless Ketchup
About 10 servings, 2 tbsp each
It isn't spot-on taste for tomato ketchup, so don't expect it to be, but it is red and full of vegetables... would work for burgers and fries I'd bet.
1 cup diced, overcooked carrots (or 3/4 cup pumpkin puree)
1/3 cup diced, overcooked beets
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar (or to taste, you may need more or less depending on the beets and carrots)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp onion powder (omit)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
pinch basil
pinch oregano
  1. Puree until very smooth, adding a little water if necessary.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 14.4
Total Fat: 0.0 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 24.1 mg
Total Carbs: 3.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.6 g
Protein: 0.2 g

Tomatoless Pasta Sauce
Serves 4
This pasta sauce is delicious, smoky and sweet from the roasted peppers that will never have you missing tomatoes on your noodles! It also freezes exceptionally well, so multiply away and throw the extras in the freezer.
5 red peppers, seeded and chopped
1 large sweet onion (or 1 large fennel bulb), chopped roughly
10 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup water
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. thyme
salt + pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Place peppers, onion (or fennel) and garlic cloves into a 9" x 13" baking pan.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and toss well.
  4. Put in oven and roast for about 45 minutes.
  5. Pour vegetables, all the black bits and the juices into a saucepan.
  6. Add water and seasonings and puree with an immersion blender (alternately transfer everything to a blender and puree smooth).
  7. Heat as for regular sauce and serve.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 140.4
Total Fat: 7.2 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 6.5 mg
Total Carbs: 18.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.9 g
Protein: 2.7 g

Hopefully, these two products of my research and kitcheny creation will help her and any other sufferers out there with the tomato withdrawl... they are very tasty even if they aren't Ragu or Heinz, and are much better for you - lacking the preservatives and overprocessing that so much of our food undergoes!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Soup For Tibet

I think you'd have to be living under a rock in the middle of nowhere not to have noticed the terrible ongoings in Tibet these past few weeks. Though I don't know the details, I do know that the Buddhists in the country have been suppressed for many years by the Communist Chinese government and have more recently been under more violent attack by the federal police forces, with some reports of the death toll topping 140. In India, Tibetan exiles have attempted to march to Tibet from Dharamsala (where His Holiness the Dalai Lama lives) to Tibet in a protest against the Beijing Olympics. There are petitions online to stop the violent acts and many other protests in city centres around the globe as well. There is more information on the country as a whole here and Canada's involvement with the freedom campaign here.

I have always been fascinated with the Tibetans and their culture, especially the Buddhist religion and the Dalai Lama (I even tried to get downtown when he visited Toronto), and it is so distressing to me that any culture would suppress the very livelihood and existence of another for no reason other than dominance. I don't want to incite any ill wishes or flames with my messages and personal opinions on this matter since I know there are as many different sides to this problem as the days are long, but I will say that I wish all those involved the peace that the area so deserves after all these years of struggle and with luck the violence will cease soon.

What does Tibet have to do with today's post, though? I'm bringing to the table a Tibetan corn and tofu soup that, if nothing else, will help bring a calm and a smile to your kitchen with it's sunny yellow colour. It is a popular meal at the cafes in Dharamsala, and of course each of them makes their own additions, substitutions and variations on the recipe. It's a healthy meal, filled with protein and fibre, and rich with spicy ginger. This is definite cold-fighting food too, in case that last little bit of winter refuses to leave you alone.

Tibetan Corn Soup
Serves 4
1/2 large onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon paprika
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp diced fresh ginger
1 plum tomato, chopped
12 oz extra-firm, low fat tofu, cubed
4 cups water
2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons water

  1. Using non-stick spray, sauté the onion in a soup pot until brown and soft.
  2. Add the paprika, garlic, and ginger and cook briefly.
  3. Add the tomato and tofu and cook 2 minutes.
  4. Add the water and bring to a boil.
  5. Add corn to the pot.
  6. Combine the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water, add to the pot.
  7. Bring to a boil again, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 207.1
Total Fat: 4.2 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 65.4 mg
Total Carbs: 25.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.2 g
Protein: 19.1 g

For dessert, something with no political connotations or connections. My mother had asked me quite some time ago (before the birthday rush) if I would be able to make her and Cel (the step-father) a banana bread that was low-fat (for her) and low in sugars (for him). My basic bakery recipe called for shortening to be creamed with the sugars before the other ingredients were added... I knew that was not going to fly in this case. So, I got creative, used up some leftovers, and came up with this. It's probably one of the moistest banana breads I've ever made, and the damage to the figure isn't that bad either, (considering an average slice from a bakery can run you 540 calories, I don't think the 150 in mine is a death sentence to your waist). My mom and Cel both said it was some of the best they've ever eaten, and I'm not telling Cel (the fibre-phobe) that not only does it have whole-wheat, but added heart-healthy psyllium fibre too. I'm such a nice step-daughter :-D.

Low - Sugar Banumpkin Bread
Serves 12
1 cup flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup ground psyllium husk
1 tbsp baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup Splenda
3 tbsp honey
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tsp banana extract (optional)
2 large, mashed ripe bananas
1 cup pumpkin puree

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a loaf pan.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine both flours, psyllium, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and cinnamon.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the Splenda, honey, applesauce, oil, extracts, bananas and pumpkin.
  4. Stir the flour into the wet ingredients until fully combined.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes, until tests done.
  6. Cool 10 minutes in pan, then unmould onto rack to cool.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 151.7
Total Fat: 2.8 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 49.7 mg
Total Carbs: 30.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.1 g
Protein: 2.9 g

Monday, March 24, 2008

Love on a (Micro)plane

What do you do when you have 2 cups of pumpkin puree left over from a batch of Super Squashcakes? Well, no pumpkin pie, brownies or cookies for me (though all are definitely good eating!), I had some other plans up my sleeve for these remnants of gourd! This use-up day of mine resulted in two new-fangled recipes for me, and one of them I'm going to pass on to you today!

If you've read my blog for long, you'll know that I had a fling with biscuit making a few months ago to use up some buttermilk in our fridge. Well, we still have buttermilk in our fridge, but this time I opted for a subtler taste with regular soy milk filling in for it's dairy counterpart. The best part for me about these puffs is that not only are they insanely good at rising (thank you, baking powder!), but they are essentially fat-free, relying on the canned pumpkin for moisture and body. Of course, they also toss in some vitamins and fibre along with a great taste match with the freshly grated ginger. But don't get thinking that these are sweet sugar n' spice balls... no sugar was harmed in the creation of these biscuits!

Which brings me to the latest event on my radar... Tasty Tools! Joelen's Culinary Adventures has created an event celebrating the love of all things gadget-y in the kitchen... Alton Brown would be squirming if Joelen didn't also avoid the dreaded "uni-tasker"... and I'm in Heaven! This month's gadget is the grater or Microplane, and lucky for me, it's exactly what I used for my ginger demolition!

So, without further ado...

Skyscraper Pumpkin Biscuits
Makes 12
1 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup quick (not instant) oatmeal
1 1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
3/4 cup fat-free soy milk
  1. Preheat oven to 425F, lightly grease 1-2 baking sheets.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients including ginger.
  3. Add pumpkin and using your fingers work it into the flour until fairly incorporated.
  4. Pour in milk and combine to form a soft dough.
  5. Pat out (do not roll, it won't work) on a floured board to about 3/4" thickness.
  6. Cut out circles and place on prepared sheets fairly close together.
  7. Bake 12-15 minutes. Remove from sheets and cool on wire rack.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 79.0
Total Fat: 0.4 g
Cholesterol: 0.3 mg
Sodium: 90.5 mg
Total Carbs: 16.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.5 g
Protein: 3.0 g

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Cake that Nearly Killed Me

Well, another set of birthdays over and done with (for 12 days at least, then it's my turn!). Whew! For some reason, even though it's been the same round of birthdays for 3 or 4 years now, this go-round seemed to be so much busier! I think it was the major party thing this year for my mom that did it. But no matter! Birthdays are fun, especially when you are the one throwing the parties and making the cakes! Most people that I know would probably dispute that, though, but what can I say - I love cooking for others, and don't mind doing the dishes! My birthdays aren't nearly as fun... I never know what to say when people ask me what I want! It's like Christmas... I don't need anything, and God knows what I like, it changes so often!

This cake for my Dad and Martha's birthdays (one right after the other... can we say soulmates?) could have killed any lingering birthday joy though... a combination of a messed-up cake recipe, hot butter and sugar and my lack of basic chemistry skills could have equalled some serious fire and smoke in the kitchen, not to mention a heck of a mess! Thank God for the small miracles of persistence, chocolate, peanut butter and extra cake pans!

So, here's what happened, in case you were wondering:

  1. I used this recipe, based on the 2 votes I got (thanks Valli and Andrew!), which would have been okay if, you know, it had been written in a format I could have followed and that would have actually fit into the pans it suggested. As it so happens, 2 pans = BIG MESS. Use 3. Cake's good otherwise, though!
  2. Dealing with 3 layers meant that I figured there wouldn't be enough glaze to go around (I was obviously wrong, even with my sorry excuse for glaze that lost 1/2 of it to the sink). Happy ending to this was that I whipped up a chocolate and peanut butter ganache to sandwich between each layer (and yes, I'll pass on the recipe). Need I say yum?
  3. Ah, yes... the infamous glaze. Apparently there was a reason I flunked the Grade 10 Chemistry unit in my science class... forgetting that baking soda + buttermilk will foam, and when you add heat = BIG FOAM. Lets throw in some melted sugar and butter to that, shall we? What do we get... BIG FOAMY BOILING SUGAR SCARY MONSTER. Can you tell hot sugar scares the sh*t out of me?? I couldn't even do it for our Creme Caramels in Baking Class... my awesome partner did that part for both of us!

Really, when all was said and done, the cake was a huge hit... moist, buttery, and perfect with the ganache layers too. My favourite thing was the photos though... they look like syrup drenched pancakes! Enjoy this unusual, if insanity-inducing, cake - and with luck you won't have any mistakes like mine to learn from!

Buttery Banana Cake with a Buttermilk Glaze - Take 2
Serves 16
1 ½ cups mashed ripe bananas (about 5)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 ½ cups buttermilk
2 cups flour
1 cup whole wheat cake flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup cultured, European-style butter
1 ¾ cups sugar
½ tbsp cornstarch
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla

---Glaze---

¾ cup sugar
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup butter
1 tablespoon corn syrup
½ teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla

  1. Preheat oven to 275°F. Grease and flour one 9 x 13" pan or three 9” round pans.
  2. In a small bowl, mix mashed banana with the lemon juice and buttermilk, set aside.
  3. Mix flours, baking soda and salt; set aside.
  4. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  5. Whisk cornstarch with 3 tbsp cold water until smooth, then whisk into the egg along with the vanilla.
  6. Beat this slurry into the creamed mixture.
  7. Beat in banana mixture alternately with the flours.
  8. Bake for 1 ¼ hours, or until tests done.
  9. Remove from oven and place directly into the freezer for 45 minutes.

***

  1. For glaze, combine all remaining ingredients but vanilla in a large pot.
  2. Bring to a boil (it will foam a *lot*), and cook for 5-6 minutes until thick and syrupy.
  3. Remove from heat, add vanilla and allow it to cool 10 minutes.
  4. Turn out cake onto a rack, placing it over a cookie sheet (to catch glaze drips!).
  5. Pour the thickened glaze over the entire cake (or each of the rounds*, stacking them before glazing everything).
  6. Allow to set completely before serving. Keep in the fridge.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 377.2
Total Fat: 15.3 g
Cholesterol: 53.3 mg
Sodium: 40.2 mg
Total Carbs: 57.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.9 g
Protein: 4.1 g

If you're like me and don't want the glaze in between each layer, wanting a ganache-type thing, here's what I did:

Chocolate - Peanut Butter Ganache
Makes enough filling for a 3-layer cake (16 servings)
1/4 cup whole milk
1 tsp salted butter
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/3 -1/2 cup semisweet chocolate

  1. Combine milk, butter and peanut butter in a microwave-safe bowl.
  2. Heat 1-2 minutes on HI, until very hot and peanut butter in runny.
  3. Stir in chocolate, allow to cool and thicken to desired consistency.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 61.4
Total Fat: 4.7 g
Cholesterol: 1.0 mg
Sodium: 28.9 mg
Total Carbs: 4.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.6 g
Protein: 1.7 g

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Cookie Monster!

I'm taking a quick break from the whole birthday thing just to show you two awesome cookies that came out of my oven this week. They're going to come along with me tonight to my dad's Easter / birthday party that he's sharing with Martha (seeing as her birthday is tomorrow!) so that I can pass them off to Andrew and my dad. Aren't they such amazing people to let me indulge in my baking insanity??

So, these first cookies are a bit unique... the brainchild of a half container of sour cream that had been sitting in our fridge for some time, with no future plans for it, and some bits and pieces of nuts and chocolate chips that were taking up space in our already overstocked pantry. It seems that that's usually how it goes in my house... random ingredients, spare time, and a blissfully still-working oven with the bonus of knowing that whatever I churn out will find homes in the bellies of Exxon employees, my dad and Andrew's family (with a few pieces left over for my mom to nosh on!). Anyways, these have some whole wheat flour, almonds, raisins, chocolate and of course sour cream in them, and their appearance kind of looks like they're rocks or something... but they're delicious nonetheless!!

Tangy Chock - Full Cookies
Makes 20
1/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
1/2 cup flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 tbsp cornstarch
pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1/4 cup miniature chocolate chips
1/4 cup raisins
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F and grease a cookie sheet.
  2. Cream together the shortening, sugar and vanilla until smooth.
  3. Beat in sour cream.
  4. Whisk together the flours, cornstarch, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
  5. Beat into the creamed mixture.
  6. Fold in the nuts, chocolate and raisins.
  7. Cover dough, refrigerate for 1/2 hour.
  8. Drop spoonfuls of dough onto prepared cookie sheet.
  9. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes, cool completely on sheet.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 111.5
Total Fat: 4.8 g
Cholesterol: 3.8 mg
Sodium: 5.6 mg
Total Carbs: 16.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.2 g
Protein: 1.8 g

These next cookies are my take on one of my favourite ice creams,... Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia! Vegan and part whole-wheat (I have to stick something healthy in there!), they're also loaded with cherries, chocolate, and one of my favourite cookie mix-ins and Andrew's favourite nuts: exotic macadamia nuts. The recipe was adapted from About.com to become vegan and lower in sugar, since I find most cookie recipes out there a bit on the cloying side (and besides, two types of chocolate and sweet cherries? Come on, let's not get overkill here). I also added in an extra exotic flavour layer with both ground (at home) and chopped macadamias. I have a feeling these won't last too long once the hordes descend!

Cherry Garcia Cookies
Makes 36
1/2 cup dried cherries
3/4 cup port wine
pinch salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cups flour
1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup ground macadamia nuts
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup margarine
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup coarsely-chopped macadamia nuts
  1. Place dried cherries in a bowl and cover with port wine. Let sit overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease or line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Drain the cherries, reserving 2 tbsp liquid, and pat dry before coarsely chopping.
  4. Whisk together salt, baking soda, flours and ground nuts in a small bowl.
  5. In a large bowl, cream together shortening, margarine, and sugars.
  6. Whisk together cornstarch, reserved port and vanilla. Add to above.
  7. Add flour mixture, half at a time, and mix until combined.
  8. Fold in cherries, both chocolate chips, and macadamia nuts.
  9. Refrigerate cookie dough 30 to 45 minutes.
  10. Bake 12 to 14 minutes.
  11. Cool 10 minutes on cookie sheets before removing to racks to cool completely.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 99.2
Total Fat: 5.9 g
Cholesterol: 1.0 mg
Sodium: 17.8 mg
Total Carbs: 11.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.7 g
Protein: 0.9 g

Even after using a whack of the mac nuts in these cookies, I still have a few hanging out in my freezer... what can be next? There are a ton of recipes out there for inspiration, so you'll be seeing something eventually!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Hey, It's Spring!

...Why not have a salad?

Oh, yes... I'm so original :-D. But this delicious bowl sure is! Yup, this is another birthday party creation of mine from the weekend. My mom actually let me make this without glancing at the recipe or fretting over whether or not people would like it, probably one night when she was too tired to reason out any excuses. Yeah, my cooking is not usually encouraged at home... apparently it's too "different". That doesn't stop the compliments that come from my mom, Andrew and my dad when I do make something though. Go figure. I guess that as long as "the Italians" have other options, it's all good.

Anyways, this was a huge hit with those family members who dared to try it at the party, and I even had the opportunity to teach some of them (including my previously feared great-aunt Shirley) about the benefits of beans and quinoa in the diet, which branched into me telling them about my partnership with Foodbuzz and my writing on this blog! Business cards were passed out and I talked so much that I think poor Andrew was a little left out, but he battled through and lived to take more salad home both the day of the party and this past Tuesday (AKA his Saturday, lol).

One of the major plusses of this salad is that it is absolutely gorgeous (and it's not just the crazy fluke photo in my favourite bowl that I took that makes it look like that!), and nice and healthy too, being full of black beans, peppers, tomatoes, herbs, limes and the darling of the superfood world: quinoa! Throw in a dash of olive oil and some smokey notes from cumin, let it sit in the fridge overnight and... voila... my Queen Bean Salad!

With over over 100% of the dietary requirement value for vitamin C and vitamin A and an excellent source of vitamin B6, the peppers in this dish do more than just flavour and add some delicious heat! The tomatoes, though they would have been better in-season (like everything else!), bring a more B6, folate, copper, niacin, vitamin B2, magnesium, iron, pantothenic acid, phosphorous, vitamin E and protein to the table! The quinoa is full of manganese, magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorous, and what's neat is that this "grain" (actually related to chard) can help people suffering from migraine headaches, diabetes and atherosclerosis! I've talked about the benefits of the delicious thing that is the bean before, but black beans were found to have the most antioxidant activity in a recent study in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry! All things considered... this is one Queen *ahem* of a salad... and it keeps for ages, getting better and better!

I wonder how many other salads will crop up for this round of ARF / 5-A-Day? Only one way to find out, and that's to check Sweetnicks this Tuesday for the round-up!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

"Cherry-ish" and the Sweet Birthday Stuff

This past weekend marked one of the busiest I've had in a long time. School was back in session on Saturday down at George Brown after a cancelled class last weekend due to the snow, and Sunday marked my mom's birthday bash (which saw close to 40 people in our house and has given us more leftovers than we can eat in a week! P.S.: Thanks Andrew for taking a bunch!). I figured that we had lost out on the Black Forest Cake lesson, which I was looking forward to, because of the cancellation, so I opted to take the train downtown again instead of driving (which is what I had planned on for the cake's transportation purposes). Well, imagine my surprise-turned-annoyance when I walked into class only to find Black Forest Cake gracing the board in a very different scrawl from Amjad's. Yup, March Break Madness doesn't only take over the students, it seems. I forget our substitute prof's name, but she is a quicker demonstrator than Amjad and was very to-the-point when it came to the finer points of slicing and assembly. Not feeling so great that day, my slicing abilities were a tad... shall we say... off (you mean 45 degrees isn't straight?), but luckily my partner Ferdie was able to help rescue our shared cake round so my final product was at least presentable.



To keep costs down in this class we do have to use the cheaper and slightly lower-quality ingredients of shortening, processed, gluey pie filling and "whipped topping" to stand in for the more accepted butter, fresh cherries and whipped 35% cream found in the high-end cakes out there. This is where we have our introduction of what one of my classmates dubbed "cherry-ish" - in with it's buddies "apple-ish" and "un-cream". Personally, I use canned pie filling... cherry kind ONLY... because I just can't be bothered to pit, stem and cook down enough cherries for a pie myself! Usually I do thin it down to a less Jell-O like consistency out of personal preference, but for this class it was glue all the way. The quality loss actually wasn't noticeable outwardly until today when I went to divide it for Andrew and my dad to take with them. As soon as my cuts became thinner than 1/4 of the 7" cake, the slices cracked. Crispy cake? Nah, I'll pass, thanks. Especially when there are two delicate, moist and richer cakes waiting in the fridge that are better for my body than the processed (albeit pretty) GBC creation.



One of these two cakes you've already seen on here... it's the same Buttermilk Vanilla Cake I had made for my Grandma's birthday back in January. The only difference here was that I used all whole-wheat pastry flour instead of the white stuff. Everyone who had some had high praise for the texture and flavour of it, since it isn't a sweet cake like the kind you'd find in a standard bakeshoppe. The second cake (and my favourite creation for the party) was one I created way back in November or December off the top of my head when I was experimenting with different flours... a chocolate, espresso, peanut butter and buckwheat creation I named the Nutty Night Owl Cake. Never having made it before, it was a case of complete blind faith going in, but it turned out beautifully and the reviews came back raving about the complex flavour of the crumb as well as the moist texture. I mentioned to a few of the guests that it was actually a fairly light cake as far as calories and fat content went, especially since it had no butter (only a small amount of olive oil) and the addition of rich prune puree, healthy, natural peanut butter and tangy buttermilk for the bulk of the moisture content. I even subbed in No Sugar Added chocolate for the regular bittersweet called for in this recipe since we had a few diabetics in the house. While I'm not claiming that the cake is in any way a "health" food, I know that my mom doesn't feel bad taking on her share of the leftovers!


Nutty Night Owl Cake
Serves 16
1 cup flour
¾ cups buckwheat flour
1 ½ cups sugar
¾ cup natural cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cornstarch
¼ cup smooth peanut butter
1 cup strong, brewed espresso
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup unsweetened prune puree
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon brewed espresso
2 tablespoons brown sugar
¼ cup peanut butter
skim milk to thin (if necessary)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9x13” pan.
  2. Sift together flours, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and cornstarch.
  3. Separately, beat together peanut butter, espresso, buttermilk, olive oil, prune puree and vanilla until completely blended.
  4. Stir in dry ingredients until fully incorporated.
  5. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until cake tests done.
  6. In a small bowl, mix 1 tsp espresso, brown sugar and peanut butter.
  7. Add milk if necessary to achieve desired spreading consistency.
  8. Smooth over cooled cake and refrigerate.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 258.6
Total Fat: 11.7 g
Cholesterol: 0.6 mg
Sodium: 90.7 mg
Total Carbs: 37.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.8 g
Protein: 5.7 g

Monday, March 17, 2008

It's Sort of Irish...

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone! I know that I have a lot of birthday party recapping to do after this weekend, but that will have to wait until tomorrow because I have a fun and easy treat to share with a recipe just perfect for this holiday!

While I do have Irish roots somewhere back there, the family and I don't usually partake in any of the usual bits and pieces of celebration that go with today. This turns out to be especially true now with the whole Italian influx to the household, even though we go through a lot of potatoes regardless (usually in their version of Patatas Bravas, ironically a Spanish meal)! When they cook up the surprisingly healthy potato like this though, they go through a LOT of olive oil which (while it isn't bad in moderation) isn't GOOD for the waistline either! My recipe for "fries" uses the goodness of an egg white to make super-crisp, spicy wedges that go perfectly with my equally healthy and delicious recipe for crispy, lemony fish, which is what I'm going to pass to you now! Personally, I think it's better than the boxed kind, and I KNOW it's better for me since there isn't anything in them I can't pronounce! Enjoy your shamrock fests, everyone!

Crunchy Oven Fried Fish
Serves 4
1 pound cod fillets
1 egg white
¼ cup buttermilk
¼ cup dry whole wheat bread crumbs
¼ cup cornmeal
1 ½ teaspoons lemon peel, grated
½ teaspoon basil
¼ tsp black pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 450F.
  2. Cut fish into serving-size pieces.
  3. Beat egg white with buttermilk until frothy, and set aside.
  4. Combine bread crumbs, cornmeal, lemon peel, basil and pepper.
  5. Dip fish into egg white mixture then coat with bread crumbs.
  6. Spray a rack placed over a shallow baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Place fillets on the rack, tucking under any thin edges.
  7. Bake 6 to 12 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 183.8
Total Fat: 1.7 g
Cholesterol: 63.0 mg
Sodium: 170.4 mg
Total Carbs: 11.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.9 g
Protein: 28.9 g

Saturday, March 15, 2008

ARF and some Q & A

Some of you will remember the flu bug I mentioned going around our house a few weeks ago, that left us all essentially bedridden for a day or two. I had begun to develop a somewhat holistic version of ginger ale during that time that would use the qualities of fresh ginger instead of the "natural flavouring" found in the canned versions of the drink, and I think I've got it. In addition to the nice bite from the ginger root, I opted to use some of my leftover raw sugar in the fizzy mix too, since I think it gives a deeper flavour. With all natural ingredients, including delicious fresh ginger and lime juice too, I don't think you can really go wrong, and this drink should find itself right at home with Cate's ARF / 5-A-Day event at her blog, Sweetnicks!

Per serving, this drink is pretty much equal to it's canned counterpart in terms of calories, but it is lower in sodium and free of the often - avoided High Fructose Corn Syrup. The benefits of fresh ginger include antioxidant effects, as well as being an anti-inflammatory agent and a digestive aid (which explains why it's a common stomach flu remedy). Vitamin C (found in abundance in fruit like limes) is the main water-soluble antioxidant in the body. Vitamin C travels through the body neutralizing any free radicals it touches, and studies show that it can halt the development and progression of atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease!

Home - Spun Ginger Ale
Serves 4
3 cups water, divided
1 cup peeled, diced ginger
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup raw sugar (or 2 tbsp pure fruit sugar)
2 cups club soda, chilled
2 tbsp lime juice
  1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan.
  2. Add ginger, and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and let sit for 20 minutes, then strain liquid, discarding ginger pieces.
  4. Seperately, dissolve sugars into remaining cup of boiling water. Set aside.
  5. Combine ginger and sugar mixtures and chill until very cold.
  6. To serve, add club soda and lime juice to the syrup mixture and divide between 4 glasses.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 143.7
Total Fat: 0.0 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 0.2 mg
Total Carbs: 37.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.0 g
Protein: 0.0 g

So, wondering about the Q&A? Don't worry, it isn't a meme, and nobody's getting tagged! This is in response to a comment I recieved a few days ago, from Ricki of the blog DietDessertandDogs (hi Ricki!), who questioned where I found coconut flour called for in the Thai Milk Cake I made. Well, that entire cake creation was actually a result of finding coconut flour in my local Bulk Barn (and I've found it in the other two I frequent as well). Bulk Barns are only found in Ontario, Manitoba and the Canadian Maritimes though, so for those of you not in the area there are a few options: Organic Coconut Flour from Bob's Red Mill, Aloha Nu Coconut flour by Simply Coconut in Florida, Organic Coconut Flour from Tropical Traditions (distributor list here) and Alpha Coconut Flour by AlphaHealth in Burnaby, B.C.. Most of the websites are full of information, nutritional statistics and recipes for this ingredient as well as other coconut products, so they're a great place to kick off an experimentation run!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Surprise, Surprise!

Sometimes, you just have to do something unexpected, and the past week or so was no exception! It was my mom's birthday yesterday, which meant that I got to go meet her for lunch and some quality "girl time" together. However, not all was as it seemed (as you can probably guess by this post's title). I had been in secret talks and planning sessions with a few of our mutual friends at her work in order to get a surprise celebration on the table for her --th birthday. While mom and I noshed on sushi, the clever team got to work setting up a meeting room with plates, forks, what looked like half the building's staff and, of course, her cake!

I had been asked by the event's mastermind to make something delicious for the office to share, knowing about my own Bumblebee Bakery and my love of all things experimental. For the big surprise, I whipped up a variation on an old Brazilian recipe for chocolate-coffee cake, and it is truly one of the easiest cakes I have ever made, ever. The name for it (Nega Maluca) can be translated as "Crazy Black Woman", probably due to the high caffeine content that should be present. I say should, since I actually had to use decaf in this cake because my mom's battling some blood pressure issues and has been taken off caffeine for the time being. However, she insisted on me using the real deal for one of her two "party" cakes, so out came the espresso powder today (I'm too lazy to brew my own and we don't have an espresso maker. But more on that cake later). This cake is usually covered in a simple chocolate sauce (like this one, the site also has a recipe for the cake), but I opted for a less messy cappuccino buttercream both overtop and in-between the layers I cut. The creamy, slightly off white colour of the frosting was beautifully striking against the black cake too, and everyone commented that the flavours of the coffee and chocolate were a delicious pick-me-up for their day. What everyone liked most, I think, was the fact that they knew a cake coming from me would at least be semi-virtuous, and they were right. Though it isn't exactly something I'd call "the breakfast of champions", it is half whole-grain, egg-free and is made using skim milk in addition to the richness of (essentially) fat-free cocoa and coffee.

Like I mentioned in my last post, I should have remembered to take a photo, but all I managed was one on my cell phone that now will not transfer to my laptop. So no photo for you, sorry! Just imagine the blackest chocolate cake you can think of with a pretty, swirly frosting. Or better yet, make the crazy cake and rave about it yourselves!

Nega Maluca
Serves 12
1 cup flour
1 cup buckwheat flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
½ cup dark baking cocoa
1 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp vanilla
2 tbsp coffee powder
1/3 cup hot water
1/3 cup oil
1 cup skim milk, hot
  1. Preheat oven to 350F, grease a 9" cake pan.
  2. Mix all the ingredients with electric beaters, adding the milk last.
  3. Bake for 20-30 minutes, then cool 10 minutes before turning out to cool completely.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 183.0
Total Fat: 6.4 g
Cholesterol: 0.4 mg
Sodium: 16.4 mg
Total Carbs: 30.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.8 g
Protein: 3.8 g

Habeas Brulee is hosting this month's SHF, where the theme is Sweet Gifts. Seeing as this was just one of the gazillion birthday gifts I'll be making, I'll send it along to be part of the fun!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Mountain 3.14

Happy PI week everyone! Yup, all us eggheads and apron-wearers can finally claim a day for our own. March 14 is of course perfect timing for the creation of the delicious dessert known as pi(e)... especially around here, where it's still bloody cold outside and nothing is more sought after than some hot pastry with a scoop of slowly melting ice cream alongside it.

Am I making you hungry yet? Good, because I've got one MOUNTAIN of a pie to share with you today, and all things considered, it isn't all that bad for you either! Plus, it's got a funky, new type of apple in it too, that I can't wait to tell you about!

Let me introduce you to the star in my Mountain Pie's filling... the Piñata Apple. According to Stemilt, the "brand name" generators of this particular apple, it's a cross between Golden Delicious, Cox’s Orange Pippin and the Duchess of Oldenburg varieties. In a sense, it reminds me of a Pink Lady apple, but with the crunch factor of a Honeycrisp... my personal favourite! These are BIG apples, and even though the photo's not too great you can see how white they are inside too! Apparently, they are highly resistant to browning once cut, too, but I never let mine sit around long enough to find out! Chop n' drop, right into the giant pie crust I had to make for them, coated with a bit of sugar-free syrup (since the recipient, my future MIL, is diabetic), maple extract, cinnamon and a touch of fresh ginger, then topped with more pastry and into the oven it went! To go along with Kitchen Parade's Pi Day Event I even created a new crust for me, using oatmeal and oat flour along with whole-wheat for a completely whole grain crust! I just got the verdict back from the family, who enjoyed it for said MIL's birthday and said it was absolutely incredible. Guess I'm in with them like a dirty shirt as far as being accepted goes (though I was from pretty much the second I started dating Andrew), especially if I keep making pies!

Oat-Maple Apple Pie
Serves 6 (1 6" pie)
Crust
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1/4 cup quick oats, uncooked
½ teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
4 tablespoons cold water mixed with 1 tsp white vinegar
  1. Combine flours and oats in a large bowl.
  2. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse meal.
  3. Stir in water with a fork until a dough-like mixture forms.
  4. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead 3-4 times to make the dough come together.
  5. Divide dough in two (make one ball slightly larger) and set the larger dough ball aside.
  6. Roll out the other dough ball to fit inside a 6" pie pan, place in pan and set aside while preparing the filling.
Filling
3 large or 4 medium apples (any type for "cooking" will do)
2 tbsp sugar-free maple syrup
1 tsp maple extract (optional)
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
  1. Peel, core and chop the apples roughly. Place in a large bowl.
  2. Combine the syrup, extract, and ginger. Pour over the apples.
  3. Sprinkle cinnamon over mixture.
  4. With your hands, toss everything together until all the apples are well coated.
  5. Pour into pie shell.

Baking

  1. Preheat oven to 450F.
  2. Roll out larger ball of dough and drape over the large pile of apples (and it will be large!).
  3. Cinch edges with a fork or crimp them if you're feeling fancy.
  4. Brush outside of dough with a little water and poke crust 3-4 times for ventilation.
  5. Bake 10 minutes at 450F, reduce oven temperature to 350F.
  6. Continue to bake for 35 minutes, cool completely on a rack.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 315.4
Total Fat: 18.7 g
Cholesterol: 9.6 mg
Sodium: 34.4 mg
Total Carbs: 36.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.8 g
Protein: 3.8 g

Speaking of birthdays, I have to remember to take a shot of my most recent birthday cake creation to post soon, as it's going in for a surprise party for my Mom tomorrow and I know it will be demolished within a few seconds of it's arrival! I won't tell you it's name, but I will tell you this: it's chocolate, and it's a pretty "high-test" cake and frosting!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Coming in From the Cold

Well, it's been one heck of a few days weather-wise around here, and we're still digging out! At least it has stopped snowing all over us (or as Teaghan calls it, God's dandruff!) for the time being and we can (re)start our shoveling to get our cars onto the road. Why drive today, you ask? Well, for one, I'm bored (cabin fever, anyone?) and two, I have a fairly lengthy Bulk Barn list to get to in order to finalize my baking and cooking spree. My mom asked for a "different" type of salad to go along with the fairly boring meal that's going to be presented next weekend, so I'm going to make her my take on a Moosewood Cookbook quinoa and bean salad (yes, I'll share!), and I've added some of the necessary elements to my list. I love shopping at Bulk Barn, there is so much variety there, and my imagination runs rampant!

However, since we'll all be out and about today in one form or another and it is on the brisk side, what could be more comforting to come home to than a delicious bowl of soup? I took a Bittman recipe that was published in the Toronto Star yesterday and flipped it around as I'm known to do, pureed it because I'm not a huge "chunky" fan of tomato soups, and dropped the fat content to a more reasonable level. The best part of this meal though is that it's a perfect wintertime staple - you don't need to rely on Summer's vine-perfect tomatoes for flavour, since the delicious San Marzano flavour is packaged expertly and permanently in cans! What could be more convenient, or tastier? This recipe makes 4 main-dish lunch servings, but can be doubled or tripled easily, and serves well as an appetizer for a Winter-time dinner party. Over at The Heart of the Matter blog, the theme is just that... party food! Check up the roundup over there after the 20th to find some goodies for Easter, or to help the event celebrate it's 1-year anniversary!

Blackened Tomato Soup
Serves 4
28 oz canned, whole San Marzano tomatoes
2 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, minced
1 medium carrot, diced
2 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp black pepper
2 cups vegetable stock
2 cups water
1/4 cup basil leaves, torn
  1. Heat oven to 375F.
  2. Drain tomatoes, reserving liquid.
  3. Coarsely chop them and turn out onto a baking sheet lightly misted with PAM.
  4. Roast, stirring once or twice, about 30 minutes.
  5. Put olive oil in a deep pot over medium heat.
  6. Add onion, carrot and garlic and cook 5 minutes. Add cayenne and pepper.
  7. Stir in stock, water, everything in the roasting pan and reserved tomato juice.
  8. Bring soup to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer.
  9. Cover and simmer 30 minutes.
  10. Puree with a stick or hand blender. (Alternatively use a regular blender, doing it in batches and returning to pot).
  11. Stir in basil, cook until just wilted. Serve immediately.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 83.0
Total Fat: 2.6 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 750.7 mg
Total Carbs: 14.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.8 g
Protein: 2.4 g

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Oh Maple Tree, How I Love You!

Now that we're midway into the madness that is March, it's beginning to get into my favourite part of Winter - sugaring off season! Sugar shacks are gearing up like crazy for everything from pancake breakfasts to whole festivals dedicated to the sugary, sticky treasure, and soon we'll finally be seeing a few price drops on the good stuff. What better time to celebrate the season?

This is a recipe out of Elizabeth Baird's cookbook Classic Canadian Cooking, which my mom's had forever and we've used several times. It's almost like a cobbler, but with a maple syrup sauce instead of fruit under a rich and rustic scone-like topping. The syrup soaks a little, though, and makes it like the British sticky toffee pudding in texture. All I can say is mmmm!

Sugar Shack Pudding Cake
Serves 9
1 1/3 c pure maple syrup (either A or B grade is fine)
2 Tbsp butter (no substitutes)
2/3 c all-purpose flour
1/3 c whole-wheat or spelt flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/3 c buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 c unsweetened applesauce (home-made is best, add cinnamon and cloves to store-bought)
1/3 c brown sugar
2 tbsp white sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9-inch square pan.
  2. Reduce maple syrup over medium heat for 6-10 minutes or until it is about one cup.
  3. Remove from heat.
  4. Stir in butter until melted and pour into pan.
  5. Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl.
  6. Seperately, whisk egg, yolk, buttermilk and vanilla until foamy and creamy.
  7. In a large mixing bowl, beat applesauce and sugars until blended.
  8. Add dry and wet ingredients alternately, mixing until the batter is smooth.
  9. Dollop heaped tablespoons of the batter onto the maple syrup mixture. Don't worry if there are some bare spots.
  10. Bake 35 minutes or until tests done.
  11. Let stand 10 minutes, then serve.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 258.2
Total Fat: 4.0 g
Cholesterol: 53.5 mg
Sodium: 43.6 mg
Total Carbs: 54.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.0 g
Protein: 2.9 g

Friday, March 7, 2008

Powering Up for Crunch Time!

Well, the calm has finally broken in the kitchen - from the time I made that coconut cake last week, it's been go-go-go for (at least the planning stages) of birthday goodies of all sorts! I'm so happy that the kitchen storm can finally get underway, since being unable to churn out goodies was leaving me in a pit of boredom! I guess the only downside to the timing of this kitchen creativity is that I have to do everything one handed... as of last Saturday I've been rendered without the use of my left wrist (which, I can tell you, makes typing tons of fun! Thank God for spell check is all I can say). What did I do? Well, it wasn't so much me as it was these little morsels of piping treachery playing havoc with my joints. What can I say, I'm a very old not-even-20-something (28 days though!)! What a pretty brace, isn't it? Yeah, I like to show off that engagement ring from Andrew too!

At least I have an "official" snow day tomorrow off of school, with the forecast calling for a whopping 30cm of snow (although it's sad that it means no Black Forest Cake for me :-[ ), so I can rest up and finish planning the timing that all of the goodies I have to make anyway. So, dear readers (the few loyal followers I have), you'll be seeing at least these yummy smells coming out of this kitchen over the next few weeks. Hope you're looking forward to em!

Buttery Buttermilk Vanilla Cake (Mom)
Nutty Night Owl Cake (Mom)
lasagne of some sort (Mom)
Buttery Banana Cake with a Buttermilk Glaze (Dad)
Torta del Garbanzo (Me!)
Red Velvet Cake (Teaghan)

Yay for sugar rushes!

Of course, these won't be made on an empty stomach... ohh no, we here like our breakfast (or at least I do). Luckily for me, oats are a delicious and fast source of whole food nutrition! For this week's round up of ARF / 5-A-Day over at Sweetnicks, I have two breakfast delights for you - you choose depending on the time you have on hand!

Choco-Block Peanutty Breakfast
Serves 1
1 packet unflavoured instant oatmeal
1 tbsp dark cocoa powder
1 tbsp brown sugar
pinch salt
1/2 tbsp smooth peanut butter
  1. Combine oatmeal, cocoa powder, brown sugar and salt in a bowl.
  2. Place peanut butter in the centre of the dry mixture.
  3. Pour boiling water over everything and stir until well combined.
  4. Let stand 5 minutes and enjoy!

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 215.0
Total Fat: 6.5 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 326.7 mg
Total Carbs: 35.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.3 g
Protein: 7.4 g

The steel-cut oats remain crunchy and never get mushy like regular rolled oats, and the quinoa brings a boost of protein, fibre and a unique taste. Feel free to use whatever kind of low-fat milk product you like, I choose So Good Trim soymilk but regular will do!

Personal Power - On Porridge
Serves 1
2 tbsp steel-cut oats
2 tbsp quinoa
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup low fat, plain soy milk
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch ground ginger

  1. In small saucepan, combine all ingredients.
  2. Bring to boil over high heat.
  3. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer uncovered 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 344.5
Total Fat: 5.0 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 61.8 mg
Total Carbs: 68.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 6.8 g
Protein: 11.1 g

So, I don’t want to hear any excuses for missing breakfast!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

PPN: It's been A While!

I say it's been a while! It isn't that I don't like Ruth or her event, Presto Pasta Nights (in fact, I love the event and read the roundups often, at least when I'm able to access her blog without my pitiful internet freezing!), it's just that I don't tend to eat pasta! I don't know why, I think it's a bit heavy on the old system. I'd rather nosh on flavourful, nutty kasha, or some black rice, than chow down a bowl of spaghetti. Until today, when for some odd reason I was hit with a craving for 2 very random things: pizza and pasta bolognese. Since I can't eat either of those things, I got a bit creative and whipped up this spectacular monster of a creation, which I happily downed with chopsticks while my kitty glared at me for refusing to share. Mine, all mine I say!

So, finally with something to submit for the "apres-birthday" roundup of Presto Pasta Nights, I give you:

Vegan Pizza Pasta
Serves 1
6 oz savoy cabbage
2 oz dry rice fettuccine
1 tbsp sea salt
1/2 cup canned pizza sauce
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tbsp black pepper
1 tsp dry basil
2/3 cup Yves' ground round
  1. Steam cabbage 5 minutes, remove from heat.
  2. Boil pasta according to package directions in water seasoned with 1 tbsp salt.
  3. Drain and keep hot.
  4. Heat sauce, adding spices.
  5. Stir in Yves'.
  6. Place cabbage into a bowl, top with noodles and sauce. Toss well, and serve.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 397.7
Total Fat: 1.5 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 1,261.0 mg
Total Carbs: 72.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 17.0 g
Protein: 27.0 g

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Finishing the Coconut Milk (photo heavy post)

I know, I've been AWOL the past couple days. I wish I could say I had a good excuse... does laziness count? Actually, yesterday I was a bit too frazzled to think up anything to write about, since a "quick" trip Andrew and I took out to our local Walmart became a 30-minute nightmare in which my car's key refused to turn in the ignition, leaving me on the border of hysteria and Andrew verging on beating my car's steering wheel with a sledgehammer. Luckily, Andrew's muscles managed to force the key to turn (thankfully not breaking the key!) and we were able to make it home just in time to scarf down lunch and then run off to pick up my little sister!

Today, though, I can take it nice and slow. It's a snow day for us, having weathered a blizzard overnight and into mid-morning, so we're all still lounging in our PJ's while performing all the tasks we can from home. For me, that means experiment time in the kitchen! I had half a can of coconut milk left over from the birthday cake I made and didn't want to toss it (since none of us here are partial to coconut), so I tweaked a basic roll recipe and came up with a slightly sweet, soft, multigrain bun that came out of the oven smelling fantastic! While half the dough was rolled into basic balls, the other half became the base for sweet spiral buns filled with chocolate, coffee, and pecans!

The only problem I have now is what the heck to do with 20 rolls! I'm betting most of them will go into the office with my mom and I tomorrow and will "mysteriously" disappear in the coffee room, but I figure Andrew may take one too, as will my dad, since they're both such good sports about my baking exploits. They can have a bite for me, and hopefully they'll love eating these as much as I loved making them, and that they're as good as they smelled fresh out of the oven!

I'm celebrating having a snow day today, what everyday things do you like to celebrate? March's Bread Baking Day theme is just that... celebration breads... and Susan at Wild Yeast is doing the round up this time! In case you're wondering, the founder of BBD's birthday is this month too, so birthday breads are welcome! See you there!

Thai Dinner Roll Dough
Makes 18 plain buns
1 teaspoon sugar
½ cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast
½ cup canned coconut milk
½ cup skim milk
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
½ cup warm water
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup 12-grain flour
3 tbsp vital wheat gluten
  1. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of sugar in ½ cup of warm water. Sprinkle in the package of yeast. Let it stand for 10 minutes and then stir.
  2. Heat the milks to lukewarm, stirring. Add in sugar, salt, and water.
  3. Mix the flours and gluten in another bowl.
  4. Add the heated milk mixture and 2 cups of the flour blend to the dissolved yeast mixture. Beat until the mixture is smooth and elastic.
  5. Gradually stir in the remaining cups of flour.
  6. The dough should be soft and easily leave the sides of the bowl.
  7. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead the dough until it is smooth, elastic and not sticky. Resist the urge to add more flour, it will come together!
  8. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl. Turn the dough so that the top is greased as well.
  9. Cover, and let the dough rise in a warm place until it has doubled (about 1 1/2 hours).
  10. Punch down dough.
  11. Turn it out onto a lightly floured board, knead 1 minute.
  12. Divide into 18 buns.
  13. *If making a filling for them, prepare and fill the buns at this point. I used about 2 tsp margarine, 2 tbsp chocolate chips, 1 tsp instant coffee and 2 tbsp chopped pecans*
  14. Cover and let rise 40 minutes.
  15. Preheat oven to 375F.
  16. Bake for 18 - 20 minutes.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 174.0
Total Fat: 2.1 g
Cholesterol: 0.1 mg
Sodium: 5.8 mg
Total Carbs: 33.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.0 g
Protein: 5.8 g

I'm also in the midst of garden-planning right now, regardless of how much snow is dumped on us this month! Check out all the funky veggie seeds I've picked up in the past few weeks:
Yup, there's white-tipped radishes, purple carrots, Tuscan kale, multicoloured heirloom tomatoes, hot purple peppers, and dark-red giant beets! I can see the salads now... hope the summer sun shines for us soon!