Friday, December 23, 2011

Red Velvet for Christmas

Red Velvet Cakes and cupcakes made a bit of a comeback a couple years ago.

But somehow, to me, it has to be eaten at Christmas!

These are perfect. I have tried a few from bakeries and none compare to these.

Joy the Baker has a knack for getting baking just right. These are from her.

So delightfully right for a certain person's birthday 'cake' perhaps...

Red Velvet Cupcakes
(Joy the Baker)

Click here for the recipe.

Joy does such a good job of explaining the method.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Everyone's Favourite Joe

When I make Sloppy Joes, everyone is happy.

They never disappoint. Ground beef, tomato, vegetables and a bun - It's all there.

I found this recipe over at Simply Recipes. I always have all the ingredients for these and they are, hands down, the kids favourite thing to eat.

I throw together a green salad for Jim and I.

That's it.


Sloppy Joes

1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup minced carrots (or chopped bell pepper)
1 cup chopped onion (about 1 medium onion)
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 lb ground beef
1/2 cup ketchup (or tomato paste)
2 cups tomato sauce (or 1 15-ounce can whole tomatoes, puréed)
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp vinegar (red wine or apple cider)
2 Tbsp brown sugar
Pinch ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Pinch cayenne pepper
2 turns of freshly ground black pepper
4 hamburger buns

1 Heat olive oil in a large pan on med high heat. Add the carrots and sauté for 5 minutes. (If you are using bell pepper instead of carrots, add those at the same time as the onions.) Add the chopped onion and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally until onions are translucent, about 5 more minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for 30 more seconds. Remove from heat. Remove vegetables from the pan to a medium sized bowl, set aside.

2 Using the same pan cook ground beef. Season with ½ tsp salt. Strain off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat.

3 Return the cooked ground beef and vegetables to the pan. Add the ketchup, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar and brown sugar to the pan. Stir to mix well. Add ground cloves, thyme, and cayenne pepper. Lower the heat to medium low and let simmer for 10 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Serve with toasted hamburger buns. Serves 4.

Monday, December 12, 2011


So here you have some chocolaty, fudgy and not too fatty squares of something that is not a brownie.

I daren't call these brownies.

I served these to Jim under the title of Brownie...

"They're good." he said, "But they're not brownies!"

That said, I find these extremely hard to keep out of.

They're not too rich, not sickeningly sweet and a good base for a healthy scoop of vanilla ice cream if you're in the mood for that.

I found this recipe on the silver flap of my Astro Original Yogurt container.

Give it a go.

The Un-Brownie
(Astro Original Yogurt Recipe)

1/2 C melted chocolate chips
1 C Plain yogurt
1/2 C sugar
3/4 C flour
1/2 C cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 C milk (soy or coconut milk work too)

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Melt chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave. Mix chocolate with yogurt and sugar. Sift in flour, cocoa and baking soda. Just until combined. Add milk. Stir
3. Pour into a greased 8 or 9 inch square baking pan.
4. Cook 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
5. Cook completely and cut into squares.

Curried Shrimp

We love shimp.

I thought Ina's Garlic Shrimp Scampi was my favourite way to eat it until I tried this.
This curry is so easy and, because shrimp cooks so quickly, it's ready in no time.

I know I've said it before, but in a recipe like this it will really pay to use a nice curry powder. I used Arvinda's here.

So to make this, you totally throw everything in a big frying pan, cook and finish with a huge squeeze of lime and a swirl of plain yogurt. Done.

Serve it over rice.

I threw some finely sliced green beans in at the end, but small green peas would be even better.

Curried Shrimp
(adapted from Martha Stewart Everyday Food Cookbook)
Serves at least 4

1 Tbsp Olive oil
1 large onion finely chopped, or thinly sliced
pinch cayenne
Coarse Salt
2 Tbsp Tomato paste
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp heaped, ground ginger
Fresh pepper
1 1/2 C fish or vegetable stock
1.5 lbs shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 C chopped green beans or frozen peas
1/4 C plain yogurt (or sour cream)
1 lime, juiced (plus extra wedges for the table)
Cooked basmati or jasmine rice

1. Heat oil in a large frying pan. Add onion 1/2 tsp salt and pinch of cayenne.
Cook 3-5 mins or until onion is soft. Add tomato paste, curry powder, ginger and a few times round with the pepper mill. Cook breaking up the tomato paste and stirring around the spices until fragrant, about 1 minute.

2. Add tomatoes and stock. Cook 5 minutes. Add shrimp, cook until pink and opaque. Remove from heat. Add peas.

3. Squeeze the lime over the top and add the yogurt. Stir again. Serve over rice with extra wedges of lime for the citrus fiends like me.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Espresso-Chocolate Chip Shortbread

Christmas is coming...really, it's almost here.

We haven't yet begun decorating or planning but here is one thing I am doing.

I am am making these cookies.

Here's the deal, you can make the batter, seal it in a ziplock bag (all rolled out and ready), freeze it and then cut off as many lovely little squares as you need to bake.

I have a serious weakness for shortbread.

I grew up eating my Dad's shortbread. His recipe originally came from a Scottish lady that used to live next door.

Perfect rounds of his shortbread was and is always in little tins around my Mum and Dad's house at Christmas time.

This recipe is rich and espresso-y with the occasional melt of chocolate.

They're perfect! They get RAVE reviews!

And since this bag is going in the freezer to be baked at a later date, you'll have to stay posted to see it finished product...or jump over to Smitten Kitchen to see how they turn out.

Espresso-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

(Discovered at

Makes 42 cookies

1 tablespoon instant espresso powder

1 tablespoon boiling water

½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

1. Dissolve the espresso in the boiling water, and set aside to cool.

2. Working with a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar together on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until the mixture is very smooth.

Beat in the vanilla and espresso, then reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, mixing only until it disappears into the dough. Don’t work the dough much once the flour is incorporated. Fold in the chopped chocolate with a sturdy rubber spatula.

3. Using the spatula, transfer the soft, sticky dough to a gallon-size zipper-lock plastic bag. Put the bag on a flat surface, leaving the top open, and roll the dough into a 9 x 10 1/2 inch rectangle that’s 1/4 inch thick. As you roll, turn the bag occasionally and lift the plastic from the dough so it doesn’t cause creases. When you get the right size and thickness, seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible, and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, or for up to 2 days.

4. Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

5. Put the plastic bag on a cutting board and slit it open. Turn the firm dough out onto the board (discard the bag) and, using a ruler as a guide and a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1 1/2-inch squares. Transfer the squares to the baking sheets and carefully prick each one twice with a fork, gently pushing the tines through the cookies until they hit the sheet.

6. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point. The shortbreads will be very pale–they shouldn’t take on much color. Transfer the cookies to a rack.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

One Fall Night

Jimmy and I went out a few eves ago, spur of the moment, and it was one of those nights so sweet you just could not have planned it.

We saw a movie at one of those retro-rejuve theatres, got a massive pop and popcorn, watched a cool movie and then had some really good seafood pasta and Cab-Sauv at the Italian restaurant next door.

It was one of those prefect fall nights...

You know those nights where the cool is just verging on chilly, but not quite.

One of those nights when tucking into a sweater on the restaurant's front booth by the open window feels so right.

Conversation is so good and so easy.

The seafood tastes better than you remember it could and you resent feeling full.

Just one of those nights you wish you could plan but couldn't and just happily receive every now and then.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Curried Noodles and Veg

Isn't it interesting how the change in season tends to generate excitement.

It does that to me.

I love our seasons.

It seems to prompt a change in so many areas.

I feel more creative, more artistic, more clear headed and, like so many others, eager to cook from the bounty of this new season.

A few weeks ago, while browsing Whole Foods, I came across Arvinda's Artisan Curry Powder.

Since we are coming into fall and fall is a perfect time to start making curries again I bought the All Star curry blend and started anticipating.

This stuff is good, really good.

My friend Shaida would probably laugh at the noname curry powder that usually finds its way into my spice cupboard.

Another friend recently gave me a recipe to mix up a curry blend of my own. I still want to try that one.

So, the garden is loaded with carrots, basil and kale--they're going in a curry.

Moosewood LowFat Faves gave me all the incentive I needed for a vegetable loaded curry swirled into some nutty soba noodles.

The result was a beautifully fragrant vegetarian noodle dish with tons of ginger and spice.

We squeezed tons of lime juice on top and stirred in some basil at the end, passed around the pepper at the table and everyone loved it.

Little Jib scarfed down two bowls of it. He needed plenty of water to handle the heat but he's no sissy around a spicy curry.

Curried Noodles and Veg

1/2 lb soba noodles

Dried Spices
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 dashes cayenne (or to taste)

2 tablespoons dry sherry, I used rice vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon honey or agave

1 tablespoon minced garlic
1-2 tablespoon grated fresh gingerroot
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup peeled and julienned carrot
1 cup sliced red bell peppers (or combination of colors) or 1 cup yellow bell pepper
4 cups thinly sliced kale
salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons julienned basil
1-2 limes

Cook Noodles and keep warm.

Mix together the curry powder, cumin, turmeric, and coriander in a small bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine the sherry, soy sauce, water, and sugar and set aside.

In a large nonstick or well-seasoned cast iron skillet, combine the garlic, ginger, and oil and
saute on medium heat for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add the carrots and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring often.

Add the bell peppers and continue to cook, stirring, for about another 4 minutes.

Add the kale and dried spice mixture and cook for 1 or 2 minutes.

Pour in the sauce mixture, cover, and simmer for another 2 minutes, or until the kale is tender.

Stir in noodles then season with salt and black pepper to taste.

Serve with lime wedges and your choice of basil, cilantro, or scallions.

Jib says, "Don't wimp out on the cayenne, it's worth the sweat"

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Summertime Peach Tarts

In the summer, I like to cook simple, quick meals that don't involve a lot of oven-on time. That said, I seem to make a lot more desserts.

Summer's wild blueberries, raspberry bushes discovered walks, PYO strawberry farms, Ontario peaches and plums make it impossible to resist making dessert.

Early summer is berry season. We generally get carried away when we pick strawberries and come home with about 4 more baskets of berries than we needed.

There are plenty of ways to solve an over-abundance of strawberries:

Strawberry shorcake cookies.
Strawberries with cinnamon dumplings.
Strawberry milkshakes.

But now it's peach time. Few things taste quite so quintessentially summertime as peach pie.

These peach tarts are perfect.

A bright yellow dough of cornflour, cornmeal, butter and egg yolks is rustically formed around a sloppy, sweet mix of ripe peaches and cinnamon.

Eat this one alone or with some whipped cream on top.

PS- Now would be a perfect time to make Oven Roasted Peach-Tomato Pasta... Just incase you needed dinner inspiration.

Rustic Peach Tarts
(adapted from Good to the Grain cookbook)

1 Cup corn flour
1 Cup All purpose flour
1/2 Cup fine cornmeal
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon Kosher or coarse salt
1 stick (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 egg yolks

6 Peaches, peeled and sliced
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbps flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Whisk the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment,
add the butter and turn the mixture speed to low
and mix to break up the butter. Increase the speed to medium and mix until the butter is as coarse as cornmeal.
Add the heavy cream and egg yolks and mix until combined. The dough will look crumbly but when pinched between your fingers, it will come together.

Divide dough roughly into 8 pieces. Roll out into 5 inch thinnish slabs on a lighly floured board.

In a med bowl, combine peaches, honey, cinnamon and flour.
Add about 1/3 C peaches to the centre of each slab.

Fold the edge of the dough toward the peaches and up, to create a ruffled edge; continue around the perimeter, letting the ruffles be their bad irregular selves. Slide a bench scraper or spatula under the tart and transfer it to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Continue with the remaining dough.

Freeze the tarts on their tray for at least 1 hour to firm them up before baking.

Bake the tarts: Preheat over to 375°F. Bake tarts, still frozen,
for about 35 minutes or until the edges of the tarts are brown and the peach is bubbling and thick.

Serve warm or at room temperature. The tarts keep in an airtight container.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Cheese Party and Bruch

We hosted a cheese tasting brunch.

Here are the recipes and a few pictures of the very memorable and delicious morning.

Jamie Oliver

Mixed Herb Crostini

Get any mixture of soft herbs like fennel tops, green or purple basil, parsley, mint, chervil,
thyme leaves, or sorrel and roughly chop them.
Take six cherry tomatoes and halve them, then rub one of the halves into each of your hot crostini.
Grate some pecorino or Parmesan over the top and season with salt and pepper.
Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle over your chopped herbs.

Mixed nuts (Ina Garten)

1 pound roasted unsalted cashews
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

1. Preheat the oven to 350 °F (175°C).
2. Spread the cashews out on a sheet pan. Toast in the oven until warm, about 5 minutes.
3. In a large bowl, combine the rosemary, cayenne, sugar, salt, and butter.
Thoroughly toss the warm cashews with the spiced butter and serve warm.

Mini Quiche (Canadian Living)

24 Frozen mini tart shells, (in foil cups) thawed
4 eggs
1-1/4 cups milk
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

8 slices applewood smoked bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 green onions, sliced
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1/4 cup chopped mushroom

Filling: Place tart shells on rimmed baking sheet; divide bacon, green onions and cheese among shells.

In bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, mustard, salt and pepper; pour into tart shells.
Bake in bottom third of 375°F oven until pastry is golden and filling is just set,
25 to 30 minutes. Serve warm.
(Make-ahead: Let cool. Refrigerate in airtight container for up to 3 days; reheat in 400°F/200°C oven for about 4 minutes.)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Black Bean and Lentil Salad with Curry Viniagrette

When I opened the front door this morning, it was like a wall of heat hit me in the face.

To me heat means salad and smoothies for lunch and dinner.

This salad is really easy to make if you have a few cans of beans in your pantry.

I used two cans of black beans and one of green lentils but you could surely use almost any sturdy bean.

Feel free to use any vegetable you have. Grated carrot, thinly sliced celery, green peppers, chives or cucumber would be great in there.

The vinaigrette is a bright combination of ginger, lemon and curry.

I like to serve this as a side to sausage, cheese and crackers or boiled eggs.

A perfect meal for a day when you don't want to heat up the house by using the oven.

Black Bean and Lentil Salad with Curry Viniagrette

3 cups cooked beans (I used 2 cans Black beans)
1 cup cooked black or green lentils
1 cup cooked brown rice (optional)
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced into crescents (optional)
1 cup vegetables, chopped or grated (I used a combination of zucchini, carrot and tomato)

1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon of fine-grain sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1-2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger (from 1-inch cube of fresh ginger, peeled)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

In a large bowl toss the beans, black lentils, red onion, and vegetables.
In a bowl or jar whisk together this garlic, salt, the curry powder, fresh ginger, lemon juice, and olive oil.
Whisk well, taste, and add adjust flavors/salt if needed.
Pour about half of the dressing over the beans and give it all a toss.
Add more dressing a bit at a time until it is to your liking.

Serves about 4 - 6 as a side.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Southwest Bean Burgers

I love burgers.

Going out for burgers is a pretty cheap date.

Going out for burgers is my idea of a good time.

Perhaps I should qualify that, going out for good burgers is my idea of a good time. (Not as cheap but way more...ummm...good.)

I'm pretty lucky, though, because the best burgers I've ever had are always free.

The combination of my mum's perfect burgers and my dad's crazy barbecue skills are a match to be reckoned with.

These aren't those burgers but they're really good anyway.

These are made with friendly and yet exciting things like corn tortilla chips, chilies and black beans.

You're excited already right...?

Make these, bake them and top them with any toppings you would put on a beef burger.

I like mine with salsa, cheddar cheese, hot peppers and sour cream.

Southwest Bean Burgers

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon salt
dash of ground black pepper
1 cup finely chopped mushrooms
1 cup grated carrots
1 fresh chile, minced or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup orange juice
1 cup ground corn tortilla chips
2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Warm the oil in a skillet on medium-high heat.
Stir in the chives, cumin, coriander, salt, and pepper and cook until the onions soften, a couple of minutes.
Add the mushrooms, carrots, chiles, and orange juice, lower the heat to medium, cover, and cook,
stirring occasionally, until tender, about 8 minutes.
While the vegetables cook, combine the ground tortilla chips, beans,
and egg in a large bowl and mash well with a potato masher, or pulse in a food processor
and then transfer to a bowl. When the vegetables are tender, drain, and stir into the bean mixture.
Form the burger mixture into six patties (a heaping 1/2 cup per burger) and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet.
Bake in a preheated 375 oven for 25 minutes, until firm and lighted crusted.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Chicken Pita Sandwich with Cucumber Yogurt

Warm, herb flecked, chicken bites layered in a pita with slices of feta and tomato and topped with cucumber-chive yogurt is the perfect dinner on a very hot, late spring night.

We had some hot weather here this past week. Not wanting to turn the oven on, an abundance of fresh herbs in the garden and being inspired by Everyday Food's Chicken Koftas, I made these lovely little sandwiches.

I loaded the chicken up with chives and parsley and seasoned them with salt, pepper and cumin but left the rest of the toppings pretty basic.

This came together so quickly. With some sparkling lime water, it was a cool, refreshing way to end a hot spring day.

Chicken Pita Sandwich with Cucumber Yogurt
(Everyday Food, Martha Stewart June 2011)

1 1/2 lbs ground chicken
1/4 C minced chives
1/3 C minced parsley
3/4 tsp cumin
salt and pepper
1/2 cucumber, seeded and diced small
1/2 C plain yogurt
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp veg or canola oil
1-2 medium tomatoes, in thin wedges
feta, sliced or crumbled
fresh chives or mint for serving

In a large bowl mix together chicken, chives, parsley, cumin, salt and pepper. Form into 8 oval and slightly flattened patties.
In a small bowl, toss together cucumber, yogurt, salt and pepper.
In a large skillet, heat oil over med-high heat. Cook patties until brown and cooked through.
Divide patties among pitas.
Top with tomatoes, feta, yogurt sauce and herbs.
Fold in half and serve.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Biscuits and Gravy

While we were reading, By the Shores of Silver Lake, Clara and I were both oo-ing and aw-ing at the breakfast the Ingalls ate Christmas morning.

Fried pork and potatoes, biscuits, gravy and hot applesauce.

Clara decided that sounded like a pretty prefect dinner for tonight.

We started by throwing together some simple buttermilk biscuits. Clara can make these biscuits almost entirely on her own. They're very simple and very good.

Even though it's not exactly prairie fare, we are also having sausage gravy.

Along side the biscuits and gravy we are having some roasted new potatoes, applesauce, and maybe an excerpt or two from one of Laura's books.

Buttermilk Biscuits

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
heaped 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 tablespoon milk or cream for brushing

Preheat oven to 425°F.
Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.
Blend in butter with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal.
Add buttermilk and stir with a fork until a dough just forms (dough will be moist).
Drop by Heaping Tablespoonful onto a lined baking sheet.
Bake 12-15 minutes.

Sausage Gravy
(Alton Brown)

1lb breakfast sausage, bulk style (we used lamb sausage squeezed from the links), drippings reserved

1 1/2 oz all purpose flour
2 C whole milk
salt and pepper to taste

Cook sausage in a skillet.When done, remove sausage from pan and pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat.

Whisk flour into the fat and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and whisk in milk a little at a time.
Return to medium-high heat and stir occasionally while the gravy comes to a simmer and thickens.
(Be sure to scrape up any brown bits that might be stuck to the bottom of the pan, that's where the flavor is.)
Check seasoning, add crumbled sausage and serve over toast or biscuits.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Honey Cake with Rhuby Soda

My sweet friend brought me a very special surprise.

A special surprise she knew I would love...and an armful of it.

Enough to make soda, a cake, and a crisp!

Thank you, my friend.

I love to bake with honey to cut back on the amount of sugar most recipes call for.

Honey is easily masked by the other flavours in baking but this cake is all about the honey and its warm, fragrant sweetness.

Nestled down inside the cake is some rhubarb...just because I can.

Honey Cake with Nestled Rhubarb
(adapted from Moosewood Farm Fresh Meals)

1/2 C softened butter
1/2 C honey
1/2 C sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 C flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 C milk
2 1/2 C chopped rhubarb

Preheat oven to 350*. Butter a 7 x 11 baking dish.

Cream butter, honey and sugar together until light. Add eggs one at a time, beating well.
In a separate bowl mix together flour, baking powder and salt.
Combine milk and vanilla in a small bowl.
Alternate adding flour mixutre and milk to butter mixture, beating well after each addition.

Spread 2/3 of the batter over the bottom of the dish. Top with all of the rhubarb. Top gently with the rest of the batter, spreading to the edges.
Sprinkle with 1-2 tsp cinnamon sugar if you like.

Bake 35-40 mins or until golden and cooked through.

*Raspberries or strawberries would be a good substitute for the rhubarb.

Top with vanilla yogurt, whipped cream or ice cream.

Rhuby Soda

1 1/2 C chopped rhubarb
1 C sugar
1 1/2 C water
Sparkling water

In a large saucepan, combine rhubarb, sugar and water. Boil and then turn down to a simmer for 15-20 mins or until the syrup is bright pink.

Turn off the heat, cool and pour into a large mason jar.

To make each soda, measure ¼ cup rhubarb syrup into a glass.
Add enough sparkling water to fill the glass ⅔ full. Stir to mix, then add ice.

Or make Soulemama's Ruby Junes.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Fleur de Sel Buttermilk Cake

Apricots are in season.

I love apricot season.

I can hardly keep apricots around long enough to make anything with them. The kids love and devour them.

So I hid some and made a cake with them.

The apricots really get to show off here as they lay on top of this mildly sweet, slightly salty, buttermilk cake.

If that's where it ended, that would be delicious enough, but its finished off with a sprinkle of fleur de sel.

Fleur de sel is really cool because it doesn't dissolve into the cake like other salts would. It sits on top adding really pretty texture and a light crunch.

This cake sparkles.

Salted sweets hooked me a few years ago when I tried a Salted Caramel Tarte at Nadege Patisserie. My love continued at Hotel Gelato, with their Salted Caramel Gelato...oh my!

Clara and I outside Nadege.

Fleur de Sel Buttermilk Cake
(adapted from

2 1/2 C Whole Wheat pastry flour (or a combonation of WWPF and Spelt)
1Tbsp baking powder
1/2 C brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 C buttermilk
1/4 C butter, melted and cooled slightly
zest of 2 lemons
1-1 1/2 C Sliced Apricots (feel free to use any berry or soft fruit here. (I like using raspberries and blueberries here too)
1-3 Tbsp Large grain raw sugar (or scant 1 Tbsp of white sugar)
1 tsp fleur de sel or other large grain salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, rack in the middle.

Grease a 9 x13 dish or grease and line an 11inch tart pan.

Combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl whisk eggs and buttermilk together, whisk in butter and zest.

Pour buttermilk mixture over flour mixture and combine gently. Try not to overmix here.

Spoon batter into dish, pushing into the corners. Top with fruit of choice.
Sprinkle with sugar and salt.
Bake 18-20mins. Or until cake is set and golden on top.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Some Solitary Cooking and a Rhubarb Pie

Three weeks of wonderful traveling and visiting made me thoroughly enjoy my slow Monday morning of quiet pie making.

Jibs is napping, Clara and Jimmy are out exploring the river for wildflowers and bugs, and I'm in the kitchen. Everyone is having a happy day indeed.

When I returned to my lovely little rhubarb crop this weekend I was pleased to discover a healthy bunch ready for picking.

Strawberry-rhubarb has to be one of my favourite fruit combos.

It literally took me an hour to decide what to do with my 8 precious cups of the sweet red gems.

Since its a holiday and my fridge is bare from our weeks of being away, my choices were somewhat limited.

I was missing key ingredients necessary for:

These looked inviting as well...tartlets and crisp.

In the end I settled on a simple Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie with Crumble from my good old Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Crumble
(adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook)

1 recipe Crumb Topping (below)
3/4 C sugar
1/3 C flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 Cups fresh chopped rhubarb
3 Cups fresh quartered strawberries

Prepare and roll out pastry. Line a 9-inch pie plate with pastry and trim to fit the plate. Crimp edges if desired. Prepare crumb topping. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together sugar flour and cinnamon, add fruit and gently toss.

Transfer fruit to pastry lined pie plate.

Sprinkle with crumb topping.

Bake in a 375* oven for 45 mins.

Cool and eat with ice cream.

Crumble Topping

1/3C Brown Sugar
1/2 C flour
3 Tbsp cold butter
healthy pinch fresh nutmeg (optional)

Stir together sugar, nutmeg and flour, cut in cold butter until mixture resembles a crumb.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Boys

Jack: Hey Jimmy, are you going to share those snacks with me? If not, you'll get a piece of this!

Jim: Jack, that is not really funny you know!

Jack: Well, then share with me already!

Jim: NO! See my shoulder? Eat it!

Jack: Scores!!
Jim: Oooohhh! You're gonna get it now.

Commentary credit to Shannon.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

French Sandwich Rolls

"...just two people that like warm rolls."

Ok, four people that love warm rolls.

There have been a few kitchen moments that have made me jump up and down with excitement.

These buns made me really excited!

Why I'm excited about these warm rolls:

1. They smell and taste like those perfect little french rolls you can buy in a fancy bakery.

2. They're easy.

3. They are going to be perfect for the BLTs we are having for dinner.

4. Most importantly, they look like a baby's bum while they bake! (Clara and I sat the whole 12 minutes in front of the oven door giggling...)

This recipe comes from Mel. She has great tutorials on working with yeast and how to roll these perfectly.

These would be a perfect burger bun.

Warm Rolls, "...I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

French Bread Rolls

Makes about one dozen rolls (see Mel's tutorial on shaping these rolls)

1 1/2 cups warm water
3/4 tablespoon instant yeast (or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups all-purpose flour, give or take a few tablespoons

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl by hand, combine the warm water, yeast, sugar, oil, salt
and 2 cups of the flour (if you are using active dry yeast instead of instant yeast, let the yeast proof in the
warm water and sugar for about 3-5 minutes until it is foamy and bubbly before adding the oil, salt and flour).

Begin mixing and continue to add the rest of the flour gradually until the dough has pulled away
from the sides of the bowl. Judge the dough not by the amount of flour called for in the recipe but in how the dough feels.
The dough should be soft and smooth but still slightly tacky to the touch.
Knead the dough in the stand mixer or by hand until it is very smooth and elastic,
about 5 minutes in a stand mixer or 8-10 minutes by hand.

Lightly spray a large bowl with cooking spray and place the dough in the bowl.
Cover the bowl with lightly greased plastic wrap.
Let the dough rise until it has doubled (this usually takes about an hour).

Lightly punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly greased countertop.
Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and form the dough into round balls.

Place the rolls on a lightly greased or silpat-lined baking sheet about an inch or two apart.

Cover the rolls with lightly greased plastic wrap taking care not to pin the plastic wrap
under the baking sheet or else the rolls will flatten while rising.
Let the plastic wrap gently hang over the sides of the pan to fully cover the rolls but not press them down.
Let the rolls rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 12-14 minutes until lightly browned and cooked through.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Breton Apple Pie

Our family is one full of pie lovers. My mum and gramma are pie makers. Pie for breakfast is quite a common thing...if there happen to be leftovers.

My grandpa would quite often, after supper, tell my gramma he wanted a piece of pie and she would whip one up in an hour.

I cannot count the number of pie varieties I have tried on account of my mum and gramma.

All that said, I don't fancy myself a pie maker. I have made my share of pies in different forms, sweet and savory. I'm not a master by any means.

"So Jess how's your pastry success been lately?" My gramma asked me today, which made me smile. Mostly because I know it makes her happy that I love to cook, like she loves to cook.
Honestly though, my pastry is pretty hit and miss.

I'm quite sure all cooks learn a lot by trial and error.

Gramma's first pie was a pumpkin, she had never made a pie before and thought she'd be a good (new) wife and make her husband a pie. She made her crust, dumped a can of pumpkin into it, smoothed it out and baked it. She proudly served it to my grandpa but, instead of gratitude, was met with gags and sputters.

Grandpa-"What did you put in this?"
Grandma-"Nothing just the pumpkin!"

Now she knows you have to add sugar, spices, cream and other such important ingredients.

Gramma has since totally redeemed herself.

Last night, after dinner, I thought I'd make an apple pie for Jimmy. This pie had caught my eye as a quick one to make during the week.

Breton Apple Pie is quick, and really won't feel like pie making, in the laborious, fiddly kind of way it can.

The crust is somewhere between a shortcrust and a shortbread cookie. It's easy to work with and shortcomings can easily be patched.
The apples are partially cooked before hand on top of the stove with applesauce, lemon and cinnamon. They will become soft and shiny and rich smelling.

Everyone loves this pie. I will be making this one over and over. Maybe it will become a favourite in your house too.

Breton Apple Pie
Originally in by Nick Malgieri and also in The Washington Post, September 17, 2008

2Tbsp unsalted butter
2 1/2 lbs apples, peeled, cored and sliced (6-8 apples)
1/4 C apple sauce
1/4 C sugar
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon

1C unsalted butter, room temp
1tsp vanilla
1C sugar
4 large egg yolks (1 of the egg whites beaten with a pinch of salt for a wash)
2 3/4 C flour

Butter a deep 9 inch pie plate and set aside. Place oven rack at the lowest setting and preheat oven to 350*.
In a large saucepan, melt 2 Tbsp butter in a large saucepan, add apples, applesauce, sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon. Cook, covered about 10 minutes or until swimming in liquid. Uncover and cook another 10 minutes.

Combine the butter, sugar and vanilla extract in the bowl of a mixer.
Beat at medium speed for 5 minutes.
Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a large rubber spatula to incorporate the flour.

Place half of the dough in the bottom of the prepared pan.
Use your fingertips to press the dough evenly over the bottom of the pan and about 1 inch up the sides.
Spread the filling over the dough.

Roll out remaining dough on a board with lots of flour until the circle is the same size as the pie plate. Top the pie with the dough and press down around the outside to seal.

Brush the top of the pie with the egg wash. Use the tines of a fork to trace a lattice pattern on the top.
Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, until the dough is nicely colored and baked through.
Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.
Slice and serve with ice cream, cheese or by itself.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Black Beans with Ginger

I made more refried beans.

Beans with ginger and hoisin sauce.

Ginger and hoisin make the beans sweet, smoky and spicy.

Clara told me she could eat these beans for every meal.

These have a more Asian taste than the Limey Beans, they taste great piled into tortillas (or a large lettuce leaf) with brown rice, mango salsa, sour cream and black olives.

Both kids came back begging for more of the beans 20 minutes after we finished dinner.

Black Beans with Ginger

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced and crushed
1-2 Tbsp grated ginger (I freeze my ginger to make it easier to grate)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1-2 Tbsp Hoisin sauce
1/2 C vegetable broth
2 tins black beans

Heat oil in a med sauce pan. Add onion and cook on med heat until soft, about 8 mins.
Add garlic, ginger and thyme and cook on med another few minutes.
Stir in hoisin and broth.
Add beans and mash in with a potato masher. Simmer on low for 20 mins. Stir a few times.

Serve on a tortillas or large lettuce leaf. Top with brown rice, mango salsa, sour cream and olives.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Blueberry Date Juice

(Photo by Renee)

Renee and I were making this cake, and trying to figure out how dates grow.

Do they grown on a tree or on a bush or on a plant like a strawberry? Finally we googled it and discovered that they do, indeed, grow on trees, a little like a coconut does.

We then stumbled upon this recipe for a blueberry date juice.

After a morning of baking and cooking we were ready for a snack.

Throw bananas, milk, blueberries and dates in the blender and you get this bright violet juice that is creamy and sweet and filling.

Blueberry Date Juice

2 Bananas
1Cup Milk
2Cups blueberries (frozen)
8 dates, pitted
1-2 Tbsp protein powder (optional)

Mix together in a mixer until smooth.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Breakfast Sandwiches with Fried Mushrooms

We eat a lot of eggs. One of our favourite ways to eat them is in a breakfast sandwich. Usually the sandwich just consists of egg, cheese and an english muffin. But on the weekends, we like to fance them up by adding vegetables and meat.

Fried mushrooms are so versatile and simple to prepare. We put them in crepes, pizza, burgers, sandwiches and even eat them as a side dish.

I watched my Uncle Steve make his version of fried mushrooms last summer and was inspired to simplify my recipe and eat them a lot more.

Alton Brown has an amazing recipe for mushrooms which he then piles in between layers of crepes. They are amazing!

This method is the easy way.

The Breakfast Sandwich with Fried Mushrooms

2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp butter
1/2-1 lb mushrooms, chopped or sliced thinly
1 small onion, chopped finely (divided)
1/4 C red pepper, chopped finely
2 thin slices of ham, chopped
5 eggs
heaping 1/4 tsp herbes de provence
1/2 tsp Montreal Steak Spice (divided)
2 Tbsp sliced Kalamata olives
1/4 C grated mozzarella cheese
3 English Muffins, halved and toasted

In a small frying pan warm 1 tsp oil and 1 tsp butter. Add chopped mushrooms, 1/2 the onion, herbes de provence and 1/4 tsp montreal steak spice. Fry until mushrooms are soft, about 5 mins. Keep mushrooms warm.

In a larger (10 inch) frying pan warm the other 1tsp oil and 1 tsp butter over med heat.

Add 1/2 the onion, red pepper and other 1/4 tsp of steak spice. When the vegetables are soft, add ham and warm through.

Crack 5 eggs over top of the cooked vegetables. Mix up the egg into the vegetables breaking a few of the yolks. Continue cooking, opening up little holes in the egg mixture so the uncooked egg falls onto the hot pan and fills the holes.

Once the egg is mostly set, sprinkle with olives and cheese. Cover the pan with a lid and turn heat down to low.

Toast english muffins. Butter them when toasted.

When eggs are set, divide into 3 portions.

Fill up english muffins with egg and mushrooms. Squirt on some hot sauce or ketchup if you like.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Chocolate Espresso Bars with Dried Fruit

I love granola bars, I buy granola bars.

Starting today, I make granola bars.

It always pains me to buy them even on sale because the good ones are usually so expensive. Jim and I love Clif Bars but try to ration them because of how expensive they are.

Today, I was inspired by Grace to make granola bars.

I view this recipe as more of a ratio suggestion than a recipe because you could do anything with it.

I decided to make my first batch chocolate espresso bars and then added some chopped apricots and walnuts.

Some other flavour ideas:
~ Banana chip, Chocolate with Espresso
~ Carrot, Walnut with cinnamon and yogurt chips
~ Peanut butter, chocolate....(maybe some espresso in there too)

I doubled the recipe and used a 10 x 14 inch as well as an 8 x 10 baking dish to spread the mixture in because I wanted my bars to be really thin and look like a Clif bar. Mmmm.

Granola Bars
(adapted from

1 cup oats (quick cooking or old fashioned)
1 cup shredded wheat or weetabix cereal
1 cup walnuts
1 1/2 cups dried fruit (I used apricot, fig and golden raisin)
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp espresso powder
2 large eggs
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup finely chopped good dark chocolate (or chocolate chips)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Light oil or coat an 8×11-inch baking dish and set aside.

Place the oats, weetabix, walnuts, dried fruit, cinnamon, espresso powder
and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture is finely chopped. .
Or chop fruit and crush cereal by hand and mix with other dry ingredients in a large bowl.
(The dried fruit should be the size of lentils.)

Whisk together the eggs, honey, and vanilla in a large bowl until well blended.
Add the oat mixture and chocolate chips and stir to combine.

Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared pan and flatten gently with the back of a spoon.
Bake about 18 minutes, or until the edgest turn golden brown.
Let cool completely in the pan before slicing into 12 bars.