March 31, 2011

The last few days...

Sorry for the silence.  We've been busy
I went for a soaking wet early morning run.
I mailed out a whole bunch of announcement cards.
Menu planned for the next few days, while Shane gets his teeth out.
Had breakfast every morning with my husband.
Made an impulse purchase of FOUR cookbooks! Hopefully they get here soon.
Ate way to much carrot cake an way way to many of these chocolates.

Carrot Cake drama

So here is the carrot cake winner.  I still don't love it.  Boo.  I need to admit, you see, that I've already tasted my dream carrot cake, in a coffee shop down the road (gasp!), and this carrot cake is nothing like it.  They are opposites in fact, this one loaded with all the additives imaginable and the other plain, nothing but carrot cake bliss.  The reason I haven't made it?  I'm to scared to ask for the recipe.  It's all my own fault.  This carrot cake, is good in it's own right, but I'm not going to give a recipe because it's not perfect.

This cake is from my Bon Appetit Desserts cookbook.  I changed it a lot, cutting down on the sugar.  It's got a fancy cinnamon brown sugar icing, which amps up the flavour.  But I've got to admit, the cake is still to wet and I think it has to much stuff in it.  Next time I will try cutting out the coconut (I don't taste it anyway) and take out the pineapple, so the batter is drier.  A key aspect that hasn't been resolved is the choice of spices that make up the ideal flavour combination.  I've used everything from ginger to allspice and nothing has been perfect.  Cinnamon is the only given in carrot cake.  We've got a lot of work to do yet, but I'm getting sick of carrot cake.

March 29, 2011

Banana Cream Pie

I know the bananas are brown and the whip cream limp, the crust is a little soft and overall it says to me, you should have took my picture last night.  But I didn't, I got lazy, I ate to much and then didn't get off the couch. Ha.  So now I have to deal with these pictures and try to convince you it really is worth making.  First of all, THE CRUST WORKED. IT WORKED. A CRUST FINALLY WORKED FOR ME! That would be the main reason you should make it. Second that pastry cream with bananas whipped right in is so thick and delicious I might have eaten a whole bunch of it before it was even assembled.  And finally these strawberries from last summer are so good with everything, just a little tartness and freshness to cut the sweetness.  Everyone had two servings, I think that speaks for itself.

Just a note to you, make and serve this pie within a few hours or your aesthetics will suffer as mine did.

Banana Cream Pie

I took this recipe straight from Joy the Baker, because she does good work.

180 g (1 1/2 c) flour
60 g (1/2 c) icing sugar
135 g (9 Tbsp) cold butter, cubed
1 egg yolk

2 c whole milk
6 egg yolks
100 g (1/2 c) brown sugar
48 g (1/3 c) sifted cornstarch
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
45 g (3 Tbsp) butter
2 banana, sliced
10 strawberries, sliced

1 c cream
15 g (2 Tbsp) icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Put the flour and icing sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to combine.  Add the cubed, cold butter and pulse until the butter is between the size of oatmeal and peas.  Add the egg yolk and blitz for 10 second periods until the dough forms clumps.  Pour the dough onto the counter and mush it together a little, just to incorporate any loose flour.

In a 9 inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom, press the dough into the bottom and sides of the pan.  Freeze the crust for 30 minutes.

While the crust is freezing preheat the oven to 375 F.  Butter a piece of tin foil on one side.  When the crust is ready press the butter side of the foil onto the crust.  Put the tart on a sheet pan and cook for 25 minutes.  After this carefully remove the foil, press down and bubbles on the surface and return to the oven for 7-8 minutes, until lightly browned.

Bring the milk to a boil in a saucepan.  In a separate large saucepan combine the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch and salt and whisk together until well blended.  Whisk wildly while pouring in 1/4 c of the hot milk into the eggs and then slowly incorporate the rest of the milk.  Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, including the edges, until the mixture boils.  Cook for one minute while it boils, removing from heat if needed.  You want the mixture thick and silky.  Add the vanilla and let stand for 5 minutes.  Add the butter and whisk until melted and smooth.  Place the custard in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap touching the surface and refrigerate until cold throughout.

To assemble:
Slice the strawberries and bananas.  Take the custard out of the fridge and whip a little to loosen, add a handful of banana sliced and incorporate.  Place the remaining bananas and strawberries on the bottom of the tart shell.  Fill the tart with custard and smooth out with a spatula.  Place in the fridge while you make the cream.

Whip the cream in an electric mixer until it starts to thicken.  Add the sugar and vanilla, continue to whip until stiff peaks form.  Spoon the cream on top of the banana custard and either serve immediately or refrigerate for a few hours.

March 28, 2011

Garden Update

With the gardening bug bitting me every time I turn around the itch is getting hard to scratch.  We've been trying our darnedest to keep it in check but I have done a few things around the yard.  
I sprinkled a few packets of wild flowers all around the front bed. I'm hoping I'll get back in four months and it will be colourful and huge.  What a welcome that will be.

I've trimmed all the dead off the roses, and they're growing with furry.

I sprinkled, daisy and aster seeds in the back beds, but we will see if it was to early or not.

I'm praying the hydrangea will bloom before we leave (in three weeks), though it is very unlikely.  But maybe you can understand, its my favourite flower.
Excuse the garbage can.
Our dead pot.
Yesterday we worked on transplanting (read; saving) a few herbs from last year.  I said I would look after them when I got them last year...they won't survive the winter inside or outside, I have to figure out what to do for this winter.  So we replanted a sage and thyme plant, and our chives (which look pretty good, though small.)  And we bought two new rosemary plants, a thyme plant and a sage plant.  We'll see how it does.
Of course the mint had no trouble coming back

Banana Bites

So lets see, what do kids like in food?
Finger food? Check
Sweets? Check
Frozen treats? Check

Okay awesome, so your kids will like these.  They are frozen banana bites, very ripe bananas (not brown ripe, just starting to go,) dark chocolate (you could use milk if you really wanted, but it's not as good for you,) and an assortment of toppings.  I used chopped up reese's pieces (get those away from me, the temptation is to great!) toasted coconut, a chopped up skor bar and some toasted peanuts.  So there you go, a half healthy treat (really healthy if you stick with the coconut) I think your kinds (and mine one day!) will love.

Banana Bites

From an addition of Bon Appetit April 09

A few things to note: Try to use chocolate that is less sweet, the bananas and candy are already very sweet.
Also, you can try numerous toppings for this recipes, like your favourite sandwich cookies, toffee bits, an assortment of finely chopped toasted nuts, or any brittle candy bars.

2 c bittersweet chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate chunks which worked well)
2 Tbsp canola oil (I forgot this step!)
An assortment of toppings
3 rip bananas cut into 1/2 inch thick slices

Stir the chocolate and oil in a medium bowl over simmering water until just smooth, you want to keep the temperature as low as possible.  Let sit for 15 minutes (important!)

Place each topping in a separate small bowl.  Line a tray with tin foil.  Using one hand dip the banana slices into the  chocolate, shake off the excess and drop in topping bowl.  With your other hand sprinkle the topping all around and transfer to foil lined pan.  Repeat.  Freeze the bananas until they are firm, at least three hours.

March 27, 2011

Today was...

Instead of the curry we had planned, the weather inspired some bbq.
So I made a simple bbq sauce, some grilled chicken
grilled asparagus with parmesan lemon vinaigrette
lemon cake with blueberry sauce (so good!)
we took a trip to the garden store
re-potted some herbs.
and had coffee with dad

Earth Hour 2011

March 25, 2011

A Carrot Cake Comparison

Today I made five types of carrot cake, all very different, but surprisingly none of them were that great.  There were clear favourites (the two loaded with pineapple, coconut and nuts) but they were all missing a lot of flavour.  They needed depth, they tasted like plain cake with shredded carrots, which does not a carrot cake make! Even though the cake components need work, the frostings were much better.  Some were clearly out (white chocolate,) some needed work (#5) and the rest were perfectly adequate, your regular cream cheese frosting.

I found a few things out about carrot cake.
One: Raisins have no place in carrot cake.  They don't add anything, glad I learned that one early.
Two: Don't use a food processor in the making of a cake (I'm looking at you Alton Brown.)
Three: Cocoa doesn't have a place in any carrot cake of mine.
Four: A frosting can be to sweet.  I wasn't sure this was a fact, now I know it is.
Five:  The best carrot cakes involve a few extra steps, let me explain;

#1. The first carrot cake I made, I started at 6:30 this morning from a Smitten Kitchen recipe.  The comments were: the cake was not very flavourful, even though it had the most spice of all the recipes.  The cake had a great texture, but rose the least of all five.  It had no add-ins and all in all was a pretty boring cake.

#2. This cake was from Alton Brown at the food network, it got the worst reviews of the days.  The texture on this cake was terrible, it could be best described as "eggy" but I've realized since reviewing the recipe (it has no more egg than any other recipe) that it's due to the blending of ingredients in the food processor.  Bad idea.  The cake had little flavour, again it needed more spices.
#3.  This recipe came in a very clear second place.  I got it from Whipped the blog and it is loaded with goodies, like nuts (walnuts, for me win in carrot cake) and coconut.  An addition I've never tried but very much enjoy is pineapple, I'll be making all my carrot cakes with it from now on.  It adds a tonne of moisture to the cake and a really nice fruity accent.  The carrots in this recipe were pureed, which means you need to add the step of cooking the carrots and then smooshing them down.  All that extra work makes the carrot flavour really blend in, as well as not weighing the cake down with add-ins.  Next time I might add a bit of shredded carrot just for some interest, but it's not necessary.  This cake too could have used some more spice.
#4. This recipe was from my Heavenly Cakes cookbook, which I personally thought sounded the most interesting.  Unfortunately it really didn't deliver as a great carrot cake, it was interesting but very dry.  It had the addition of raisins and cocoa, which, as I stated before really aren't a good addition to this cake.  The frosting here was white chocolate based and no one liked it.
#5.  This recipe from Bon Appetit Desserts came out as the winner.  Not only did it have our favourite, pineapple to moisten it up and add flavour, the cake was drowned in a caramel-buttermilk glaze while it was still hot and then loaded with a sweet (very sweet) cinnamon-sour cream frosting.  While this cake still needs work it received 5 out of a possible 9 votes.

So I will try two things:
-the first will be to make #3 with a bit of carrot sprinkled in and some extra spices (without making it a spice cake with carrots in it)
-following that I will make #5 with walnuts instead of pecans (they're cheaper anyway), more cinnamon and vanilla in the batter.  I'll try cutting down on the sugar in the frosting (without making it to loose, as it already is quite sloppy.)

Today was...

5 types of carrot cake (& frosting!)
a few trips to the store, and a beautiful late afternoon walk.

Mar 24

Yesterday Natasha, Erin and I walked around Stanley Park.  It was a nice day, not to bright or hot.


It's about 10 km, so when we finished we needed some hot chocolate.

We ate dinner at the Teahouse Restaurant.

March 23, 2011

March 23

Today was:
a bonus day off
a successful loaf of homemade rye bread
myself staggering under the weight of so many baked goods
carrot cake cupcakes for Natasha and Erin
a rather disappointing blueberry cake
and a new cutting board (I needed one!)

Broccoli Salad

Now this is a broccoli salad I can get behind.  I think you can still call it healthy (some broccoli salads really aren't) but I could eat it by the bucket full.  Cranberries and almonds and mayo (don't judge me!) so delicious.  Will be making this...soon.

Broccoli Salad

I adapted this recipe from a Smitten Kitchen one I found.

2 heads of broccoli
1/3 cup sliced, toasted almonds
1/2 of a red onion, really small dice
1/3 cup of cranberries, chopped up
2 strips of bacon, crisped, then finely sliced

1/3 c mayo
2 Tbsp buttermilk
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar

Trim the broccoli from the thick stems and chop up the whole thing until the pieces of broccoli are what you'd call manageable.  I use some of the stems, not all.

Toss the broccoli, almonds, cranberries, red onion and bacon into a large bowl.  In a smaller bowl whisk together the mayo, buttermilk, vinegar and sugar until its well combined.  Pour most of the dressing over the broccoli (you don't want to drown it) and toss to combine.  Add more dressing if necessary.  Season the salad with salt and pepper.  Refrigerate for at least one hour.

March 22, 2011

Grasshopper Pie

From what I gather, if you talk to your mom, she's had this pie.  It's a 70's throwback, whatever that means.  To me it means it's prime is older than me.  It deserves a second go around though, because it's delicious and would serve you really well on a hot summer's evening.  All minty and frozen.  It's super light and if you didn't know you'd think it's ice cream.

Grasshopper Pie

So instead of buying a box of oreos (not a good idea) and for the sake of emptying my pantry I made this base with graham cracker crumbs, cocoa powder, a little sugar and some melted butter.  Play around with it.  Then I patted it down and baked it at 350 F for 10 or so minutes.

In place of the liqueurs I obviously don't have, I used a creme de cocoa syrup and some peppermint extract.

16 oreos
2 Tbsp melted butter
1 container of marshmallow fluff (ew! I know, do it anyway)
2/3 c half and half
2 Tbsp creme de menthe liqueur
2 Tbsp creme de cocoa liqueur
a few drops of green food colouring (just a few! you want a nice pale green)
1 c heavy cream

Throw the cookies and melted butter in a food processor and grind it until its fine.  Place the cookie crumbs in the bottom of a pie plate and press evenly.

Heat the marshmallow fluff and half and half in a medium sized saucepan and stir constantly on low until the marshmallows melt.  As soon as it is all combined take it off the heat and let it cool.  Once it is cooled add the liqueurs and food colouring and stir well.

In a mixing bowl whisk the cream until it is in stiff peaks.  Fold the marshmallow mixture into the cream until it is totally combined.  Pour into the chocolate crust.  Sprinkle some cookie crumbs on top if you'd like.  Try and find a flat spot in your freezer and leave the pie for at least two hours, until it is firm.  Remember to take the pie out of the freezer 10 minutes before you plan to serve.

Mar 22

I made up for the baking I've not done recently.
I made monkey poo (haystack cookies), hazelnut espresso cookies and blueberry muffins, mostly for tash.
I bought some face moisturizer (my first ever)
a went for a nice long walk in the (slightly) warmer spring air.
soaked the brined brisket in water and made a rub, to be smoked tonight.
I made an AWESOME broccoli salad (I'm not sure if it's awesome because it tastes really good, or I am stoked on a spring salad)

March 20, 2011

Mar 20

Today was:
me making lists
and calendars
and calendars with lists for each day
a walk in the blustery wind
shane putting in his notice at work
and celebrating with pizza (!) that I (!) didn't (!) make (!!!)
but it was good
and finally prepping for tomorrow night's St. Patrick's day dinner (no I didn't forget, we're just late)

March 19, 2011

Mar 19

Today was beautiful
A walk in FULL sun for FORTY minutes!
no baking (!!)
TLC for the ill one
organizing the coat closet; out with the winter boots, in with the spring shoes

March 18, 2011


Was a blarg day.
A walk for an americano
A tasty piece of cake
another cake disaster
I love the feeling of dough in my hands
a smoothie for dinner (raspberry, my favourite kind!)
a long (fast) bike ride
and some amazing yeasty baked doughnuts. love.

1 month

1 month until our trip, ain't no big thang.  I made an angel food cake with strawberry buttercream.  The cake was great and the angel food cake was a definite make again.

March 17, 2011

Today Was...

Delicious pancakes (and I really mean it!)
A car full of cake deliveries
Coffee with mum
Organizing my spice drawer (finally! and more about this coming soon hopefully)
A sausage, swiss chard and roasted pepper pasta
A walk to the garden store, an intoxicated state of mind from the scent
One of my favourite suppers
And a face full of butter

Swedish Rye Pancakes

We are not pancake people.  We try to be, but we aren't.  About twice a year I'll find a picture to pretty or a story to inviting and convince myself that this time really will be different.  Out of ten or so recipes we've tried there are now two we will eat again.  But I'll say that two is better than none!  Maybe you know the pancake coma feeling, the two hour period where you feel sick, forcing your stomach to digest the fried dough and maple syrup you've just consumed. These pancake comas are so bad they can happen after just one or two! And no one likes a food coma first thing in the morning.

We did it again today, the pancakes and this time they were great.  Better than great, they were fantastic.  They are called Swedish Rye Pancakes, but I have no idea what makes them Swedish, they seem like regular pancakes to me.  The rye, however, they do have and I think that is what made these consumable.  Equal parts rye and all-purpose flour with just a titch of sorghum flour (which I think helps absorb the liquid, correct me if I'm wrong) keep things light not gut-stretching-ly heavy.  We ate them with a bit of butter and loads of my strawberry jam.

Swedish Rye Pancakes

This recipe makes two big servings, 8 pancakes total, so if you are anything like us, consider halving the recipe.

Don't be scared of the rye, its very subtle in this recipe.

1/3 c rye flour
1/3 c white flour
1 Tbsp sorghum flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 c buttermilk
2 Tbsp melted butter
1 egg

Preheat your oven to 200F if you are cooking for more than two, to keep the pancakes warm.

In a medium bowl combine the rye flour, flour, sorghum flour, salt and baking powder.  In a separate bowl stir the buttermilk, butter and egg together well.  Whisk the wet ingredients over the dry ones and stir just to combine.

Heat a non stick pan over medium heat and pour the batter in 1/4 cup at a time.  Wiggle the pan around the let the batter spreads.  Let cook 1-2 minutes, until bubbly, then flip and cook 1-2 minutes more.  Consume with gusto.

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake

I want to talk about this coffee cake.  Even though I did a piss poor job of showing you, I'm telling you it's good!  It's a cinnamon-streusel coffee cake from Martha Stewart I flound in an article they did on coffee cakes, which all look AMAZING!  I made two yesterday, but this one made the other one awful by comparison.  This sour cream cake is perfect, moist and tender with a delectable crumb I love to see in a cake.  The streusel however is what really does it for me.  The pecans and cinnamon and...ahhhh!  It's so good!  After the glaze cools the crust get crunchy just a tad bit sweeter.  This cake is a sugar lovers dream and since I'm addicted I'll be making it again.

Cinnamon- Streusel Coffee Cake

From Martha Stewart March 2011

Streusel Topping:
210 g (1 3/4 c) flour
200 g (1 c) light brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp salt
187 g (3/4 c) cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 c coarsely chopped toasted pecans

240 g (2 c) flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
125 g (1/2 c) butter, room temperature
200 g (1 c) sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 c sour cream

120 g (1 c) icing sugar
2 Tbsp milk

Streusel Topping:
Mix together flour, 150 g (3/4 c) brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon and salt in a large bowl.  Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or your fingertips until small to medium crumbs form.  Mix in 1/2 c pecans.  Place in the fridge until ready to use.

For streusel center, mix together remaining 50 g (1/4 c) brown sugar, 1/4 tsp cinnamon and 1 c pecans.  Set aside

For Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350F.  Butter a 9 inch tube (angel food cake) pan with a removable bottom.  Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium sized bowl.

Beat together butter and sugar in a mixer until fluffy and pale, 2 minutes.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla.  Mix in flour mixture in 3 additions alternating with the sour cream.  Begin and end with flour mix.  Turn the mixer to high for a few seconds to beat until well combined.

Spoon half of the batter into the pan and spread it evenly over the surface.  I find I have a really hard time getting the batter to stick to the pan and not my spoon, so I wet my fingers slightly and push it around until it is even.  Sprinkle streusel center topping over batter.  Top with remaining cake batter and spread evenly.  Sprinkle streusel topping over the cake evenly.

Bake until the cake is golden brown and toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 55 minutes.  Transfer to a rack and cool completely.  Place a large piece of parchment under the rack.

To make the glaze combine the icing sugar and milk.  Drizzle over the cake and let it run down the sides.

It's Alive!

My garden that is.  I spent an hour out there yesterday tidying and wishing I could be here to plant things.
 The crocuses came for a visit
 I believe this bud belongs to a hydrangea bush
 I love there honeysuckle buds, they are so pretty
 The apple tree has little teeny buds
 This is one of those pretty flowers with the huge heads, I forgot what they are called
 I know this bush is vibrant when it flowers
And I could have sworn my thyme had died, but...she lives! (though I'm darn sure the sage didn't)