Saturday, February 21, 2009

my take on my grandmother's pie...

My grandmother was a great baker. My grandfather used to end every meal telling her he would keep her around for another 6 months... all thanks to her baking abilities! :0) It was something we would all look forward to hearing...

My grandmother's lemon meringue pie was probably our favourite dessert - Paul would always request it on his birthday. I decided to try my hand at it today - it was so warm and sunny and beautiful outside this afternoon that I wanted to bake something that made me feel the same way.

I made my basic pie crust - and then had to blind bake it. To blind bake just take your pie crust, line it with wax paper and fill it with about 4 c. of dried peas (use them over and over again to blind bake your crusts - just store them after use). I baked it for about 15 minutes at 425 F and then put it aside.

Meanwhile, I put together my pie filling... my whole apartment smelt of lemons (Allison even woke up from a nap and could smell the lemons in her bedroom). I thought it was going to be way more daunting of a recipe than it turned out to be... super simple and really not time consuming at all. Which shouldn't have been a surprise... I can't picture my grandmother slaving away in the kitchen...

Isabel's Lemon Meringue Pie
1 c. sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 1/2 c. water
1/2 c. lemon juice
1 tbsp (or a little more) Limoncino
2 tsp lemon zest (the zest of an entire lemon)
1 tbsp butter
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, flour, water, lemon juice, limoncino, and lemon zest. Put the pot over medium heat and cook, stirring until it comes to a boil and slightly thickens.

Remove it from heat and stir in the butter. Take about 1/2 c. of the mixture and add it to the egg yolks - it'll temper the yolks and keep them from curdling. Whisk the egg yolks well - once they're smooth, pour them into the saucepan. Return the pan to the heat and cook it, whisking constantly - bubbles will form in the mixture. That's when you'll know that it's ready to be poured into the prepared pie crust.

Set aside and make your meringue.

4 egg whites
1/4 c sugar

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites on high until foamy. Incorporate the sugar a spoonful at a time - continue to beat the egg whites until they form still glossy peaks. Spread over the pie, make sure that you seal it well to the crust so that it doesn't shrink while baking.

Place in the oven and bake, on a top rack, for between 10 and 12 minutes (my oven at that point was so warm that it took 10 minutes).

Remove from heat, cool and then chill. The filling will set and then it's ready to serve.

Just making this was fun - great memories - and I can't wait to bake it for my family... I think Mayrse's visit from Japan will totally warrant it! Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

good mornin' muffin :0)

I had some banana's hanging out in the freezer and wanted to use them - and since I made my banana peanut butter and honey loaf - I decided to try a recipe out of my Super Natural Cooking cookbook by Heidi Swanson (same author as 101 cookbooks website) and found Heidi's Espresso Banana Muffins.

This is my take on the recipe - I changed it up just a bit. Super delicious. The result is a not too sweet muffin with a little mocha kick - which is never a bad thing :0)

Chocolate-Espresso Banana Pecan Muffins
1 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 c. oatbran
2 tsp b. powder
1/2 tsp fine-grain salt
1/4 c. chopped walnuts, toasted
1 c. chopped pecans, toasted
1 tbsp fine espresso powder
1 tbsp dutch cocoa powder
4 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 c. brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 c. plain yogurt
1 1/2 c. mashed bananas (about 3)

preheat your oven to 375 F. Position the racks low in the oven. spray your muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray/ or line with paper liners.

Combine the flour, oatbran, b. powder, salt, 3/4 c. of the nuts, espresso and cocoa powders in a bowl, stir well.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Stir in the vanilla, yogurt, and mashed bananas. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones, and gently combine them (don't over mix).

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins (I used my ice cream scoop) and top with the remaining 1/2 c. of nuts and bake until golden, about 25 minutes.

I found that this batter made 12 regular sized muffins - baked for 25 minutes and 12 mini muffins - baked for 14 minutes.

Cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then cool completely on a wire rack.

Enjoy! healthy and yummy. who could ask for anything more?

Monday, February 16, 2009

ham-less French Canadian Pea soup

I was x-country skiing at Mer Bleu this past weekend and started thinking about making a good French Canadian pea soup (it was that habitant in me coming out...) I LOVE French Canadian pea soup - and I haven't had it in ages. So I was really looking forward to making it.

This recipe proves that sometimes the best laid plans really don't guarantee the result you were aiming for :0) I will admit it... this soup ended up looking like a hodgepodge of veggies BUT the flavours are really lovely (and I'm pretty much quoting Julie word for word - she thinks it looks terrible but tastes great)....

A Modern Habitant's Soup
2 c. dried yellow split peas
12 c. water
2 tsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 stalks of celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped (leave the seeds in!)
2 c. vegetable broth
1 c. red wine
5 c. water
1 tin black beans, rinsed and drained
1 tbsp fresh thyme, just the leaves (removed from the stalks)
3 bay leaves
3 tbsp tomato paste
coarse sea salt and ground pepper

Place the yellow split peas in a large pot and cover them with the 12 c. of water. Bring it to a boil and cook (uncovered) for 6 minutes. Remove the peas from the heat, drain them and set them aside.

Warm the olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring to cover with the olive oil. Add the broth, wine and water, black beans, thyme,hot pepper, bay leaves and some salt and pepper. Bring everything up to a boil. Cover, bring it down to a simmer for about 50 minutes. At that point, take the lid off, add the tomato paste and leave the pot uncovered for another 10 minutes. Give it a good stir to blend all the flavours together.

Remove the bay leaves from the soup... and serve.

You should end up with about 12 cups of soup - enough for some hungry modern-day habitants :0)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Recipe update

I've been tweaking the gluten-free brownies... the recipe has been adjusted a little (see below) AND I decided to dress them up a little - using both dark chocolate and white chocolate and marbling them. I've very pleased with the final product (and they taste just as great)...

Black & White Brownies
3/4 c. chocolate (decide whatever type you like)
6 tbsp butter, at room temperature
3/4 c. brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 c. tapioca flour
1/4 c. brown rice flour

preheat the oven to 400 F and grease a brownie pan.

temper the chocolate with the butter over a simmering pot of water - make sure that the water doesn't touch the chocolate.

I used both white and dark chocolate - so I divided them in half and divided the butter (3 tbsp each) and tempered them each over the water until they melted.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the two flours together.

In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and eggs. add the vanilla and then the flour. combine. add the melted dark chocolate.

pour into your prepared pan and then add the white chocolate and take the spoon and pull it through the batter - it'll create a marbled effect.

pop it in the oven for 20 minutes. when baked, remove and place in the ice water (yep, still sticking with that idea) and allow to cool completely.

you should get about 20 brownies. I'll say it again - I HEART these brownies... enjoy mes amies.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

a taste of India

I meant to post this last week - since this was my "brown bagged" lunch at the office. I chopped up some veggies (a fennel bulb, turnip, zucchini, eggplant, red onion, red and green peppers) and drizzled them with chopped fresh: garlic, ginger and hot pepper, a splash of red wine vinegar and actual red wine, a bit of olive oil, star anise, indian fennel (thanks for bringing me some from India Mom) and turned the heat up in the oven and baked everything together. not only did it taste great - but the apartment smelt pretty wonderful as well (even Allison thought so).

The inspiration for the veggies was my Indian Chicken - a recipe I haven't made since living in Edinburgh... it was time to bring it out. Super easy, and even if you aren't a huge fan of Indian food - this chicken is so "Canadian Indian" that you'll enjoy it (yep - even you Mel) :0)

Indian spiced chicken
2 chicken breasts
1/2 c. red wine vinegar
2 tsp. coarse sea salt
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 hot red pepper, finely chopped
1 -inch piece ginger, finely chopped
a good bunch of fresh coriander, chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 lemon, use the zest and the juice
1/2 c. plain yogurt

Rinse and pat dry your chicken. Then put it in a bowl and cover it with the vinegar and sea salt. Stir well - to combine. Cover and refrigerate for about 30 - 35 minutes (no longer).

In a blender combine everything else. blitz it up. i use a large enough bunch of coriander that my marinade becomes a beautiful bright green.

Taking the chicken out of it's vinegar bath, place the pieces into the yogurt marinade. Make sure that you coat the pieces well. Cover and refrigerate for about 3 - 4 hours.

Grill the well marinaded chicken - it's best to grill over medium-high heat, basting with the marinade (about 20 minutes).

That's it. The marinading time is the longest part of this entire recipe - you'll notice that the rest of it was pretty darn simple (and quick). Serve it over the roasted veggies and with some slivered almonds on top. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Chocolate Strawberry torte... with tofu

yesterday was Charlotte's 25th birthday... my favourite female chef (and the new head chef at The Whalesbone) finally turned the big 2-5! I wanted to make her a delicious dessert - full of butter, cream and chocolate - all things I know that Charlotte enjoys. I got inspired by Mich Turner's recipe in his book party cakes.

I wanted to stay true to myself as well... so I decided to change up the buttercream icing with a chocolate tofu icing... I still used whipped cream between the layers, and butter and cream in my ganache and lots of butter and chocolate in the actual cake recipe... so I think both Charlotte and I were happy with the end result.

Although there are a few steps to making this dessert, it's really not that difficult - and I can finally say that I made my own GANACHE! Use good quality chocolate and you'll enjoy every bite. Enjoy! (oh - and the pictures on this blog are thanks to me, myself and I... which is why they're a little lame... but try mixing whipped cream while taking a picture! HA)

Charlotte's Chocolate Tofu Torte

1 1/4 c. dark chocolate, broken into pieces (I used the disks so they're already broken up)
1 1/4 c. unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into cubes
2 c. light brown sugar
5 eggs, beaten, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 c. whole wheat pastry flour

pint of strawberries, washed and sliced
1 1/4 c. heavy cream, whipped

Chocolate tofu "buttercream"
1 x 500g silken, firm tofu, patted dry
1/4 c. maple syrup
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 3/4 c. milk chocolate chips

200 g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
3/4 c. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 c. heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Temper your chocolate over a simmering pot of water, allow to cool.

Grease and line a 9-inch cake pan.

Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the beaten eggs (in 3rds) until they're all incorporated.

Pour the cooled melted chocolate slowly into the creamed mixture, beating the batter the entire time. Stir in the vanilla extract and then fold in the flour.

Pour the mixture into the pan and bake for about 1 hour (until it's risen and lightly set) - the cake will wobble a bit when shaken lightly. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool before turning it onto a wire rack. Allow to cool completely.

Once cooled... (I let my cake sit overnight) cut the cake horizontally (use a large knife, and wet the blade with warm water - makes it easier to slice through)... place the strawberries over the base. cover with whipped cream. cover the whipped cream with the remaining strawberries. Place the other layer on top of the base.

Stand the cake on a wire rack over a piece of wax paper (this is important because of the final stage - pouring the ganache over cake makes a bit of a mess).

To make the tofu icing: melt the chocolate over simmering water. Once the chocolate has melted, remove from heat. Place the tofu in your food processor and puree it. It'll become really smooth. Add the maple syrup and the vanilla to the tofu and blend well. Add the chocolate and combine everything.

Now, cover the cake with the tofu frosting - use a palette knife, spread it from the top centre of the cake and over the sides, filling in all the gaps. Refrigerate for 60 minutes.

Once the cake is ready to be glazed, place the chocolate and butter in a bowl. Bring the cream to a bowl and pour it over chocolate. Stir everything with a wooden spoon until it's well combined and smooth. While it's still warm, pour the glaze over the prepared cake.

Use a palette knife to spread the chocolate over the top and sides of the cake. The end result is a rich dessert - not too chocolately because of the berries in the centre... and I topped it with a 1/2 pint of blackberries.

Well worth the effort. I really enjoyed making this, and Charlotte I hope that you enjoyed it! Happy 25th beautiful!


cake turned into... biscotti (aka dried out cake)

I wanted to try out a cake from the 101 cookbooks website - Salt-kissed Buttermilk Cake Recipe... only the baking dish I used wasn't large enough, and by the time the middle of the cake was baked the rest of it had dried out.

Gigi got to be the guinea pig for this one... and we both agreed that it made a good "biscotti" - super to dunk into the tea we were drinking. Next time I'll use a bigger baking dish, likely a rectangular dish instead of a tart dish - and make this more of a square rather than a slice of tart.

BUT even with the dryness of this one, I'd make this again - it's a great take on a pound cake - berries, brown sugar and coarse sea salt top this buttermilk cake. A great treat to have when you want something not too sweet or heavy.

Salty-Berry Buttermilk cake

2 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 tbsp. b. powder
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla salt (or plain salt)
2 eggs
1 c. buttermilk
1/4 c. butter, melted and cooled a bit
zest of two lemons
1 c. of mixed berries (or whichever berry you have on hand)
3 tbsp. large grain brown sugar
1 tsp. coarse sea salt

Preheat your oven to 400 F, racks are in the middle. Line the bottom of your pan with parchment paper.

Combine the flour, b. powder, b. sugar and salt in a large bowl.

In a smaller bowl, whisk the eggs and the buttermilk (buttermilk is 1 c. milk to 1 tbsp. lemon juice - let sit for 5 minutes). Whisk in the melted butter and the lemon zest. If you really want to punch up the lemon flavour, add a tbsp of lemon juice at this point too.

Pour the wet mixture over the dry mixture and stir until just combined - don't over mix... otherwise... you could end up with biscotti :0)

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, push it out toward the edges. Drop the berries on top (I placed them in the centre in the batter). Then you get to sprinkle the b. sugar and the salt over the top. Bake for about 20 - 25 minutes or until the cake is set (golden on top... the brown sugar gets a little brûlée)

The salty and sweet combo on this cake really compliment the lemony taste of the cake. I think you'll really enjoy this, Gigi and I certainly did!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

gluten free brownies for a gluten free birthday girl...

Allison's birthday was midway through the month of January... and it was a big one (the Big 3-0). Since Al's discovered she's gluten intolerant she's been tasting gluten-free versions of her favourite things... and always says "it's not the same, but it'll do." I didn't want her birthday dessert to be another one of those things.

I discovered another blog - and hit the jackpot! The recipe I borrowed from is probably the BEST brownie I have EVER tasted. SERIOUSLY. chewy and gooey and perfectly sweet.

I made this brownie recipe twice - once for Allison's actual birthday dinner - following the recipe. And then again for her birthday party; I changed it up using mint chocolate, Limoncino and by melting white chocolate to drizzle over the cooled dessert...

seriously... this recipe is worth the bother of actually melting chocolate and eating all those calories. ignore any guilty feelings and indulge...

Minty Chocolate Gluten-free Brownies
8 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into little cubes
200 g mint chocolate (two large lindt bars)
1 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. Limoncino
1/4 c. brown rice flour
1/4 c. tapioca flour
1/2 c. white chocolate

Preheat the over to 400 F. Grease either a square pan or use mini muffin tins (I know, I'm a little obsessed with using this pan... but so easy to hand out to people when you make them into two bite brownies) - you should be able to make 4 dozen two bite brownies.

Now it's time to melt the chocolate. Place a metal/glass bowl over a simmering pot of water (make sure that the water doesn't boil and touch the bowl). Place the chocolate and butter in the bowl and continually stir while they melt (chocolate melts faster if divided into squares). Once melted, remove the bowl from the heat and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the two gluten-free flours.

In a large bowl mix the sugar and eggs together. You'll want to whisk them really well - I use my hand-held mixer and cream everything together. Once silken looking add the Limoncino. Stir it up and then add the flours. Stir well.

Time to add the melted chocolate - combine the batter with a large spatula. The mixture gets really gooey looking right off the bat.

Pour the mixture into your prepared pan and bake about 25 minutes (12 minutes for the two bite brownies)... keep an eye on these - you don't want them to burn!

Once you take them out of the oven - cool them in a bath of ice water.. yep that's right, ice water. I put about an inch of cold water in my sink - and add lots of ice cubes. the pan can sit on the ice cubes - and cool your brownies completely that way. strange - but it works.

Finally - over simmering water, melt your white chocolate. Once it's melted, remove from heat, and use a spoon drizzle the white chocolate over your brownies. The white against the dark brownies looks really pretty. Do this before you're going to serve. You could even add some raspberries and freshly chopped mint onto the brownies to decorate.

If you make these brownies classically (instead of the mint chocolate, use 1/2 c. semi sweet dark chocolate and vanilla extract rather than Limoncino) and you'll be just as happy. I swear - BEST BROWNIES EVER!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

my take on "Fresh's" mushroom stroganoff soup

I decided I wanted a veggie week - so I went back to basics - Ruth Tal Brown & Jennifer Houton's "Fresh at home" - based on recipes from their restaurants (in Toronto - whether you're a vegetarian or a carnivore... well worth trying)... I used to make their mushroom soup - but wanted to try something a little different.

I pulled out their recipe for Mushroom Stroganoff Soup and decided instead of using button mushrooms I'd use some portobello and oyster mushrooms... that and some of the Ripassa wine I had opened over the weekend were really the inspiration behind my changes to this recipe - oh yeah, and the fact that I didn't have the spices they recommended in their recipe... in the end, this is a rich, thick soup with a spicy kick.

My Mushroom Soup
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 1/2 c. mushrooms, sliced (I used 4 portobello mushrooms, removed the stalks and oyster mushrooms)
1/3 c. red wine (I used my 2006 Ripassa...full bodied - for this recipe go bold)
2 tsp. Indian fennel seeds, whole (a gift from my mother's last trip to India)
1 1/2 tsp. Cumin seeds, whole
pinch of sea salt
2 tsp. cayenne pepper (use your discretion... I like things hot, but cayenne gets stronger as it sits)
4 c. chicken stock (but beef or veggie would work fine too)
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1/2 eggplant, peeled and diced
1 sweet potato, diced (I leave the skin's full of nutrients)

thickening paste
2 tbsp brown rice flour (any flour will do)
1/3 c. cold water

Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic - cook until they're slightly browned. Add the mixed mushrooms and cook until brown as well. Add the red wine and allow it to simmer and reduce to about half. Now toss in the spices, tomato paste, stock, peppers, eggplant and potato. Bring the entire thing to a boil.

Once it's boiling, allow it to simmer about 15 minutes - you really just want to make sure that the veggies all cook (make sure that you have chopped your veggies about the same size - equal size = equal cooking time).

While the soup is simmering away make your thickening paste. Add the water to the flour and stir to combine (it'll become a paste). Now you'll temper it (yep, I actually did that for the first time ever)... add 2 tbsp of the soup broth into your paste and whisk it together, adding more of the broth 2 tbsp at a time until the paste is the same consistency as the soup (it took me 6 tbsp's to get it tempered). Dump the paste into the pot and give the soup a good stir. Bring the soup back up to a boil and cook for another 2 minutes.

That's it. Super simple. If you're a mushroom lover - blend whatever types you like. And play around with the spices if my choices don't interest you - the original recipe called for caraway seeds and paprika. Make what you like - but I hope you like this as much as I do!