Monday, September 21, 2009

not another baked good...

I know it’s been a while since I posted anything... and it's not because I haven't wanted to... it's just that I've been busy – you know, taking advantage of the sunshine to get out on my bike, seeing friends, trying new activities (yay rock climbing) and attending a wedding. Sigh. It was a BEAUTIFUL wedding - I would say just about perfect - and the cake was delish :0) (not one of my creations, but delicious nonetheless)

I took advantage of the incredible warm weather yesterday and ran around the Ottawa market picking up my weekly stash of veggies. It was there that I found myself face-to-face with a pile of beets. Yes, the beetroot, my love of this vegetable has not diminished over time; it only seems to grow stronger and stronger. I could perfectly imagine roasting the beets, pouring warm balsamic vinegar on top of them and then sprinkling them with coarse sea salt... that to me is perfection in a bowl. But I seem to be digressing… :0)

I had set out knowing that I would be using some of the quinoa that my mother had brought back from Italy for me. Rather than cooking the quinoa and making it a side dish, I decided to create another “one-pot” meal; allowing me to grill my vegetables, boil my quinoa, sauté a block of tofu and whisk together a maple-mustard vinaigrette. The result was a HUGE bowl of salad – enough to feed me at lunch this week – which means, BEETS EVERYDAY!!!!! Whoot! (enjoy)

Fall Vegetable & Tofu Salad
1 c. quinoa
2 c. water
5 peppers, assorted colours, deseeded and cut in large pieces
4 mini eggplants, cut length-wise
1 large onion, peeled and cut in large chunks
1 broccoli, trimmed, cut into florets and blanched in boiling water
5 beets, washed, quickly boiled and then sliced
spicy olive oil, as per your needs (regular will do as well)
3 baby cucumbers, diced

If you are lucky enough to have a BBQ – perfect time to use it. Otherwise, if you are like me and apartment bound then pull out that electric grill and fire it up!

Once your grill is nice and hot, brush some of the flavoured olive oil on it and start grilling – I grouped all the vegetables – so that the cooking time would be about even – eggplants first, then the peppers, onions, broccoli and finally the beets. Be sure to brush some more of the oil on the tops of your veggies before you flip them over – and be patient! That’s always my biggest fault when grilling, I just want it done ASAP – but in order to get the best out of your veggies (especially the peppers and onions) you just need to let them sit on the grill and do their thing.

As they come off the grill I place them in a large bowl and cover it with a clean kitchen towel to keep some of the heat in.

Meanwhile, add the water and the quinoa and a pinch of salt to a large saucepan and bring it to a boil. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pot and allow it to cook for between 10 – 15 minutes (it’ll be done when all the water is absorbed). Remove it from the heat, and set aside (I was still grilling at this point).

You’ll notice that I have cucumbers in this recipe – I really wanted something crunchy so I grabbed a few of the beautiful mini-cucumbers. I also knew that I didn’t want the pieces to be too large, since the quinoa is such a small grain. (I took that into account with the rest of my vegetables as well – dicing them into smaller pieces after they’d come off the grill and rested a few minutes in the covered bowl)

Time to start to dress this salad up :0) The thing with my dressing though is that I really didn’t measure a single thing… years of watching my mother just grab the ingredients and start mixing has warn off on me… so other than remembering how many cloves of garlic I used, everything else is by taste… SORRY!

Maple-Mustard Vinaigrette
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
good knob of ginger, peeled and minced
Dijon mustard
maple syrup
lemon juice
red wine vinegar
salt & pepper
sunflower oil

In a medium bowl whisk together the garlic, ginger, mustard, maple syrup, lemon juice and red wine vinegar. At this point, start tasting it – too bitter? Not sweet enough? Play around with your ingredients and make it taste exactly as you like – that’s why you’re making it and not buying it right? I decided to use sunflower oil so that it wouldn’t compete with the other ingredients – and since I had used a spicy olive oil I knew my vegetables would already have lots of that flavour.

Once you’ve sorted out the exact flavours that you like, incorporate the oil – you want to thin out the dressing.

Now that you can dress it up, it’s time to finish the salad!

In your large bowl, combine all the diced veggies, toss in the cooked quinoa and if you decide to use tofu (or any other protein) cube it and throw that into the mix as well. Pour your vinaigrette over it all and toss everything really well. You want the dressing to add flavour but not to make it mushy…always dress with caution :0)

And there you go… thanks to a trip to the market my week is looking good… I’d say it can’t be “beet” (ha ha ha)…

Monday, September 14, 2009

it's not cheese... it's cream

Did I mention that I'd like to start making a little money with my baked goods? Lucky me, my friends are being supportive. Especially Julie. She's ordered pies from me and the cake I'm about to share with all of you.

There is always added pressure when baking for other people... I didn't want to disappoint Julie or her guests - especially her sister since this was going to be her birthday cake. So I pestered Julie for information and was warned (1) chocolate - NOT important (2) cheese - VERY important. Yep, a cheesecake was the order of the day!

As you know, my cheesecake baking experience is pretty limited: I've baked 2. The Margarita Cheesecake (April DB Challenge) and then a Triple Chocolate Cheesecake. Both of which were hits, but I wanted to try another recipe just to see how using sour cream would change things... I know, I'm never happy with just the one recipe I have, I always have to try something new... but that's the beauty of baking right? So many options!

I have to say, this is probably the easiest recipe ever: resulting in a fluffy, light and very creamy cake. As Julie's nephew exclaimed, "this isn't cheese, it's cream!"

Sabra Cheesecake
1 1/2 c. graham crumbs
2 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp melted butter
2 x 8 oz pkgs of cream cheese, room temperature
1 c. sugar
5 eggs, divided and at room temperature
1/4 c. sabra liquor (or replace with 1 tsp each vanilla and lemon juice)
2 c. sour cream

Preheat your oven to 300 F. Grab a 10 inch springform pan and line the outside of it with tinfoil so that the base is sealed shut (I also sprayed the inside with non-stick spray). Set aside.

Mix the melted butter, crumbs and sugar together and then press evenly into the base of your pan (If you want a thicker base, use a smaller pan). Set aside in your fridge.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl at the lowest speed (kitchenaid speed 2) beat the cream cheese until smooth. Slowly incorporate the sugar.

Increase your speed just a little (Stir speed) and add each egg yolk individually. You just want everything to be incorporated. Add the sabra and the sour cream, 1 cup at a time. Remember to scrape the sides - I did that before incorporating each cup of sour cream.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they are stiff (high speed of your beaters). You're then going to fold the egg whites into the batter (do it quickly so that the air isn't lost) and then pour the batter over the graham crumb base.

Bake the cake for 1 hour in a bain marie (the cake pan is placed in a larger pan that has about 2 inches of warm water in it). This prevents the cake from cracking on the top.

Once it's done baking, open the oven door and allow the cheesecake to sit for another 30 minutes. Once it's cooled down, remove it from the oven and place in the fridge. I chilled mine over night.

I know I'd been told that chocolate wasn't important, but I'd also been informed that fresh berries weren't a popular option with the birthday girl - so I decided to make a chocolate ganche to spread
on top of the cake. I mean you can't leave it plain!

Chocolate Ganache
100 g dark chocolate, melted
1/4 c. heavy cream

In a double boiler over simmering water melt the chocolate. Once the chocolate is completely melted, whisk in the cream and continue stirring it until you get a smooth consistency. If you need more cream, use more cream, make this ganache as thick or thin as you like.

Once you reach your preferred consistency, remove the chocolate from the heat and allow it to stand at room temperature for a minute or two.

Take the cheesecake out of the fridge and remove the sides from the pan. Now pour the ganche on top of the cake and use a flat blade (I used a large knife) to spread the ganche evenly over the surface.

The result is a super fluffy cake with a beautiful chocolate topping. A HUGE success. Thanks Julie for supporting my baking addiction. This is the continuation of a beautiful friendship ;0)

Friday, September 11, 2009

brownies... triple sigh....

My kitchenaid is being used and abused (not really abused... I'd never do that, but I am using it)...

One of the beauties to come out of my oven this week are these brownies. Seriously - remember how I swore my gluten free brownies were the best EVER... these ones are pretty top notch as well. The gluten free ones are fudgy and gooey... these brownies are a little more cake-like. BUT totally DELISH.

I had invited the girls over for some vino tonight - good company on a Friday night. Who could ask for a better way to end the work week and bring in the weekend? I had promised them a treat... and originally had hoped to bake them a pie, but I just didn't have the time - so I figured it was time to bake some brownies. And I wanted to try a new recipe.

If you've followed this blog for a while you'll know that I heart peanut butter. I heart chocolate. And I heart bananas. I combined this trio and the result - a pan full of yummy. Sigh. We all went back for seconds (and thirds) - brownies, wine and a good chat - that is the kind of stuff life is made up of!

Peanut butter and Banana Chocolate Brownies
1 c. pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp vanilla salt (or just regular salt)
1 c. brown sugar
2 ripe bananas
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/3 c. cocoa powder
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 c. milk
handful peanut butter chips and white chocolate chips

*don't worry you aren't missing anything - no eggs or butter in this recipe.

Preheat your oven to 375 F. Spray a square pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking soda and powder and the salt.

In your kitchenaid bowl (or a large mixing bowl) beat the sugar and bananas together until they become really creamy (setting 2 on the mixer, or a medium speed on your beater).

Add the peanut butter to the banana/sugar mix and combine (Stir setting). While the beaters are still going add the cocoa powder, the vegetable oil and the vanilla. Increase the speed of the beaters (setting 4) to really combine everything.

Now add the flour mixture to the batter and slowly incorporate. With the beaters going you'll want to slowly add the milk. Once everything is combined turn off the beaters.

With a wooden spoon, scrape the sides and stir in the chocolate chips. The batter is going to be REALLY thick and sticky. But that's what you want.

Now pour the batter into the pan and spread it out evenly. Bake in the oven for about 22 - 25 minutes (if you want it more fudgy bake it closer to the 22 minute mark).

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan. I actually threw the pan into the freezer for 7 minutes to cool down really quickly (since I baked them about half an hour before my guests arrived).

You can frost these if you want to, but I think they are perfect as is. Bliss.

Friday, September 4, 2009

i heart my sweetie pie... aka my KitchenAid

So... as you know, I bought my KitchenAid Accolade 400 on Tuesday. An event that brought a HUGE smile to my face. I'm going to let you in on a little secret... I'm not having a very good week. You know, sometimes things happen that make you take a step back and reevaluate what you're doing and where you're going... this week wasn't one of those weeks. The events of this week just made me plain ol' sad... life happens and we deal with it - but sometimes you just wish that it didn't make you want to cry.

So buying this expensive (even @ sale price) new gadget and baking some goodies seemed like a good way to try and take my mind off of things and decompress. That's exactly what I did last night - I decided to drown my sorrows in some butter, sugar and cocoa powder.

The recipe comes from the KitchenAid recipe book that was included in the box with the mixer... the cookies turned out great, but the best part is that they lifted my spirits just a little... Seriously, it's incredible how simply turning the "stir" speed made me giddy... I am a true baking geek (and very proud of it)!

Oh yes - I meant to buy a new camera in order to take better pictures and impress everyone with a visually beautiful blog... but the KitchenAid came first :0) Please be patient friends... pictures will come (I promise).

Macadamia Chocolate Chip Cookies
3/4 c. white sugar
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. butter, room temperature
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
2 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. cocoa powder
225 g (1 pkg) dark chocolate chips
100g macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat your oven to 325 F. Spray two cookie sheets with nonstick spray and set aside.

Place the sugars, butter, eggs and vanilla in the mixer bowl. Attach the bowl and the flat beater to the mixer. Turn to Speed 2 and mix for 30 seconds. Stop and scrape the bowl - then increase to Speed 4 and beat for another 30 seconds. Scrape the sides with a spatula.

Turn to the Stir Speed (this is when I became giddy). Gradually add the baking soda, salt, flour and cocoa powder to the batter. Mix for 2 minutes. Scrape the side and beat at Speed 2 for another 30 seconds.

Add this point turn your mixer back to the Stir Speed and add the chocolate chips and the nuts and just blend - about 15 seconds.

Lift the flat paddle out of the batter and grab your little scooper.

You'll want to scoop the dough onto your cookie sheet - about 2 inches apart - I was able to bake 8 cookies per sheet at a time (they do tend to spread out while baking).

Bake for 13 minutes - they'll look a little undercooked but that's ok. Let them sit on the cookie sheet for a minute or 2 and then remove them to completely cool on a wire rack.

The recipe said that you should get 48 cookies - I got 55 cookies out of the dough. Plenty to share (which I did) and plenty to indulge in as well (I did that too). I'm still sad, but at least now I know that I can get giddy just by turning on that "Stir" speed :0)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

my new favourite thing in the kitchen... well in my apartment

I actually don't have a recipe tonight. I just wanted to show you my new favourite thing. I had heard through the grapevine (well really, Michelle at work) that Sears was having a sale. But not just any sale, a sale on KITCHENAID mixers....

I've known about this sale since yesterday... which means that I resisted an entire 36 hours before I ended up making my way to Sears. I wandered their kitchen section and saw a kitchenaid ice cream maker - very nice, but not a mixer. I saw espresso machines (also very nice... also not the object of my affection)... and then I turned around and there they were... those beautiful kitchenaid mixers. The very appliance that I have been coveting for eons... my desire for one so great I was secretly envious of my friend Kailey (who's mother-in-law bought her one as a house warming gift)... and completely envious of any of my friends who were able to register for one on their wedding registries...

So upon seeing it I decided that tonight it was going to become mine. I was going to lift it off the shelf, walk over to the cash register and pay for it. I was then going to walk home with it - the entire 12 minute walk, its heavy weight tiring my arms. No complaints, a smile on my face the entire way. I'd already cleared room on my counter for it (although my roomie wasn't aware of this new arrival).

My new friend is licorice coloured - perfect since that's one of my absolute favourite flavours. I can't wait to test the 10 speeds and see if I can actually bake 4 and a half loaves of bread... I can not wait to whisk my first meringue in it. Sigh. Absolute bliss. And... ON SALE! I did good (yes, I am patting myself on the back...)