Saturday, June 30, 2007

Cream Cheese Brownies

I really don't make brownies very often, which is probably a good thing because I love eating them. The best brownie recipe (okay I think actually the only brownie recipe that didn't come out of a box) that I've used was one from a high school cooking class. I'm not sure where that recipe went though. Anyway I came across this recipe for fudgy brownies in an issue of Everyday Food that had a modification option for cream cheese brownies. Cream cheese anything, and I'm sold. The other great thing about this recipe is the use of actual chocolate and cocoa powder, instead of just cocoa powder (which I'm not a big fan of).

I'm undecided as to what my favourite kind of brownie is - traditional fudgy and kind of gooey like this one, or really dense but more similar to a dry cake-y ganache (if that even makes sense, I'm thinking of the brownies at Terra Breads mmmm). The brownies that I made fall under the fudgy and kind of gooey, and they're definitely good but I wouldn't make the cream cheese variation of this recipe again. The cream cheese mixture was poured a bit in the middle and then on top, but it all seemed to float to the top. Everyone agreed that it wasn't worth it to put the cream cheese mixture into the brownies - it just didn't add that extra something special that I thought it would. For me, it didn't taste enough of cream cheese, but some people thought it did. It also bothered me that it browned so much on the top (it didn't look like this in the photo provided in the magazine but then that food isn't always edible or fully cooked). I'll still be keeping my eyes open for another cream cheese brownie recipe though. I want to try David Lebovitz's dulce de leche brownies next!

Super Fudgy Brownies (with Cream Cheese option)
Adapted from the May 2007 issue of Everyday Food

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for pan
1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan. Line bottom and two sides with a strip of parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the two sides. Set pan aside. In a small bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

2. Place butter and chocolate in a large heatproof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of gently simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes; remove bowl from pan. Add sugar; mix to combine. Add eggs, and mix to combine. Add flour mixture; mix just until moistened (do not overmix). Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top.

3. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool in pan for 30 minutes. Using paper overhang, lift brownies out of pan; transfer to a rack to cool completely (still on paper). On a cutting board, using a dampened serrated knife, cut into 16 squares. Store in the refrigerator.

Cream Cheese Variation
4 ounce bar cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Before transferring the batter to the pan at the end of step 2 in the basic recipe, prepare cream cheese mixture: whisk 4 ounces room-temperature bar cream cheese with 2 tablespoons room-temperature unsalted butter. Whisk in 1/4 cup sugar, 1 large egg, and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour. Alternately spoon chocolate batter and cream cheese mixture into pan; with the tip of a paring knife, swirl to marble.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Curry Courage

Not a really great photo, I know. And I didn't purposely choose only green veggies!

I extremely love Thai curry. My favourite is probably the green (basil) one, but I'd happily eat any of them. I decided to make curry because I had picked up green curry paste on a trip to Lonsdale Quay Market. For a long time I had been looking to see where I could buy Kaffir lime leaves but had trouble, so I was quite ecstatic when I discovered them at one of the stores in the market (along with curry leaves). I bought a bunch and froze them, not knowing when I would get the chance to pick up any more. I think I've only used the lime leaves once in the past year, but it was just one of those esoteric ingredients I had to have! I also picked up three curry pastes (yellow, red, green) because the woman there said that it's not worth it to make your own curry paste for the amount of spices and things you need to buy. She verbally gave me a recipe for Thai curry, which my friend wrote down but I'm not sure if I ever did because for some reason I thought I would just remember it. Anyway a year later I finally got the courage to try and make curry. Why courage? Because it's one of my favourite things to eat, and I didn't want to screw it up and have sad curry.

Since I wasn't sure where the recipe was and my friend is out of the country and not always easily reached, I just googled some curry recipes to get a general idea of the proportions. This is a truly rare thing for me to do - usually I follow recipes exactly and am too scared to try coming up with my own. So I started adding things to a big pot. Curry paste, coconut milk, vegetable stock, eventually some vegetables and tofu. It smelled right but the taste wasn't what I wanted. I added too much curry (who knew 2 tablespoons would be too much?) so it was burn your tongue off spicy, I overcooked the veggies by adding them to the curry too early, and the tofu just tasted like tofu (it didn't soak up any of the curry flavour). Overall, definitely not the most successful meal I've made but it's a baby step towards becoming comfortable making up my own recipes. It was a good starting off point for perfecting a curry recipe which I can eagerly devour and share (that if I'm lucky will taste like the amazing curry at Montri's.)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Orange Yogurt Hotcakes

Another recipe from my favourite cookbook, Rebar. There are so many yummy sounding recipes in this cookbook (every single one actually, ex. roasted yam pierogi with smoked gouda, leeks and caraway). A good portion of them are fairly time consuming so it will take me a while to get through them all, but I will - happily munching all the way. These pancakes had a really wonderful orange flavour, and I like the use of yogurt in them. The big problem though is that they're not light and fluffy pancakes. In fact, the middle part of the pancake remains at least somewhat gooey, even when the pancake is cooked for a long time. I tried to make really thin pancakes and that didn't seem to help much. Not sure if that's just the way these pancakes are, or if there was something I could've done to make them fluffy inside. The taste is really good though so I would make them again.

I don't make pancakes very often, and I really shouldn't make them for dinner when they're the only thing that I'll be eating, but it takes eating a few pancakes to remember that and by then it's too late. Mental note to self about pancakes. Anyway, I ended up freezing a lot of these ones, and they taste really good reheated in the toaster oven.

Orange Yogurt Hotcakes
(Adapted from the Rebar: Modern Food Cookbook)
Serves 3-4

1 cup unbleached flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
1/2 cup milk
zest of 1 orange, minced
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1 tbsp oil for cooking

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the liquid ingredients to the eggs and stir well to combine. Add the wet mix to the dry mix and gently fold them together. Put a pan on the stove and turn the heat to medium. Let the batter rest for a few minutes as your pan heats up.

Brush the pan with a light coat of oil and use a 1/3 cup measure to ladle the batter onto the pan. Cook until small bubbles appear on the uncooked surface and the edges begin to dry. Flip the cakes over and cook a few minutes more.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Ultimate Oatmeal Cookies

These are the ultimate oatmeal cookies, I kid you not. And I'm happy that I've found at least one ultimate cookie recipe. (Now I need to find the ultimate chocolate chip, ultimate ginger molasses, and ultimate peanut butter ones. There are a few contenders for chocolate chip so far.) I didn't even used to like oatmeal cookies before I tried this recipe. I found it in an online vegan cooking community, and the person touted them as the best ever, and said that she was famous for them. After making them a few times I can definitely understand why. They're slightly crispy on the outside, soft on the inside - just perfect. They even taste good with raisins in them! I'd like to try making them with butter instead of margarine, though I imagine this would change the texture of the cookie. The recipe that was originally posted is vegan, but I used one egg instead of the Ener-G egg replacer.

I was discussing oats the other day with my friend. Rolled oats versus quick oats? I never thought too much about the kind I was buying for cookies, but then I don't know that much about oatmeal since I don't like it. I just went and checked and the kind I've always used have been quick cooking oats and I've never had any problems. I found this post about the difference that the type of oats makes in baking.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Adapted from a post in the vegan cooking community by superlemon)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 to 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon (depending on how much you love it, I put about 2)
1 cup (2 sticks) softened margarine or butter-flavored shortening
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg OR about 2 1/2 tsp. Ener-G egg replacer mixed with 3 Tbsp. warm water*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and cinnamon.

Beat together margarine, and sugars in a second bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in egg replacer and vanilla.

Beat flour mixture into margarine mixture until blended. Fold in oats and chocolate chips, then put in the fridge to chill for a bit while the oven heats up. Put the bowl back into the fridge while each batch of cookies bakes, to keep the dough chilled.

Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare 2 baking sheets.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place cookies 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, flattening each cookie slightly.

Bake until lightly browned around the edges, about 10 to 12 minutes. Let cookies cool on baking sheets for a minute or two before transfer to racks to cool completely.

Makes 2 to 3 dozen, depending on size.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Macaroni & Cheese = Happiness

Macaroni and cheese is hands down one of my favourite things to eat. Actually I'm going to go all out here and say it is my single favourite main course. Usually I make it the way my mom taught me (which oddly seems to be different than how she makes it now, so I guess something got lost along the way for one of us) but in any case it's delicious and easy. However that is not the mac and cheese I am posting about right now! Though I should definitely post about that one too at some point. I read awhile ago about a macaroni and cheese showdown and was extremely jealous. I want to have a macaroni and cheese party. Or cellentani and cheese party (cellentani is a straight tube of pasta that has been twisted into a little spiral - I've also seen it called scoobydoo pasta).

Anyway, this mac and cheese recipe comes from my beloved Rebar cookbook, and is one of the best I've had. It's the use of aged white cheddar (drool), lots of herbs (thyme, oregano, parsley), onions, and an awesomely delicious topping (fresh bread crumbs, pine nuts, more herbs, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese) that makes this macaroni and cheese so great. It's certainly more time consuming and complicated to make than regular macaroni and cheese, but so very worth it. The first time I made it, I thought fresh bread crumbs were the same as the dried fine breadcrumbs you can buy at the store. The fine breadcrumbs soaked up all the tasty sauce, so don't make my mistake! I just rip up pieces of bread for the fresh breadcrumbs now and it works really well. This recipe makes a huge amount of mac and cheese, so unless you're wanting to feed at least 6+ people and have leftovers, try halving it. And no I did not actually use macaroni this time because I didn't have any, so I used whole wheat penne (one of my least favourite pasta shapes to use for mac and cheese).

Audrey's Deluxe Mac & Cheese (with Crispy Pine Nut-Herb Crust)
(Adapted from the Rebar Modern Food Cookbook)

Serves 10.

5 cups dry pasta shapes
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large yellow onion, minced
2 tsp salt
8 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup chopped oregano**
2 tbsp chopped thyme**
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/4 cup unsalted butter
3 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup unbleached flour
4 cups (about 330 g) grated aged white cheddar
4 cups slices of whole grain bread, torn into small pieces
1 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup pine nuts

**Fresh herbs are best of course but dried works fine too.

1. Cook pasta in boiling water until just done. strain and toss with a light coating of olive oil. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a small skillet and sauté onion for 5 minutes. add half of the minced garlic, 1/2 tsp salt and sauté until the garlic turns golden. transfer to a small bowl and stir in half of the chopped herbs. Set aside.

3. Next, make a roux for the cheese sauce. Gently heat the milk and keep it warm. Set a saucepan over medium heat and melt the butter. Sprinkle in flour and whisk constantly as the flour and butter turn golden. Gradually add the warm milk and 1 tsp salt and whisk thoroughly. heat until the sauce thickens (about 10 minutes). Add the sautéed onion/herb mix, grated cheese and stir until the cheese melts. Season to taste.

4. Finally, make the topping. Combine the breadcrumbs with the remaining garlic, herbs, Parmesan, pine nuts, 1/2 tsp salt, lots of cracked pepper and the remaining 3 tbsp (45ml) olive oil. Mix together thoroughly.

5. Preheat the oven to 350F. to assemble, combine the noodles and cheese sauce in a large bowl and mix well. pour into an 8" x 12" dish. Scatter the topping over the entire surface, working some of it into the noodles. Bake uncovered until golden and bubbly (about 45 minutes). Serve piping hot.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

My Brother's Peanut Butter Cookies

My brother is the most impossible person to find gifts for, so last Christmas I gave him a cookie tin and some coupons, each good for one batch of peanut butter cookies (his favourite). Since our kitchen was under renovation for the first few months of the year, I only recently had the chance to make him his first batch. I love how they look very homemade with ragged edges, instead of being perfect little circles - so much cuter that way!

I want to find the ultimate peanut butter cookie recipe, and I guess selfishly I'm using his present as a means to do that. But really it's not that selfish considering that I'm just trying to make the best peanut butter cookies possible for him, right? Anyway, the cookie has to be really peanut butter-y, maybe a bit crumbly, and chewy or soft. The recipe I used for this batch I found on epicurious and had high hopes for since it got an 87% make again rating.

The texture of the cookie was pretty awesome - kind of soft and chewy but not that really buttery chewy, almost like a super dense cake chewy. These cookies were different than other peanut butter ones I've made before - still undecided on whether this is a good or bad thing. Also, the recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of vanilla but being me, I think 2 teaspoons - why not 3 teaspoons?! Vanilla is so delicious and makes everything better! Well I have now learned that extra vanilla in a peanut butter cookie recipe makes for a weird and off taste. It's possible that this is close to the ultimate recipe, but I won't know for sure until I make them again and stick to the recommended amount of vanilla (and maybe add some chopped up peanuts?). I also wonder what difference it would make if I used all natural peanut butter instead of Kraft, since it specifically says to not use those kinds.

Old-Fashioned Peanut Butter Cookies
(Adapted from Bon Appétit, January 1998)

3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup creamy or chunky peanut butter (do not use old-fashioned style or freshly ground)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat mats. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt. Using electric mixer, beat butter, peanut butter and vanilla in large bowl until well blended. Beat in sugars. Scrape down sides of bowl. Stir half of dry ingredients into mixture. Add eggs 1 at a time, stirring well after each addition. Mix in remaining dry ingredients.

For each cookie, roll 1 heaping tablespoonful of dough into 1 3/4-inch-diameter ball. Arrange dough balls 2 1/2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Using back of fork, flatten dough balls and form crosshatch design on tops. Bake cookies until dry on top and golden brown on bottom, about 14 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheets 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and cool completely.

Makes about 4 dozen. (My note: I think it made about 2-3 dozen for me, but then when I make cookies it's always less than what it says it will make.)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Spinach, Crunchy Chickpea & Hazelnut Ragout

Why why why did I choose to make this recipe? I don't usually like chickpeas (though I'm trying), hazelnuts are definitely not a favourite nut of mine, wilted spinach bothers me, raisins only belong in raisin bread (though I am accepting them into other places more often now) and cooked tomatoes are unappealing (yes they have more of the antioxidant lycopene than raw tomatoes but cooked tomatoes are all mushy). The one good thing was the idea of baking chickpeas until they're crispy - however here they just become mushy again when added to the ragout. Oh and I also got to experience the joy of roasting hazelnuts and then rubbing them like crazy to try and get the skins off - I was surprised at how much effort and time it took. But then I think there were some very toasty ones that I kept trying and trying to rub the skin off of (though it was already off).

Sometimes I choose to make recipes with ingredients that I don't like. I have no idea why I do this. Maybe because I'm flipping through a cookbook, looking for a recipe, and it just sounds intriguing and hey you never know, it could turn out to be something delicious that you never expected (characteristic of recipes in the Rebar cookbook). I guess there were just too many ingredients here that I don't like - I couldn't even finish the portion I had dished out for myself. I'm sure there's nothing wrong with this recipe, if you like these ingredients, but I never ever want to eat this meal again. If somebody really wants the recipe, I'll post it, but I don't see the point. The recipe is from Entertaining for a Veggie Planet (Didi Emmons). And I'm not saying that this is a bad cookbook, because I have found other recipes in it that I like (sweet potato badi, sesame tofu). I just also found a recipe I really didn't like... so much for being adventurous!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Baked Sweet Potato & Beet Risotto With Peas

I love risotto and the creaminess of it that comes from the starch in the Arborio rice (at least I assume that's mostly where it comes from). I love risotto so much that even when my coworkers give me disgusting images of why they don't like risotto (that I won't repeat here in an effort to sustain the risotto love), I still love it. I've only made it once, so I figured it was time again. I used my homemade vegetable stock, Giada De Laurentiis's basic risotto recipe, and some of my favourite veggies (sweet potato - not yams!, beets, and peas). I baked the yams and beets together for about 45 minutes with no oil (yes I'm sure they would've been more tasty with oil but this was a small effort to be healthy). They were a bit dry but once added to the risotto, totally fine. I've never baked beets before and while they still had their delicious beet essence, I much prefer them boiled (where they end up more succulent and tender). Maybe if I had tossed the beets in oil before baking them they would've turned out differently but I doubt they would've been as good as when boiled. I added frozen peas at the end and just stirred the risotto around a bit to heat them up.

I had quite the ordeal with the wine because first, I couldn't find the white wine, second, I couldn't find the bottle opener, and third, once I found the bottle opener I had no idea how to use and wasn't sure if the cork was ever going to come out and when it did if I was going to jab myself in the eye. But it came out and my eye is intact. And the wine smelled so delicious when added to the risotto, so it was all worthwhile.

I think one of the reasons I haven't made risotto more often is because of the $5 it costs for a small bag at Safeway (if they have it in stock). When I went to Eat Vancouver several weeks ago, Bosa Foods had a stall set up (well actually it was more like a mini store) selling a selection of Italian food items. I picked up a box of Arborio rice for about $3, which ends up being about half the price of the rice at Safeway. I haven't been to the actual Bosa Foods store yet, but apparently their new one on Kootenay St is huge.

Bosa Foods
562 Victoria Dr & 1465 Kootenay St
Vancouver, BC
Phone: 604-253-5578

Giada's recipe is for basic/plain risotto, so you can feel free to add whatever vegetables, meat (wait why did a vegetarian just suggest meat...), or cheese (probably only hard cheese like Parmesan and Asiago?) to it that you want. It's best to cook the vegetables separate from the rice so they don't get mushy. As for how much of each to add, it's up to you but for this amount of risotto, I did one sweet potato, one beet, and about half a cup of peas. I should've used some of the leftover risotto to try making risotto cakes (risotto that's been shaped into patties and then pan fried) or maybe deep fried risotto balls with mozzarella on the inside (I think I saw that on Emeril).

Basic Risotto
(Adapted from Everyday Italian)

4 cups vegetable stock
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

In a medium saucepan, bring the broth a simmer. Cover the broth and keep hot over low heat. (My note: this is a really important step, because it will take forever for the broth to incorporate into the rice if it's not already hot.)

In a large, heavy saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until tender but now brown, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter. Add the wine and simmer until the wine has almost completely evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of simmering broth and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of broth to absorb before adding the next, until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes total. Remove from the heat. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, the remaining tablespoon of butter, and the salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Tofu Magic

I have been incredibly impressed with How It All Vegan and The Garden of Vegan cookbooks. (I still need to get La Dolce Vegan.) The recipes are usually really simple - too simple to taste as good as they often do. I was looking for something easy to make so decided on "Matthew's Delicious Tofu" not expecting anything out of the ordinary, but it was SO GOOD! Without a doubt one of the best tofu experiences - crispy/hard on the outside, really great flavour, slightly sweet. And of course it was really easy to make. Basically tofu magic.

Matthew's Delicious Tofu
Adapted from The Garden of Vegan

2-3 servings (with rice)

1 lb medium firm tofu, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1/4 tsp chili flakes
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup dry roasted almonds, chopped (optional)

In a medium saucepan on medium-high heat, saute the tofu in oil until browned. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the garlic, ginger, and chili. Saute for 5 minutes. Add the maple syrup, soy sauce, and lemon juice. Cover and cook until the liquid has evaporated. Garnish with almonds if desired.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

"Awesome Salad" with Spiced Pecans

Whenever I make something without a recipe, I don't think it's really worthy of a photo. Or mentioning, or writing about. But if this salad had been from a recipe in a cookbook it's quite possible I'd be raving about it and excited to post. Anyway, my boyfriend and I created this most delicious salad.

-lettuce picked fresh from a relative's garden (lucky!)
-smoked tofu (everyone must try this, and I'm sure it's not the healthiest way to eat tofu but it's so good - reminds me of smoked gouda)
-grated mozzarella cheese, and spiced pecans (from my favourite cookbook Rebar)
-with a basil vinaigrette (also from the Rebar cookbook, simple and tasty).

I think my problem when creating salads before (and being disappointed with the outcome) was that I wanted to add way too many things, which is just overwhelming. I stupidly cooked the spiced pecans in the toaster oven (even after preheating the oven for them...) so half of them ended up burnt within minutes. Disappointing, but I could tell that they would've been really good and the unburnt ones didn't taste too bad. The spiced pecans paired so extremely well with the smoked tofu - it kind of tasted like bacon, which I really miss as a vegetarian. Fake bacon is just nowhere near real bacon.

Spiced Pecans
(Adapted from the best cookbook ever, aka the Rebar Modern Food Cookbook)

1 tbsp butter
2 cups pecans
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cracked pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne
3 tbsp red wine vinegar

Melt and foam butter in a skillet. Add pecans and stir to coat. Cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the brown sugar and let it melt; then add all of the spices and stir well to coat. Deglaze the pan with vinegar and cook until the liquid evaporates. Transfer the nuts to a parchment-lined baking pan and roast in a 300F oven for 5-10 minutes.

My notes: Watch the pecans closely when roasting them to make sure they don't burn.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Yam and Leek Galette

Let me start this out by saying,
yams = white
sweet potatoes = ORANGE
Honestly, I'm not making this up.

The misunderstanding between yams and sweet potatoes really irks me. For a long time I had no clue which was which or how they were different - I never really cooked with either of them, so my experience was only in restaurants. "Yam" fries (which are always sweet potatoes), "yam" tempura (sometimes yam, sometimes sweet potato), candied "yams" that you eat at family holiday dinners (again, sweet potato). Anyway, up until I made this recipe I was unclear and consistently confusing myself in the yam vs sweet potato debate.

After I had gone on a researching craze to find out which foods are healthiest, I decided that I would try to replace regular potato with sweet potato as often as possible. Well I must admit, only partly for health reasons, and partly for its extremely yummy taste. (Sweet potatoes have lots of vitamin A (beta-carotene) and vitamin C.) Thus when I found a recipe for a leek and potato galette, I immediately wanted to use sweet potato instead. Sadly what I had were deceptive yams, so I don't think this galette was nearly as good as it could've been.

I've seen a few recipes for galettes (which you really don't need a recipe for) and really wanted to try making one. They're easy to make but it's a bit time consuming to thinly slice a ton of potato (thank you mandoline). I wasn't really happy with the flavour of this galette, due to the use of evil yams and Gruyère cheese. I think this was my first time trying Gruyère and I'm not sure I like the flavour - I'll have to try it again. Despite all this, I love what a galette is - "round and flat crusty cakes". My ideal galette, which I'll definitely be making in the future, will be real sweet potato, caramelized onions (which I hope don't end up burning in the oven, but they shouldn't), and I'm undecided on the kind of cheese (maybe Asiago or my favourite aged white cheddar?) Throwing some thinly sliced carrots in there might be interesting too. You can use this recipe as a guide for putting together whatever kind of galette you want! I think it's meant to be a side dish, but I ate it with salad for dinner.

Yam and Leek Galette
Adapted from Everyday Food, April 2007

6 tablespoons butter, melted
3 pounds (about 2 medium sized) yams, peeled
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 leek, white and light-green parts, thinly sliced crosswise, well washed
6 ounces Gruyere cheese, coarsely grated (about 1 1/2 cups)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, with rack set in top third. Line bottom of a 9-inch cake pan with a round of parchment paper. Place melted butter in a large bowl. Using a mandoline or cutting by hand, slice the yams 1/8 inch thick; add to bowl with butter. Season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. In prepared pan, arrange some of the yams around edge of pan, overlapping the slices.

2. Fill center of pan with more overlapping slices. Sprinkle with half the leek and half the cheese; season with salt and pepper. Repeat with another layer of yam and remaining leek and cheese; season with salt and pepper. Top with remaining yams. Using a spatula, press galette down firmly.

3. Bake until yams are tender, 70 to 80 minutes, pressing down firmly twice with a spatula during cooking. Run knife around edge of pan. Carefully invert galette onto a plate, remove parchment, and reinvert onto serving plate. Cut into wedges, and serve.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Mink Chocolates

A few days ago I found out about this relatively new chocolate store downtown (from their website, I'd guess they were open around April of this year). I love finding out about new places to get chocolate - in a search for what I'm not sure, the hope of one day finding a definite "best chocolate ever" perhaps?

The Mink Chocolates website lists all of their chocolate bars, which are more like fusions of a chocolate confection and a chocolate bar. The choices are numerous and it was difficult to decide what I wanted to try first. Most of the bars have a dark chocolate exterior, which is unfortunate for me since I'm a milk chocolate lover. I chose Love Potion (roasted banana, dark rum and lime in a chocolate ganache), High Tea (earl grey tea in chocolate ganache), and Mermaid's Choice (burnt caramel and fleur de sel with a hint of rosemary). The ganaches were really good, lots of flavour and not overly sweet, but I wish that the dark chocolate exterior was thinner. Maybe when I try the milk chocolate bars I'll enjoy them even more. I love the wide variety of unique flavours they offer and I can't wait to try the rum and eggnog bar this winter.

Mink Chocolates is also a coffee/tea shop, but more excitingly they have hot chocolate, iced chocolate, drinking chocolate, fondue, and smores. For the smores they bring a mini hibachi to your table to toast the marshmallows! How can you not want to go?

Mink: A Chocolate Cafe
863 Hastings Street West
Vancouver, BC
(604) 633-2451

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Last week in food.

Sugar cookies from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook. My friend and I wanted to have a cookie decorating day! Hers are the more beautiful ones. ;) I didn't think I liked sugar cookies but these ones were really good - a little shortbread-y. We used royal icing, which I was scared to eat since it contains raw egg whites, but everyone who ate an iced cookie seems to have survived.

Apple pie-crumb cake muffins from Vegan With A Vengeance. This is the first recipe I've tried from her cookbook. I thought they were decent tasting and not too sweet, and other people really liked them. The grated and chopped apple makes the muffin really moist though so they're best eaten within a couple of days or else they get soggy on top. There's a crumb topping that tasted okay but I would've liked a firmer crumb.

Curried cauliflower soup from Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special. I've been craving soup and salad a lot recently, and this is a perfect cookbook for that. I used red potatoes instead of russet which I think was not the best choice. Red potatoes are yummy on their own, but they added a strange taste to the soup.

Smoky red lentil spread from Entertaining for a Veggie Planet. I'm looking for a relatively healthy dip to eat with veggies and was hoping this might be it, but I'm pretty sure that it's not. It had a really strong onion and garlic flavour (due to the entire raw onion that was pureed into the dip). I'd try making a dip with red lentils again but maybe roast the onion first or add something else to it.

Crepes with sauteed mushrooms, cheddar cheese and green onions from The Clueless Vegetarian. This was my first time making crepes and it was incredibly exciting! They're something I've always wanted to make and talked about making but was too scared to for fear of them not turning out. The recipe even says something about not getting discouraged if the first few don't turn out properly - but they actually did turn out really well. I definitely want to make crepes again and experiment with different fillings, sweet and savoury.

Pumpkin bread from Bon Appetit, October 2000. Oh my god this was so good. I love pumpkin anything, so even if it hadn't turned out I'm sure I still would've liked it, but oh wow it turned out well. It was the perfect pumpkin bread/loaf - moist, dense, and full of flavour. A tablespoon of sugar is sprinkled on top before being baked, and it gives a nice crunchy top that I love. I substituted half of the flour for whole wheat flour and added extra spices. This is definitely a recipe to make over and over again - even pumpkin dislikers (hate is such a strong word...) liked it.

Pumpkin Bread/Loaf
Adapted from Bon Appetit, October 2000

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup canned pure pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 325°F. Butter 9x5x3-inch metal loaf pan. Sift first 8 ingredients into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until light. Gradually beat in 3/4 cup sugar. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Beat in pumpkin, lemon peel and vanilla. Whisk sour cream and milk in small bowl. Beat flour and sour cream mixtures alternately into batter in 2 additions each. Transfer batter to pan; smooth top. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar.

Bake bread until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Turn out onto rack; cool.

Monday, June 4, 2007

I'm in love with luscious beets.

Alright, my first official food blog post – kind of scary.

I went for a long 4 months without a kitchen due to renovations. Yes the kitchen looks nice now but the thing I really care about is that I can eat real food again, and bake way too many yummy things! I was eating microwave meals mostly, and it actually drove me crazy a few times. There’s only so much frozen fettuccine alfredo, lasagna alfredo, and macaroni and cheese a person can eat. Anyway, I’ve been trying to bake and cook a lot recently.

Asian Beet and Tofu Salad (Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special)

My favourite thing I’ve made so far (not including the sugar cookies and the pumpkin loaf) was an Asian Beet and Tofu Salad (Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special). It was the second recipe I’ve tried out of the book and definitely one I’ll make again. I’ve always loved beets, and I mean really loved beets, but my experiences with them were only at the random family holiday dinner. Because of this, I thought that for beets to taste the way I knew them to taste, they had to be pickled (a stupid conclusion that kept me from beets for many years...) In the past few months, I’ve had beets in a couple of different restaurants and finally realized that they don’t have to be pickled to taste so incredibly delicious. And now that I’ve cooked beets once, I know that I’ll be eating a ton of them – at least for a while. I seriously can’t believe a vegetable could taste so perfect without adding anything to it. I do enjoy my veggies, but beets really rise above them all. In short, beets are awesome.

I was curious what the health benefit to eating beets was, and found out that they help protect against heart disease, some types of cancer, and birth defects (because they have tons of folic acid). They also have lots of manganese and potassium. (Source: 1, 2) Okay I’ll stop talking about beets (sadly), and now mention the tofu.

When I was in Tofino a month ago, I ate at Raincoast Café. I was a bit disappointed to find out that the only thing they had on the menu as a vegetarian entrée was a Thai marinated tofu steak that came with eggplant (a vegetable I have yet to love, or even like). How wrong I was to be disappointed with my choice. It was the most amazing tofu I’ve ever had – such good tofu that my boyfriend (steak lover and not a big fan of tofu), said that the tofu was better than his steak. The point here is that the tofu in the Moosewood recipe was very similar to the Raincoast Café tofu – so exciting! It’s not exactly the same, but similar enough that I’m sure I could tweak it, marinate the tofu for longer, and have delicious tofu as often as I want.

The tofu turns bright pink when mixed with the beets! Ah, beets.

Asian Beet and Tofu Salad
(Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special)

4 fresh beets, roots and stems removed (about 3-inch diameter)
1 cake of tofu (about 16 ounces)
10 ounces of spinach, rinsed and stemmed

1/3 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1/4 cup chopped green onions

1 green onion, sliced on the extreme diagonal

1. In a covered saucepan, simmer the beets in boiling water to cover for 25 to 35 minutes, until tender and easily pierced with a knife. Meanwhile, place the tofu between two plates, weight the top plate with a heavy object, and press for 20 minutes.

2. In a saucepan, bring about 1/2 inch of water to a boil. Add the spinach, cover, and steam for 3 to 4 minutes, until just wilted but still bright green. Place the spinach in a colander and set aside to drain and cool. Press to remove some liquid and coarsely chop.

3. While the spinach cools, whisk together the marinade ingredients and pour into a large shallow bowl. Cut the pressed tofu into 3/4-inch cubes and add it to the bowl. Stir to coat evenly and set aside for about 10 minutes.

4. When the beets are tender, drain and rinse with cold water until they can be handled comfortably. Remove the skins by gently squeezing the beets under cold running water. Quarter each beet and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

5. Set aside the tofu, leaving the marinade in the bowl. Add the beet slices to the marinade, stir well, and set aside for 10 minutes. Transfer the beets from the marinade to the serving dish. Add the chopped spinach to the marinade and toss lightly, then arrange it around the beets. Mound the tofu in the center and top with the sliced green onions. (my note: No reason really to add the beets to the marinade, or even the spinach if you don't feel like it. You can just mix everything up all together (after marinating the tofu for a while, overnight if you can) if you don't care about presentation.)

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Welcome to my food obsession (blog)!

For those of you that know me, I am a bit obsessed with food, but then who doesn't love food? I decided to create this blog for a few reasons. What pushed me was that I wanted to contribute something to the Canadian (and more specifically Vancouver, BC) food blog world. Other than that is the obvious fact of loving food and everything related to it. I try to take photos of all the food I make (again, yes, obsessive), but that's not what this blog will be about exactly. I will definitely be posting photos of food that I make, but instead of posting photos of everything, I'm going to attempt to write a bit more about it than "mmm this was good!" (though being realistic, I'm sure there will be some of that too.) I'll focus on a smaller percentage of the food I make, but in more detail. Well that's the idea anyway. ;) I might just end up posting a lot of photos and writing a little bit about everything. Now, let's hope I keep this up and that I don't bore you all. If nothing else, the food photos can distract you.

Thanks to my amazing brother who answers all the questions I have for him and without who this blog would've been a much more painful experience to create, Vern for creating the little muffin icons and helping me think of what to draw in the header, everybody likes sandwiches for trying to help me figure something out and being inspiration for me to create this blog, and everyone else who listened to me talk about it for the past few months and supported the idea!