Tuesday, February 26, 2008

TWD: Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits

This week it was my turn to choose the recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie and I chose pecan sour cream biscuits. I've been dreaming of biscuits for weeks. I can't believe I've never actually made them before, though I have made scones. Now I want to find or create a whole wheat healthier version of biscuits but hopefully still retain the tenderness, if that's possible. Maybe with whole wheat pastry flour and oat flour. Anyway onto the pecan sour cream biscuits!

I found them easy enough to put together, though I'm always paranoid about overworking any sort of dough and/or softening the butter with my hands by accident. I pretty much just squashed the dough together, patted it out in a shape that I shall call a squircle (square/circle). I don't like rerolling dough, partly because I don't like rolling dough and partly because again, I don't want the dough to become overworked. So I just cut the dough into 12 roughly even size pieces.

When they came out of the oven they looked perfect. I could see that they had risen and become a bit flakey when I looked at the side of the biscuits. Seeing the way biscuits and scones rise like that always makes me happy. And the bottoms were nicely browned. Yum yum. It was so nice to have fresh warm from the oven biscuits!

As for the taste, they were slightly sweet and the pecans added a nice crunch, as Dorie says in the intro to the recipe. I loved how the edges of the biscuit were crispy, though that only lasts for the first day. I'd use this recipe as the base to try out other flavours, though I'm not sure what yet. My mind immediately thinks earl grey biscuits! Because I'm obsessed with putting earl grey in things, but I'm not sure how that would turn out.

Go check out the other Tuesdays with Dorie bakers and see their delicious biscuit adventures!

If this sounds good, you might like:
Almond Coconut Muffins
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Scones
Apricot or Cranberry Orange Scones
Pumpkin Loaf

Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits
Adapted from Baking: From my home to yours

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
5 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces*
1/2 cup cold sour cream
1/4 cup cold whole milk
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans, preferably toasted

Preheat the oven to 425F. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.

In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Stir in the brown sugar, making certain there are no lumps. Add in the butter and, using your fingers, toss to coat the pieces of butter with flour. Quickly, working with your fingertips or a pastry blender, cut and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is pebbly. You'll have pea-size pieces, pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pieces the size of everything in between.

Stir the sour cream and milk together and pour over the dry ingredients. With a fork, gently toss and turn the ingredients together until you've got a nice soft dough. Wwith your hands give the dough a quick, gentle kneading - 3 or 4 turns to bring everything together. Toss in the pecans and knead another 2 to 3 times to incorporate them.

Lightly dust a work surface with flour and turn out the dough. Dust the top of the dough very lightly with flour and pat the dough out with your hands or roll it with a pin until it is about 1/2 inch high. Don't worry if the dough isn't completely even - a quick, light touch is more important than accuracy.

Either use a biscuit cutter or cut the biscuits into small squares. By hand or with a small spatula, transfer the biscuits to the baking sheet. Gather together the scraps, working them as little as possible, pat out to a 1/2-inch thickness and cut as many additional biscuits as you can; transfer these to the sheet.

Bake the biscuits 14 to 18 minutes, or until they are tall, puffed and golden brown. Transfer them to a serving basket.

*I didn't do it this time but next time I'm going to freeze the butter and grate it (like cheese) then just stir it in, as suggested by Leigh.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Chocolate Cookie Bark

This is a super easy and delicious treat to make, and it looks good too! I heard about it from a friend and couldn't stop thinking about what cookie bark would taste like. I finally got around to making it and it was really addictive. I rarely ever eat Oreos on their own but when they're in something else I always want to try it. (Like the Cookies & Cream Pound Cake from My Sweet Vegan.)

I felt wrong melting chocolate in the microwave and thought about doing it on the stove over steam but then thought ah well whatever and just went for the microwave. The peanut butter mixed into the white chocolate was so good I could've just eaten it with a spoon when it was melted. Actually I did, but just a bit! I might now become obsessed with the white chocolate peanut butter combination. Next time I'm going to use milk chocolate instead of semi-sweet because I'm more of a milk chocolate person, but if you like dark chocolate then use that.

You might also like:
Chocolate Chip Cookie Topped Brownies
Chocolate Orbit Cake
Dulce de Leche Brownies
Chocolate Marble Chunk Cookies

Chocolate Cookie Bark
Adapted Kraft Foods

8 oz semi-sweet chocolate
6 oz white chocolate
2 tbsp peanut butter
10 Oreo cookies

Place semi-sweet chocolate and white chocolate in separate microwaveable bowls. Microwave until completely melted, following directions on package. Add peanut butter to white chocolate and stir until well blended. Crumble half the cookies over chocolate in each bowl; mix well.

Drop spoonfuls of the chocolate mixtures onto wax paper-covered baking sheet, alternating the colors of the chocolates. Swirl a knife through the chocolate mixtures several times with a knife for marble effect.

Refrigerate at least 1 hour or until firm. Break into pieces.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Lime Sugar Cookies

I first saw these lime sugar cookies through Patricia of Technicolor Kitchen who changed the recipe from Pinch My Salt to lime instead of lemon sugar cookies. And what a delicious recipe it is. These cookies were very soft, with slightly crispy edges. I'm used to hard sugar cookies, but I must say that while hard ones can be delicious, these ones are a welcome addition to my cookie repertoire. I'm not sure what happened to mine around the edges as they looked kind of cracked - and the middles of my cookies look deflated. Maybe I beat too much air into the batter? Anyway, I'd like more lime flavour so next time I'll add more (and maybe white chocolate? mmm). I'm not sure what happened with my photos of these cookies as most of them are kind of pink so unfortunately this is the only photo I've got!

Giant Lime (or Lemon) Sugar Cookies
Adapted from Pinch My Salt

Yield: 24 giant cookies

1/2 cup sugar
Zest from 2 limes (separating out 1 tsp)
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 3/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda

Prepare lime sugar: In a mini food processor, blend 1/2 cup sugar with 1 tsp lime zest*. Pulse several times until the lime zest is incorporated into the sugar. Put sugar mixture in a shallow bowl and stir lightly with a fork to break up any clumps. Set aside.

Prepare cookie dough: In a medium bowl, stir together flour, salt, cream of tartar and baking soda. Set aside.

Cream together butter and remaining 1 1/2 cup sugar. Blend in eggs, one at a time then add vanilla, lemon juice, and remaining lemon zest. Add flour mixture, one cup at a time, blending well after each addition, until all flour is incorporated.

Refrigerate dough for one hour.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Using a jumbo cookie scoop or your hands, shape two tablespoonfuls of dough into a ball and roll in lemon sugar. Place ball of dough on cookie sheet and press down lightly with the bottom of a glass until cookie is about 1/2 inch thick. Repeat. Six cookies will fit on one pan.

Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees.

*I ground the sugar too fine so don't be overzealous like me. Or if you can't stop yourself from being overzealous, use coarse sugar.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili

This is my entry for Holler and Lisa's new food blog event, No Croutons Required. The theme this month is vegetarian soups - though I'm not sure if chili would be considered a soup? This is more stew-ish anyway so let's call it a very chunky and delicious soup!

I'm not usually a fan of chili, probably due to all the ground meat (or in my case it would be fake ground round/meat). But as I said, this isn't your regular chili. I'm kind of obsessed with sweet potatoes - or maybe not obsessed but if anything has sweet potatoes in it, I want to eat it. So the fact that this "chili" is full of sweet potatoes definitely helps, and combined with the onions makes it slightly sweet. I cut back on how spicy it was so feel free to add cayenne, extra chili powder or some jalapeno peppers to this.

This chili is simple, very easy to make, filling, healthy and yummy! What more can you ask for? It was a great discovery for me for something quick and healthy to make on a weeknight.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Sweet Potato Black Bean Salsa
Sweet Potato Badi
Balkan Roasted Vegetable Salad

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili
Adapted from The Clueless Vegetarian

Serves 3-4 as a meal.

1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 cup vegetable broth
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 28-oz (796mL) cans diced tomatoes
2 19-oz (540mL) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp crumbled dried oregano

Heat the oil in a large saucepan* or Dutch oven. Add the onions and cook, stirring, over medium heat until the onions are soft - about 5 minutes. Add the chili powder and the cumin and cook for another minute or so. Add the vgetable broth and the cubed sweet potatoes, reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, until the potatoes are almost tender - about 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes with all the juice from the can, the beans, salt, and oregano. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then let simmer until the potatoes are completely tender - about 20 minutes.

*Go for the Dutch oven if you can, unless your saucepan is really very large.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

My First Meme!

Up until now I have never done a meme on this blog. I apologize to people who tagged me and I never did anything - I think I was just shy and never sure what to write about myself. But I have to take the plunge at some point right? So here is my first meme, having been tagged by Helene (who is also from BC, Canada!) and Gretchen Noelle.

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.
2. Share 5 facts about yourself.
3. Tag 5 people at the end of your post and their names (linking to them).
4. Let them know they've been tagged by leaving a comment at their blogs.

1. I like the smell of manure because it reminds me of when I used to ride horses.

2. I'm not really good at remembering faces. Some might say I'm horrible at it actually and they wouldn't be entirely wrong. Just the other day I sat on the bus next to someone I used to work with, he said hi to me and I stared blankly back. I know who he is - it's not like I forgot him, but I completely couldn't place his face when he said hi to me at first.

3. My goal is to become a public health inspector, which should hopefully take about another 3.5 years.

4. I absolutely adore dogs. Large dogs are the best, or at least larger than a cat, but really any dog is wonderful. (I also love cats. Preferably ones that don't attack my face every once in a while as my moody cat does.)

My old dog Shadow.

5. I have some strange aversion to using cutting boards, unless I'm cutting up a lot of stuff or wanting to chop an onion or something. I'll often grab a plate instead to slice something up. I think this is because we used to have a giant wooden cutting board that barely fit in the sink and I hated cleaning it since it was so awkward.

I'm not going to tag anyone since I was such a bad tagee. But feel free to steal this meme and let me know if you fill it out because I'd love to read it!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins

I'm now balancing out my last post about gooey caramel cookies with this one about healthy muffins! It's actually quite possible that modifying muffin recipes to make them healthier has helped me become a more adventurous cook and baker. If it's a new recipe, sometimes I'll only modify a few things or if I'm feeling crazy I might modify a lot. I remember when there was no way I could possibly deviate from a recipe - vanilla extract instead of almond? White wine vinegar instead of apple cider vinegar? Inconceivable!

Anyway, I'm incredibly happy with this muffin recipe. It's 100% whole wheat, uses no butter or oil, and is full of blueberries and nuts. I've been making these muffins every week, slowly tweaking the recipe. These muffins are a bit dense but in a perfect healthy muffin way. I, of course, still love my fluffy, soft, sweet, cake-y muffins, but for something I can eat everyday and feel good about, these muffins are perfect.

Tips for making healthier muffins:
-replace half of the flour with whole wheat flour, or replace half with whole wheat flour and the other half with whole wheat pastry flour (the idea is to figure out a good balance of flours that are healthier but still produce a yummy soft baked good)
-try different types of flour (ex. spelt, amaranth)- an easy one is grinding oatmeal in a food processor or blender until it's fine like flour
-replace the oil with applesauce
-use "flax eggs" instead of eggs, or add ground flax to your muffin batter
-try reducing the sugar by 1/4 of the amount or more
-add fruits, nuts and/or seeds
-add cinnamon or your favourite spice to give it more flavour
-use muffin liners instead of oiling your muffin tin (this one I don't like because it involves using paper that's not really needed)

Other healthy muffins:
Banana Bran
Pumpkin Banana
Almond Coconut

Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins
Inspired by The Garden of Vegan

Makes 8 good size muffins. This recipe is easily doubled.

1/2 cup 1% milk (or you can use non dairy milk)
1 cup oats
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon flax seeds
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 to 1 cup of chopped nuts (I usually use almonds, pecans or walnuts)

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Prepare muffin tins with muffin cup liners.

2. Prepare the "flax eggs" by first grinding the flax seeds. Add the water to the ground flax seeds and blend together until it starts to thicken up a bit.

3. In a medium bowl, stir together the "flax eggs", milk, applesauce, vanilla and sugar. In a large bowl, stir together the oats, flours, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and gently fold together. Gently stir in the blueberries and nuts. Spoon into muffin tins and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Suggested modifications: Make these muffins with your favourite dried chopped fruit instead of the blueberries, and use 3/4 cup or 1 cup of milk instead. Replace the milk with soy milk to make these vegan. I like my muffins a bit drier so you might prefer to add up to 1 cup of milk.

Note: I put a vegan tag on these muffins because they can easily be veganized by using soy milk instead of cow's milk (since they contain no eggs or butter). I am not intending to imply that cow's milk is vegan.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Caramel Almond Tiger Cookies

Here's my second cookie that I made out of Tish Boyle's The Good Cookie. I made this before going back to school, and chose it partly because I knew it might be finicky and would require a lot of time. On a morning that I had all to myself, I put these cookies together.

For me these weren't as tasty as the chocolate marble chunk cookies that I made from the same cookbook, but I think that's more my fault than anything. I don't have a lot of experience making caramel, and I let it go for just a few seconds too long. The colour turned dark so quickly! And my caramel tasted kind of burnt, or you could say it tasted like "creme brulee" to put a positive spin on it. I think I put too much caramel in between the cookies because the tops kept slowly sliding off. I, of course, kept trying to push them back into place - a futile effort. These were seriously gooey cookies!

The cookie is like an almond shortbread, and I thought it tasted okay but not awesome. Actually I thought it had kind of a weird taste, maybe due to the ground up almonds, or maybe it was just in my head. I found the dough difficult to roll out, but then I need a lot more practice rolling out all kinds of dough so maybe it's just me. Rolling out shortbread-like dough just seems like you're asking for stress and crumbles! I was happy that I challenged myself to make a different and more complicated cookie, but if I were to make it again I would use a different shortbread recipe, and definitely watch my caramel very closely!

Other cookies I've made:
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies (the ones that convinced me to like oatmeal cookies)
Andes Chocolate Mint Cookies
Earl Grey Tea Shortbread

Caramel Almond Tiger Cookies
Adapted from The Good Cookie

Makes about 20 sandwich cookies

Almond Cookies
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 all cups all-purpose flour, divided into 1/4 cup + 1 1/4 cups
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Caramel Filling
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons water
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp unsalted butter

1. Place the almonds and 1/4 cup of the flour in the bowl of a food processor and process until the almonds are finely ground, about 45 seconds. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and stir in the remaining 1 1/4 cups flour, the cornstarch, and salt. Set aside.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars at medium-high speed until light in texture, about 2 minutes. Beat in the almond extract. At low speed, gradually add the flour mixture, mixing just until combined. Scrape the dough onto a work surface and shape it into a disk. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until firm enough to handle (or up to 2 days).***

3. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F.

4. On a lightly floured work surface, using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/8 inch, sprinkling it lightly with flour as needed to prevent sticking. Using a 1 1/2 inch fluted round cookie cutter, cut out as many cookies as possible from the dough. Using a 3/4 inch round cookie cutter, or the tip of a 3/4 inch plain pastry tip, cut out the center of half of the cookies (these cookies will be the tops). Reroll the scraps, chilling the dough for 10 minutes if necessary, and cut out more cookies. Cut out the centers of half of these. Transfer the cookies to ungreased baking sheets, spacing them 1/2 inch apart. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time, for 10 to 12 minutes, or until just barely beginning to color at the edges. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and cool completely.

5. In a small heavy saucepan, combine the sugar and water and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to high and cook, without stirring and occasionally brushing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush, until the syrup caramelizes and turns a golden amber color, about 4 minutes. Watch closely as you don't want burnt caramel. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully add the heavy cream (the mixture will bubble up), stirring until smooth. Stir in the butter and salt until the butter is melted. Let the caramel filling cool for 20 minutes, or until it has thickened enough to spread.

6. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil or waxed paper. Spread a scant teaspoon of the caramel filling over the bottom of each whole cookie. Top each with a cut-out cookie, and place the filled cookies on the lined sheet. Place the saucepan of caramel over low heat and heat, stirring constantly, until it is thin enough to drizzle. Using a spoon, lightly drizzle the tops of the cookies with parallel lines of caramel.

***I found it easier to let the dough warm a bit before I started to roll it. But then I'm not really awesome at rolling out dough so maybe you shouldn't listen to me!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Tinned Tomatoes

Unfortunately I've been sick for the last week or so, but I'm mostly feeling better now and can start to catch up on blogs, including my own. Since I started my blog I haven't gone this long without updating it - I really miss blogging and reading blogs. I hope this doesn't happen again anytime soon! Anyway onto the topic of this post: Adopt a Blogger.

Introducing, the lovely Holler of Tinned Tomatoes!


I'm sure many of you have heard about Kristen's Adopt a Blogger event. For those of you that haven't, Kristen describes it like this: "The whole idea of this is to encourage new bloggers, support others with like minded interests, and hopefully build friendships within the food blogging community." (Yes Holler, I copied how you introduced Adopt a Blogger! Hope you don't mind.) So Holler adopted me! We've had our blogs for about the same amount of time so we kind of decided to adopt each other. Either way it's a great thing.

To introduce Holler and her blog to you, I did an interview with her that of course includes yummy pictures featuring recipes from her vegetarian blog!

Tell me a bit about yourself.

I live in Scotland. I am 37 years old and I have been with Graham for 17 years. Graham and I got married in October 2007, in Cyprus, We had a wonderful day in a monastery with friends and family and so I am just sliding gently into married life.

How long have you been blogging and what first got you interested?

I have been blogging since April 2007, so not long, all-in-all, but I am totally immersed in it now and have made some good friends. I first, stumbled onto a blog called The Next Nigella and really enjoyed following the posts and started to think, I could do that and so a few moths later I did and Tinned Tomatoes sprang into existence.

What are a few of your favourite recipes that you've made?

Truffle Torte - starting back to front with dessert. This was an amazing piece of chocolate heaven and it had to be good really, because it was a recipe by the hunky James Martin!

Spicy Tiffin Eggs - I love these. I always looked at people eating Scotch Eggs with jealousy and never thought there could be a vegetarian version, until I saw a recipe in BBC Good Food Magazine. Try these they are seriously good picnic food! (I've never heard of these before but wow do they look amazing!)

Spicy Orange Soup - A bit of a misnomer, as this soup is spicy butternut squash soup, with no orange in it at all, but it is the most beautifully, startling orange colour! I made it over and over all winter, because I love it so! But now I am completely scunnered with it and have no intention of making it again for quite some time! This is also one of my favourite photographs.

Pea Pesto - This has become a bit of a celebrity, my friends and family love it, it has appeared on a few other people's blogs and on a couple of featured favourite's lists. It is a good old fashioned cuboard or should I say freezer standby. Whizzed up in minutes and ready to grace pasta, bruschetta, gnocchi, salad wraps and oatcakes. Fab!

Why did you decide to become a vegetarian? And for how long have you been one?

I have been a vegetarian for about 18 years now, I was always a fussy eater as a child, so my mum made lots of soups for me and macaroni cheese and cauliflower bake, along with her lovely fruit loaf, to keep me happy! I finally sat down at college one day with my friend Grant and thrashed this whole vegetarian thing out. I became a vegetarian that day and look on it as a lifelong choice. I am very lucky that my husband is a vegetarian too and was when I met him. An extra added bonus!

Is there any type of food you've always wanted to make but never have?

Pasta. I purchased a pasta machine with a wedding voucher and would like to learn to make really good quality fresh pasta. (Me too. I just got a pasta maker for Christmas and have yet to use it!)

What one recipe from your blog do you think that everyone else should try making at least once?

My mum's fruit loaf. It is very easy to make, as the ingredients are weighed out in cups and it all cooks in one pot, you just throw it all in. It is super delicious, especially when still warm and buttered!

What's your favourite vegetarian cookbook?

Oh, this is a hard one, I love a lot of cookbooks that aren't vegetarian. OK, if you are going to be strict, I would go for World Vegetarian Classics by Celia Brooks Brown. I am also very excited about Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian, Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant & The Bean Book by Rose Elliott. I need more time to explore them all further, but I am really enjoying them. Cookbooks are great bedtime reading in my opinion! (I definitely agree that cookbooks are great bedtime, or anytime, reading!)

Is there anywhere on the internet that you think is a good source for vegetarian recipes?

I would say that blogs are a good source of vegetarian recipes, including this very blog. Here are a few of my favourites:
Green Gourmet Girraffe - Australia
Lisa's Kitchen - Canada
Walking the Vegan Line - United States
Vegetarian Foodie - United States

Do you have a recipe that you'd suggest for a non-vegetarian?

All of them, of course! Well maybe Shepherd's Pie is a good place to start. It is a warm, comforting, winter dish, that is made with soya mince, carrots, mushrooms and onions, So quite a hearty dish that a meat eater would probably love.

What are the best and worst things about blogging?

The best thing about blogging is the friendships we make and the small community feel to the food blogosphere. There is always someone to give you tips and advice, while inspiring you to want to create new and interesting recipes or just to cheer you up!

The worst thing about blogging for me at the moment, is that it is too dark all the time for getting good photos and I just don't have the technical ability to improve them with the little light I have. it is very frustrating!

Thanks for the interview, Holler! Go check out her website, Tinned Tomatoes.