Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Old-Fashioned Buttermilk Biscuits

I made these a while ago during my biscuit/scone phase. Well the biscuit/scone phase never really passes, I just figure I should eat healthier baked goods sometimes! These are basic buttermilk biscuits - though perhaps the instructions make them more complicated than they should be? But I guess this is to try and ensure flakey biscuits. I thought mine could have been flakier though, but that could be my own fault not the recipe's. They are however super buttery, and definitely tasty and comforting fresh out of the oven. Sadly, as with most biscuits, once they cool down they lose some of their magic. I like this recipe, but it's the first buttermilk biscuit I've tried so I'm going to try a few more before deciding which one's best!

Next week I start my summer job (which will hopefully be my part time during school job as well) so I will have less time for food blogging, but more time for making money! Money to buy delicious food and ingredients and I guess pay for important things too like school and our mortgage.

We got this basket full of goodies from a fancy grocery store (that my boyfriend's mom had won). As you can see, Abby has claimed it as her own. She likes chewing on it and sitting in it, but mostly she likes chewing on it.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Baking Powder Biscuits
Maple Cornmeal Drop Biscuits
Apricot Orange Scones
Caramelized Onion, Sage and Cheddar Muffins

Old-Fashioned Buttermilk Biscuits
Adapted from Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins & More

Makes 12 small biscuits.

3 1/3 cup all purpose flour, spooned in and leveled, plus additional for kneading and dusting (I used 472 g flour.)
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled, plus 2 tbsp melted
1 2/3 cups buttermilk

1. Position the rack in the middle of the oven. Heat the oven to 400F. Have ready a large, ungreased cookie sheet.

2. In a large bowl, thoroughly whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

3. Shave the chilled butter into 1/8 inch slices using a dough scraper or a sharp knife. Add the butter to the dry ingredients, one third at a time, rubbing it between your fingertips to form flake like pieces. Work gently and quickly so the butter doe snot become too warm. You should have both large and small pieces.

4. Add the buttermilk, pouring it around the edges of the bowl. Using a rubber spatula, push the mixture toward the center, working your way around the bowl to blend the buttermilk with the flakes. The mixture will be soft and resemble large curds of cottage cheese. Let stand for 2 or 3 minutes while you prepare the rolling surface.

5. Sprinkle a pastry board or other flat surface generously with flour, about 2 tablespoons. Empty the dough onto the board. The dough will be sticky. With the help of a dough scraper, lift the dough four or five times to coat it with flour. With floured hands, gently knead the dough six or eight times, or just until it forms a "skin" (thin layer of flour on the surface). It's okay if larger particles of butter are visible. Do not overwork the dough or your biscuits will not be tender. When the dough is ready, slide aside and clean the work surface.

6. Place the dough on the flat surface and pat it lightly with floured hands, shaping it into a rectangle. Roll the dough into a 10 x 14 inch rectangle, with the 10 inch side parallel to the edge of the counter. Fold the dough into thirds, like a business letter. To do this, lift the far side of the pastry cloth up and fold the top third of the dough over on itself. Press the dough to align the edges as best you can. Lift the lower edge of the dough and flip the bottom third of the dough over on itself, keeping the edges as best you can. You will now have there layers of dough. Press the top gently with your hands, then roll the dough into a 5 x 15 inch strip, with a thickness of a generous 1/2 inch.

7. Cut the dough into 12 rectangles and place on the cookie sheet inverted, about 1 1/2 inches apart. (This is my easy way of cutting biscuits. I hate rerolling dough.)

8. Brush the tops with the melted butter and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the biscuits from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes before loosening with a thin metal spatula. Serve the biscuits warm. If baking ahead, warm the biscuits for a few minutes in a 300F oven.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Spicy Indian Chickpeas/Chana Masala

As I've mentioned before, I'm not the biggest fan of beans, though I try to eat them at least somewhat regularly. Indian cooking has really helped with that as there are so many yummy spices and things added to them to make them so very delicious, like in this dish. What's also helped with my bean eating are the dishes that Lisa (of Lisa's Kitchen) makes! This is one that she suggested I try when I was looking to cook more Indian food, and I've defnitely fallen in love with it. It's intensely flavoured, for the most part uses pantry staples (assuming mustard seeds, cumin seeds and cardamom pods are pantry staples for you of course ;) ), and most importantly makes me look forward to eating beans. It definitely falls into the category of dishes to make again and again. I've also recently purchased a few Indian cookbooks (660 Curries, Indian in 6, and 5 Spices, 50 Dishes) so expect more Indian recipes from me!

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Chickpea Cutlets with Mustard Sauce
Middle Eastern Chickpea Soup
Curried Sweet Potato Soup
Artichoke Rotini Pasta

Spicy Indian Chickpeas/Chana Masala
Adapted from Lisa's Kitchen

My adaptations were to make it less spicy, use less lemon, and not add the cinnamon stick.

1 1/4 cups of dried chickpeas
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp butter
1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds
2 teaspoons of cumin seeds
5 green or black cardamom pods
2 bay leaves

1 medium sized onion, finely chopped
1/2 - 1 tablespoon of ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne
1 teaspoon of turmeric

2 finely chopped hot red and green chilies
1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 - 2 inch piece of ginger, grated or finely chopped

2 medium-large tomatoes, finely diced
juice from half of one small lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon of garam masala

Soak the chickpeas overnight in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 - 2 hours or until the chickpeas are buttersoft. Drain well and set aside.

Heat the butter and oil in a large pot. When hot, add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, and bay leaves. Stir and fry until the mustard seeds begin to pop and the cumin seeds begin to brown.

Throw in the onions, and stir and fry until they begin to brown. Add the ground coriander, ground cumin, cayenne and turmeric to the pan and stir until the onions are well coated with the spices - about 1 minute. Then, add the fresh chilies, garlic and ginger. Stir and fry for a few minutes.

Next, add the tomatoes, half of the lemon juice and cook to thicken, about 10 minutes. Put the chickpeas into the tomato mixture, add the salt, some black pepper, half of the parsley, the remaining lemon juice and the garam masala. Cook for about 10 minutes to blend the flavours, adding a bit of water if necessary. The chickpeas should be fairly dry.

Remove the bay leaves if you are using whole ones, and the cinnamon stick. Stir in the remaining parsley and serve hot.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Brown Sugar-Apple Cheesecake

Not surprisingly, this cheesecake was extremely delicious. But I have yet to meet a cheesecake I didn't like! Well there was the Godiva chocolate cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory but I think I still ate that. (Which made me think I didn't like chocolate cheesecake but then I made this rich chocolate cheesecake that convinced me otherwise.) Anyway, this cheesecake is really creamy and luscious. It's like apple pie in cheesecake form, and since I'm not a big fruit pie person I would definitely go for this over apple pie any day! I will definitely be making it again.

The recipe suggests you cut the apples into eighths but I found the slices too fat (they weren't able to soften enough) so I'd just suggest slicing the apples a bit thinner. And to make it look prettier, I'd put additional apple slices on top of the cheesecake next time like Confections of a Foodie Bride. Also, make sure not to over bake the crust. I always want to bake it for longer than it says but this time it resulted in a super hard crust which I couldn't cut through very easily. I took this cake to serve at Easter dinner with my boyfriend's family (an indication of how far behind I am in posting food I've made!) and the slices ended up a mess because I couldn't get the crust to go with it. Once I got it home I was able to figure things out and chop through the hard crust though.

Abby loves sleeping behind the computer monitor. And yes we have our monitor propped up on the yellow pages!

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Cinnamon-Apple Scones
Lemon Cheesecake
Apple Pie with Brown Sugar Streusel Topping
Applesauce Spice Bars

Brown Sugar-Apple Cheesecake
Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours

For the Crust:
30 gingersnaps
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted

For the Apples:
1/2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter
3 large apples, peeled, cored and cut into eighths
2 tbsp (packed) light brown sugar

For the Filling:
3 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
6 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp apple juice
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup heavy cream

To Make the Crust:
Butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan. (I think I used a 9 inch springform pan.)

Put the gingersnaps in a food processor and whir until you have crumbs; you should have a scant 2 cups. (If you are using graham cracker crumbs, just put them in the food processor.) Pulse in the sugar and cinnamon, if you're using it, then pour over the melted butter and pulse until the crumbs are moistened. Turn the crumbs into the springform pan and, using your fingertips, firmly press them evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan as far as they'll go. Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350F.

Remove the pan from the freezer and wrap the bottom tightly in aluminum foil, going up the sides. Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until the crust is set and lightly browned. Transfer to a rack to cool while you make the apples and the filling. Leave the oven at 350F.

To Make the Apples:
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When the foam subsides, toss in half of the apple slices and cook, turning once, until they are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle the apples with 1 tablespoon of the sugar and cook them, turning, just until coated, another minute or so. Scrape the apples onto a plate, wipe out the skillet and repeat with the remaining apples. Let the apples cool while you make the filling.

Getting Ready to Bake:
Have a roasting pan large enough to hold the springform pan at hand. Boil a kettle of water.

To Make the Filling:
Working with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium speed, scraping down the bowl often, for about 4 minutes, or until it is velvety smooth. Add the sugars and beat for another 2 minutes. Beat in the cider, vanilla, and cinnamon. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the eggs one by one, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in. Finally, beat in the sour cream and heavy cream, beating just until the batter is smooth.

Pour about one third of the batter into the baked crust. Drain the apples by lifting them off the plate with a slotted spoon or spatula, and spoon them into the pan. Cover with the remaining batter and, if needed, jiggle the pan to even the top. Place the springform pan in the roasting pan and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.

Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 minutes to 2 hours (I baked mine for 2 hours), covering the cake loosely with a foil tent at the 45-minute mark. The cake will rise evenly and crack around the edges, and it should be fully set except it will jiggle slightly in the center. Gently transfer the cake to a cooling rack, remove the aluminum foil and let it cool to room temperature, then refrigerate it for at least 6 hours; overnight is better.

Run a blunt knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the crust, open the pan's latch and release and remove the sides.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Maple Mustard Glazed Potatoes and String Beans

I think I've mentioned before about how I rarely cook potatoes because I find them to be void of much nutritional value and they just fill you up. I'd rather eat sweet potatoes or whole wheat pasta or something else. But my boyfriend loves loves potatoes so sometimes I have to be nice right? Well these potatoes turned out to be extremely delicious and perfect and we've already made them twice (which is saying a lot to have made them twice before I even post about them given how I usually like to try new recipes). My boyfriend said the potatoes were like the ones you get at Korean restaurants (though I've never been so don't know). I just know that the maple-garlic-Dijon dressing is super tasty. The second time we made them the potatoes weren't cooked enough because we cut them too big, so make sure that they're 1 inch pieces. Oh and this is super easy to make.

Edit: Okay so it was my belief that potatoes aren't that healthy for various reasons, but as Daily Spud pointed out, they do have some good attributes so I thought I'd just point those out. This information is for a baked (not boiled) with skin potato found on this Nutrition Facts website. Of your daily requirements, a baked potato gives you 48% of your Vitamin C, 46% of your potassium, 21% of your folate, 18% of your iron.. and the list goes on. Check it out. Plus potatoes apparently have more fibre than pasta (mind you I think they're comparing this to white pasta). Thanks Daily Spud for spurring me to look into this further!

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Pasta with Pesto, New Potatoes and Green Beans
Warm Vegetable Salad with Sesame-Maple Dressing
French Barley Salad
Santa Fe Pasta Salad

Maple Mustard Glazed Potatoes and String Beans
Adapted from Vegan with a Vengeance

2 pounds small Yukon gold potatoes, halved (about 1 inch pieces)
1/2 pound string beans, halved, ends cut off and discarded
1 yellow onion, thickly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 400F.

Place the vegetables in a 9x13 inch casserole dish. In a mixing bowl, stir together all the other ingredients until the mustard is dissolved. Pour over the vegetables and mix until everything is coated. Cover with foil and place in oven. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and toss everything; use a spoon to drip the sauce over the veggies. Turn oven down to 350F, and cook for 25 minutes uncovered. Remove from oven, toss again, cook for 25 more minutes uncovered.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Black-Bottom Cupcakes

I'm sure this recipe is familiar to many of you, and comes from one of my favourite food bloggers (and one of the first food blogs I ever read) - David Lebovitz. Seriously you must go check out his blog if you haven't. He's really awesome and hilarious. As for these cupcakes, they are very rich and moist. Chocolatey and cream cheese-y. What else is there to say? These would be great if you want to make cupcakes and have to carry them somewhere, as they don't require icing that could stick to things and get messed up. Oh and I'm still in search of a good cream cheese brownie recipe, so if you have one let me know. =)

If this sounds good, you might like:
Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Rich Chocolate Cheesecake
Cheesecake Pops
Chocolate Mousse Layer Cake

Black-Bottom Cupcakes
Adapted from The Great Book of Chocolate

I halved the recipe and used 116 g flour, 95 g brown sugar, and 35 g granulated sugar.

Yield: 12 full-size or approximately 30 mini cupcakes

For the filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

For the cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 tablespoons cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the filling:
Beat together the cream cheese, granulated sugar, and egg until smooth. Stir in the chopped chocolate pieces. Set aside.

Make the cupcakes:
1. Adjust the rack to the center of the oven and preheat to 350F. Prepare a 12-cup muffin tin by buttering or using muffin liners.

2. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together the water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla.

3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients, stirring until just smooth.

4. Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Spoon a few tablespoons of the filling into the center of each cupcake, dividing the filling evenly. This will fill the cups almost completely, which is fine. I would recommend creating a little well and putting the filling into it, otherwise the cream cheese sits on top as it did with mine. However you might like it sitting on top.

5. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the tops are slightly golden brown and the cupcakes feel springy when gently pressed. Cool on a rack, then store in the refrigerator.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Coconut Crème Brûlée

First off I want to mention Caitlin's Operation Beautiful. It's about "ending fat talk one anonymous post-it at a time" by "leaving positive messages on the mirrors of public restrooms" like "you are beautiful". How awesome is that? Check out her post to see all of the wonderful notes people have left, and some of their experiences. I want to go leave some notes around too now. I love the positive impact the blog world can have!! Okay now onto the food.

Usually I post about things in the approximate order I've made them, unless there's some particular reason to post about it sooner (like taking advantage of strawberry season, a blog event, or in this case a request from a friend). I made this coconut crème brûlée for a potluck we hosted a couple of weekends ago. Originally I wanted to make this rootbeer float cake but due to the hot weather, thought a cold dessert might be better.

This crème brûlée was rich and creamy (well okay what crème brûlé isn't?) with a hint of coconut. I'd like to try making crème brûlée (I'm getting tired of copy/pasting that!) with all coconut milk (and no cream) for even more coconut flavour next time! I can never get enough coconut. And I've been dying to make earl grey crème brûlée, but I know not everyone loves the flavour of earl grey so I haven't made that one yet. Maybe white chocolate earl grey crème brûlée, mmmm. I know some people think crème brûlée is difficult to make but it's really not. In fact it's one of the easiest desserts to make I think, provided you have some whisking skills!

And now for a photo of Abby, reaching up to get one of her new toys. I love how her little back feet look - it reminds me of puss 'n boots for some reason.

If this sounds good, you might like:
Creamy Coconut Cake
Coconut Cream Pie
Coconut Madeleines
Coconut Shortbread

Coconut Crème Brûlée
Adapted from Caprial's Desserts

I think my ramekin cups are 6 ounces so I got about 10 ramekins out of this recipe. I also found the suggested 1 tbsp of sugar on top too much so scaled it back to 1/2 tbsp.

2 1/4 cups heavy cream
400 mL can (1 3/4 cup) coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla
8 egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 to 1 cup superfine sugar

Preheat the oven to 300F.

Place the cream, coconut milk and vanilla in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and bring just to a boil. Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks, granulated sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Slowly whisk 1 to 1/2 cups of the hot cream into the egg yolk mixture to temper it, or bring it up to the same temperature. Whisk in the remaining cream,a nd then strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Skim any foam from the surface.

Divide the custard among six 8 ounce ramekins. Set the ramekins in a shallow roasting pan, and fill the pan with enough hot water to reach about haflway up the sides of the remakins. Carefully set the pan in the oven and bake just until set, about 1 hour. To tell if the custards are set, gently shake one; if it moves as one mass, it is done. Remove the ramekins from the water bath. let cool until tepid, the refrigerate until well chilled, about 4 hours (overnight is even better if you have time).

To serve, sprinkle each custard with 1/2 tbsp of superfine sugar. Using a propane torch (or th ebroiler), caramelized the sugar. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Fried Rice with Scallions, Edamame and Tofu

I've seen people participating in Taste & Create and been intrigued, but this is my first time participating! I was really excited and eager to see who my partner would be so I could start poring over all their recipes to pick one. I was paired with Natalie of What's for Supper? and while going over her recipes found that we've made a lot of the same things - namely Dorie Greenspan (from Baking: From My Home to Yours) and Martha Stewart recipes! She's also working her way through The Food You Crave (with a blog event called Craving Ellie in my Belly), and I had just taken this book out of the library - perfect!

I settled on this recipe for fried rice because it had lots of ingredients I love (and had on hand) plus I love fried rice. Natalie made a few changes with the recipe but I decided to stick to the original. I loved the combination of the ingredients - red pepper, edamame, brown rice, corn, green onions, tofu, ginger, eggs. The fried rice was yummy but to make it again I'd do a few modifications - more ginger and garlic, more vegetables, add onion, and add the green onions at the end (as I find you can never taste them if they're too cooked). And I got to use our new wok for the first time! I can't believe I've been going this long attempting to stir fry things in a frying pan. Thanks Natalie for inspiring me to try out this cookbook - now I'm going to have to buy it!

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Sunflower Rice Bowl
Wild Rice Almond Cherry Pilaf
Soba Noodles with Zucchini Ribbons
Lemon Miso Tofu and Eggplant

Fried Rice with Scallions, Edamame and Tofu
Adapted from The Food You Crave

Make sure you have all your ingredients prepared before you start as things will go quickly! Also, it's much better to use day old rice for fried rice because fresh rice will be too sticky/wet. You can easily make this vegan by omitting the eggs and adding extra tofu.

1 tbsp plus 1 tsp canola oil
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp minced ginger
4 cups cooked brown rice
1 seeded and finely diced red bell pepper
3/4 cup frozen shelled edamame, cooked according to package directions and drained
1/2 cup fresh or frozen (thawed) corn kernels
6 ounces firm tofu, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
2 large eggs, beaten
3 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
4 green onions, thinly sliced

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, until softened and aromatic, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the rice, red pepper, edamame, corn and tofu and cook, stirring, until heated through, about 5 minutes.

Make a 3 inch well in the center of the rice mixture. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil, then add the eggs and cook until nearly fully scrambled. Stir the eggs into the rice mixture, then add the soy sauce and stir. Add green onions and stir. Serve hot.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Roast Banana-Pumpkin Breakfast Bread

I discovered this recipe for roast banana-pumpkin breakfast bread a few years ago on 101 Cookbooks, a while before I had a blog. And over the years I've thought about making it - roasted bananas, rum soaked raisins, coconut milk, pumpkin seeds. It sounded like such a unique and delicious combination of flavours but I was always missing an ingredient. The cookbook the recipe comes from also really interests me but it doesn't seem to be in print anymore - Southwestern Vegetarian. Anyone have this cookbook? I'm just curious if it's as good as it sounds. Regardless I think it's time that I try and track it down!

Well how did this magical banana bread that I'd built up in my head turn out? It was good, but not as good as I had hoped. I thought roasting the bananas would impart something special but it just tasted like regular banana bread. You can taste the rum in the raisins which was a nice touch. If you love banana bread a lot I think it's one worth trying out, just for something a little different.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Banana Crunch Muffins
Mom's Banana Apple Bread
Pumpkin Bread
Pumpkin Pecan Raisin Muffins

Roast Banana-Pumpkin Breakfast Bread
Adapted from Southwestern Vegetarian (found on 101 Cookbooks)

Makes 1 loaf

3/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dark rum
2 ripe bananas, unpeeled
2 cups cake flour (I used 250 grams.)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

Preheat the oven to 325F.

In a small pot, combine the raisins and rum. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then take off the heat and let stand for 1 hour. Strain the plumped raisins and set aside, discarding any remaining liquid.

Place the bananas on a cookie sheet. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes, or until the skins are black and they have started to seep. Remove from the oven, set aside, and let cool.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a mixing bowl. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for about 3 minutes. Turn the machine to low and add 1 egg. Mix until completely incorporated and then add the second egg. Mixing again until completely incorporated.

Meanwhile, squeeze the flesh of the bananas out of the skins and into a small mixing bowl. Add the coconut milk and vanilla and mash together. Add half of the banana mixture to the electric mixer bowl and blend thoroughly on low speed. Add half of the flour mixture and mix until combined. Add the remaining banana mixture, blend thoroughly, and add the remaining flour mixture; mix just enough to thoroughly blend the ingredients. Fold the pumpkin seeds and reserved raisins into the batter and pour it into a lightly greased 9 by 5-inch loaf pan.

Bake in the oven for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Monster Cookies

Many many years ago, my cousin introduced me to monster cookies. They were extremely addictive and I remember getting the recipe from her and trying to make them myself. They didn't taste as good though. Ten plus years later, I've attempted monster cookies again! It seems as though all the monster cookie recipes out there are basically the same, but some use flour and some don't. For the add ins, I chose M&M's and Skor/toffee bits. On the topic of M&M's, they are one of my most favourite things to have in a cookie but I don't really like them on their own - Smarties are much better. Anyway, so you can add whatever you want to these - chocolate chips, dried fruit, etc. I made two batches, one with Skor bits and one without, and while the ones with the Skor bits were really sweet because the Skor bits melted into the cookie, they were the superior batch. You take a bite and think oh it's so sweet! Thinking you don't want more. But then you have another bite, and another. I ate a lot of them and then had to give the rest away.

Abby think she owns our computer chair - well, she thinks she owns everything!

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Double Chocolate Coconut Cookies
Peanut Butter Squares with Milk Chocolate and Oats
Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters
Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Monster Cookies
Adapted from Paula Deen

Makes 3 dozen

3 eggs
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
12 ounces creamy peanut butter
1 stick butter, softened
2 cups M&M's
1 cup Skor/toffee bits
2 tsp baking soda
4 1/2 cups quick cooking oats (not instant)
1/2 cup flour

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.

In a very large mixing bowl, combine the eggs and sugars. Mix well. Add the salt, vanilla, peanut butter, and butter. Mix well. Stir in the M&M's, Skor/toffee bits, baking soda, oats, and flour. Drop by tablespoons 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Do not overbake. Let stand for about 3 minutes before transferring towire racks to cool.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Strawberry Lemon Sunflower Seed Muffins

I made these muffins a while ago when I bought a huge thing of strawberries that turned out to not be really great (which, as some of you might remember, is when I also made the chocolate strawberry loaf). I don't often add berries to muffins because I find they make them so wet, and that's exactly what happened with the first batch I attempted of these. The second batch I used less soy milk and it balanced out a lot better. The taste was delicious, and I especially loved the crunch of the sunflower seeds.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Whole Wheat Orange Spice Muffins
Chocolate Strawberry Loaf
Coconut Lemon Bundt Cake
Applesauce-Oat Bran Muffins

Strawberry Lemon Sunflower Seed Muffins
Greatly adapted from Vegan with a Vengeance

If you can't get light spelt flour, use light whole wheat flour or another kind of flour. You can use all whole wheat flour instead but the muffin will be a bit denser.

1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup light spelt flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup canola oil
1/4 cup soy milk
6 ounces low fat vanilla yogurt (use soy yogurt to make vegan)
2 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon
1 cup chopped strawberries
1/2 cup sunflower seeds

Preheat oven to 400F. Spray a twelve muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bolw, sift together the flours, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, oil, soy milk, yogurt, vanilla and lemon zest. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry; halfway through mixing fold in the strawberries and sunflower seeds.

Divide the batter among the 12 muffin cups. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Spaghetti with Spinach Cream Sauce

This is another successful recipe I've made from New Vegetarian Cuisine. Admittedly the recipe calls for low fat or reduced fat ricotta cheese but I really can't stand low fat cheese. The taste is so muted and bland and I always end up adding more so I may as well just eat the real thing and enjoy it! I modified this recipe to add in extra vegetables (zucchini and asparagus) and less pasta. Which reminds me that I should go buy some more asparagus while it's around - and corn! Mmmm. Oh and I should mention that this is not your typical heavy cream sauce - it's a lighter version made with skim milk and ricotta cheese.

When I saw Abby like this it took a second to realize where her head was.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Asparagus and Feta Pasta
Spinach Artichoke Heart Dip
Black Bean Chilaquile
Spinach Balls

Spaghetti with Spinach Cream Sauce
Adapted from New Vegetarian Cuisine

Serves 3-4.

1/2 cup ricotta cheese
2 tsp grated lemon peel
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
1 cup skim milk, divided
2 tsp oil
1/2 cup diced onions
1 box (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/2 zucchini, sliced into half moons
15 asparagus spears, cut into 1-2" pieces
1 1/2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
7 ounces whole wheat spaghetti
Salt to taste

1. In a food processor, blend the ricotta, lemon peel, nutmeg and 1 tablespoon of the milk.

2. In a 2 quart saucepan over medium heat, melt the oil. Stir in the onions; cook, stirring frequently, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until tender. Stir in the ricotta mixture, spinach, zucchini, asparagus, Parmesan and the remaining milk. Cook, stirring constantly, for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced by half.

3. Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling water, cook the spaghetti for 8 to 10 minutes, or until tender. Drain, Place in a serving bowl. Add the spinach sauce; toss to mix.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Strawberry Cream Cake

I mentioned before that I made my boyfriend two cakes for his birthday - one was chocolate mousse layer cake and the other was this strawberry cream cake. I was convinced that I'd like the chocolate mousse cake better because I don't usually like baking with fruit (waste of fruit! I like eating it fresh) and I also don't like the sourness and mush that fruit can add to baked goods. BUT, this cake was outstanding. I must make it at least once a year, maybe more. It is absolutely worth sacrificing some delicious strawberries for.

The cake that's used is like a sponge cake, that is then layered with a strawberry sugar filling in the middle and halved strawberries around the edge, then on top of that goes the most amazing whipped cream concoction in existence - and the layers continue like so. The whipped cream is mixed with cream cheese, which is really brilliant. If you haven't tried this before you must, whether it's with this cake or another or just on top of something else or just in a bowl even. And on top of that, the cake is pretty easy to make.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Raspberry and White Chocolate Pie
Creamy Coconut Cake
Lemon Cheesecake
Perfect Party Cake

Strawberry Cream Cake
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated May/June 2006 (found on Simply Recipes)

1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 cup sugar
5 large eggs (2 whole and 3 separated), room temperature
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 tbsp water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Strawberry Filling
2 pounds fresh strawberries (medium or large, about 2 quarts), washed, dried, and stemmed
4-6 tbsp sugar
Pinch table salt

Whipped Cream
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon table salt
2 cups heavy cream

Bake the cake:
1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position. Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease a round 9x2 inch cake pan or and line the bottom with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and all but 3 tbsp of the sugar in mixing bowl. Whisk in 2 whole eggs and 3 yolks (reserving whites), butter, water, and vanilla. Whisk until smooth.

2. Using a mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat remaining 3 egg whites at medium-low speed until frothy, 1 to 2 minutes. With machine running, gradually add remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, increase speed to medium-high, and beat until soft peaks form, 60 to 90 seconds. Stir one-third of whites into batter to lighten. Add the remaining whites and gently fold into batter until no white streaks remain. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then invert cake onto wire rack; peel off and discard parchment. Invert cake again; cool completely, about 2 hours.

Strawberry filling:
3. Cut in half 24 of best-looking berries and reserve. Slice or quarter remaining berries; toss with 4 to 6 tablespoons sugar (depending on sweetness of berries) in medium bowl and let sit 1 hour, stirring occasionally. The sugar will macerate the strawberries, making them soft, and generating liquid. Strain the juices from berries and reserve (you should have about 1/2 cup). Put the strawberries in a bowl and mash them; set aside.

In small pot over medium-high heat, simmer reserved juices until syrupy and reduced to about 3 tablespoons, 3 to 5 minutes. Pour reduced syrup over macerated berries, add pinch of salt, and toss to combine. Set aside until cake is cooled.

Whipped cream:
4. When cake has cooled, place cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Whisk at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Reduce speed to low and add heavy cream in slow, steady stream; when almost fully combined, increase speed to medium-high and beat until mixture holds stiff peaks, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes more, scraping bowl as needed (you should have about 4 1/2 cups).

Assemble the cake:
5. Using large serrated knife, slice cake into three even layers. Place bottom layer on cardboard round or cake plate and arrange ring of 12-20 strawberry halves, cut sides down and stem ends facing out, around perimeter of cake layer. Pour one half of puréed berry mixture (about 3/4 cup) in center, then spread to cover any exposed cake. Gently spread about one-third of whipped cream (about 1 1/2 cups) over berry layer, leaving 1/2-inch border from edge. Place middle cake layer on top and press down gently (whipped cream layer should become flush with cake edge). Repeat with 12-20 additional strawberry halves, remaining berry mixture, and half of remaining whipped cream; gently press last cake layer on top. Spread remaining whipped cream over top; decorate with remaining cut strawberries.

Serve immediately, or keep chilled. If the whipped cream warms to room temperature it will be harder to keep stable while cutting. Serves 8 to 10.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Cinnamon Apple Scones

It's hard for me to think about writing about these scones when it is so insanely hot out!! Okay not as hot as I'm sure it is in other places in the world, and not as humid - but it's hot for me! And my very furry cat. But anyway. The scones. Supremely extraordinarily awesome. These are the best scones I've ever made. And my boyfriend's favourite scones (and he doesn't like scones). They're definitely best on the first day, and of course best minutes out of the oven. Perfect soft moist insides, crumbly edges (oh how I love crumbly edges on biscuits/scones/muffins), flakey edges. Just really awesome. They are a bit of a pain to make - well not really, just more of a pain than regular scones - but definitely worth it. And I have to mention that it's important to peel the apples (I usually don't peel fruits/vegetables when recipes say to) otherwise you get strange chewy pieces.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Apricot Orange Scones
Baking Powder Biscuits
Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits
Orange Cream Cheese Muffins

Cinnamon Apple Scones
Adapted from Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins & More

Makes 12 scones

1 medium apple, peeled, cored, and diced into 1/4" pieces
2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus additional for kneading and rolling
6 tbsp sugar
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 cup plus 2 tbsp heavy cream
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk

1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 large egg beaten with 1 tsp water, for egg wash

1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.

2. Combine the cake and all purpose flours, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes, or until the mixture forms pea-size bits. Blend in the apple.

3. Whisk together the cream, egg and egg yolk. Remove the paddle attachment and replace with the dough hook. Add the egg/cream mixture to the flour mixture and blend on low speed JUST until a dough is formed.

4. Sprinkle a pastry board or other flat surface with about 2 tablespoons of flour. Empty the dough onto the board with the aid of a palm-size plastic bowl scraper or a rubber spatula. Dust the dough lightly with flour. With floured hands, knea six to eight times to form a "skin", then press it into a square about 8 inches. With the aid of a dough scraper, move the dough aside and clean the work surface.

5. Lay a pastry cloth on the surface and fit a rolling pin with a pastry sleeve. Rub an additional 2 tablespoons of flour into the pastry cloth and sleeve.

6. On a floured surface, roll/pat the dough into a 10x12 inch rectangle, with the 10 inch side parallel to the edge of the counter. Fold the dough into thirds like a business letter. To do this, lift the far side of the pastry cloth and fold the top third of the dough over onto itself. Press the dough to align the edges as best you can. Lift the lower edge of the pastry cloth and flip the bottom third of the dough over on itself. You will now have three layers of dough. Press the top gently with your hands, then roll into a 5 x 15 inch strip.

7. Cut the dough into 12 pieces either using a dough scraper, a knife, or a 2 inch biscuit cutter. I cut mine into triangles. When placing on the cookie sheet, invert each scone, spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart. Stir together the sugar and cinnamon. Brush the tops with the egg wash, then sprinkle with the sugar/cinnamon mixture.

8. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and let cool on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes before loosening with a thin, metal spatula. Serve the scones warm. If baking ahead, warm the scones in a 300F oven.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Caramel Walnut Chocolate Chunk Granola

My friend, who I frequently talk to about food and am trying to encourage to start a food blog, was telling me about this very delicious sounding caramel walnut chocolate chunk granola in a cookbook she has (The New Whole Grain Cookbook). How could I not immediately want to make it after hearing the recipe name?? She very kindly typed it out and sent it to me. I made it, and ate it and ate it and ate it. It was very addictive. Crunchy and sweet with yummy chocolate bits. The walnuts can be replaced with your favourite nut - I might try pecans next time. I usually eat my granola with yogurt or milk but this granola I just ate out of a bowl. It's a perfect snacky type granola.

If this sounds good, you might like:
Low-Fat Winter Fruit Granola
Sunny Jungle Bars
Banana Crunch Muffins
No Fail Granola

Caramel Walnut Chocolate Chunk Granola
Adapted from The New Whole Grain Cookbook

Makes about 9 cups.

4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup walnuts, broken into large pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, sliced
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 300F. In a large bowl, mix the oats, nuts, and salt. In a 2-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir together the water and sugar. Over high heat, bring to a boil, moving the pan to keep it mixed (don't stir). Cook until the syrup turns a medium amber, then take it off the heat and add the butter carefully - it will foam and bubble. Stir in the butter with a heat-safe spatula, and then stir in the vanilla. Scrape into the oat mixture and stir immediately. The caramel mixture will start to harden and clump, but it will melt while baking and disperse.

Scrape the oat mixture onto the prepared pans, and spread it out into rough chunks. Bake for 15 minutes, then stir well. The caramel will be liquefied and soaking into the oats more evenly. Bake for 15 minutes more.

Remove to cooling racks. When cool, break the granola into chunks and mix with the chocolate chunks.