Friday, April 30, 2010

Spiced Carrot Muffins

You may have noticed that I make a lot of muffins. My fiance and I pretty much take a muffin or biscuit or something of the sort to work/school everyday. And I get pretty sick of "sweet" muffins (with fruits and/or nuts). Not that the muffins I make are that sweet - since we're eating them pretty much everyday I make them healthier (whole wheat, cut down the sugar and fat, etc) but still. However, even when I was in a hating-sweet-muffins mood, I really loved these. There's something about a carrot spice muffin/cake that I don't think I'll ever get tired of. I loved these little muffins. They were nice and soft and deliciously carrot spicey! I'd highly recommend using the finer grater holes because the first time I made these I used the slightly bigger holes (the ones I use for cheese) and I didn't like how big the carrot pieces were.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Maple Pecan Muffins
Bill's Big Carrot Cake
Banana Peanut Butter Oatmeal Muffins
Whole Wheat Orange Spice Muffins

Spiced Carrot Muffins
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes 12

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons pumpkin-pie spice
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups plain yogurt (I used 2% plain yogurt)
4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 large egg
2 cups peeled, shredded carrots (about 5 medium)

1. Line 12 cups (each 2 1/2 inches wide) of a standard muffin tin with paper liners; set aside. In a large bowl, stir together whole wheat flour, sugar, pumpkin-pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together yogurt, butter, and egg. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add yogurt mixture. Stir until just combined. Fold in carrots.

3. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. (If desired, muffins can be baked immediately in a 375-degree oven for about 20 minutes.) Freeze until firm, about 30 minutes, then cover tin with plastic wrap, and freeze until ready to bake, up to 3 months.

4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake muffins (still frozen) until a toothpick inserted in center of one comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Savoury Vegetable Cheesecake

I looooove regular cheesecake and so was super intrigued by this savoury vegetable cheesecake I discovered in the wonderful The New Enchanted Broccoli Forest. The cheese used is mostly ricotta with some mozzarella and parmesan. The vegetables are zucchini, onions, carrot, parsley, garlic and tomato. Add in some salt, pepper and herbs, put it in a cheesecake pan, bake it and you have savoury vegetable cheesecake!

It was really yummy, and I love this idea for a vegetarian main (and will likely make more savoury cheesecakes in the future). But I do think it needs the tang and uncreamyness (totally made that word up) of tomato sauce to complement it because it's so rich. I ended up eating it with red sauce and pasta all mixed together - so basically like a broken down lasagna. Let me know if you have a good savoury cheesecake recipe! I'd love to try out a different version.

Abby feet!

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Asparagus and Pea Pasta with Ricotta and Tarragon
Butternut Squash Casserole
Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie
Feta and Ricotta Cheese Pie

Savoury Vegetable Cheesecake
Adapted from The New Enchanted Broccoli Forest

Serves 6 (but would serve more if you ate it with pasta as I did)

3 packed cups coarsely grated zucchini (about 3 or 4 small zucchini)
a little salt
a little oil for the pan
1 tsp olive oil
1 minced onion
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup grated carrot
2 tbsp unbleached all purpose flour
2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
5 medium cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice (could omit this)
3 cups (1 1/2 lbs) ricotta cheese
1 packed cup grated mozzarella
1/2 cup grated parmesan
3 beaten eggs
black pepper to taste
2 medium sized tomatoes, sliced into rounds, with each round sliced in half (into "Ds")

1. Place the grated zucchini in a colander over a sink. Salt lightly and let stand 15 minutes. Squeeze out all excess moisture.

2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375F. Lightly oil the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan.

3. Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a large, deep skillet or a Dutch oven. Add the onion and 1/2 tsp salt, and saute over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add zucchini, carrot, flour, and dried herbs, and cook, stirring over medium heat for about 5 more minutes. Remove from heat; stir in garlic, parsley, and lemon juice.

4. Place the cheeses and eggs in a large bowl, and beat vigorously for a minute or two. Add the vegetable mixture, and mix well. Season to taste with black pepper, and adjust salt, if necessary.

5. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Arrange the tomato "Ds" in a lovely pattern on the top.

6. Bake in the center of the oven for 50 minutes. Cool for at least 20 minutes before remove the sides of the pan. Serve at any temperature. Refrigerate leftovers.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Cheese Straws

These cheese straws are truly outstanding. They're crispy and super cheesy and so so delicious. And easy to make. There really isn't much else to say about them aside from urging you to make them asap!

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Cheddar and Black Pepper Scones
Apple Cheddar Scones
Savoury Green Onion Ricotta Muffins
Caramelized Onion, Sage and Cheddar Muffins

Cheese Straws
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen who adapted from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook

1 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick or 2 ounces) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 4 pieces
3/4 cup flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon milk

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. In a food processor, combine the cheese, butter, flour, salt and red pepper in five 5-second pulses until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the milk and process until the dough forms a ball, about 10 seconds.

3. On a lightly floured surface, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough into an 8- by 10-inch rectangle that is 1/8-inch thick. With a sharp knife (or a pizza or pastry wheel), cut the dough into thin 8-inch strips, each 1/4- to 1/3-inch wide (dipping the knife in flour after every few inches ensures a clean cut). Gently transfer the strips to an ungreased cookie sheet (I used my Silpats), leaving at least 1/4-inch between them. The dough may sag or may break occasionally in the transfer, but don’t be concerned — just do your best. The straws can be any length, from 2 to 10 inches.

4. Bake the straws on the middle rack for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the ends are barely browned. Remove from the oven and set the cookie sheet on a rack to cool.

5. Serve at room temperature. Cheese straws will keep in the refrigerator, in a sealed container, for two days. They will not last an hour at a party.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Asparagus and Pea Pasta with Ricotta and Tarragon

I had bought a big tub of ricotta from Costco and had 1 cup left so went searching for ricotta recipes and came across this simple dish. (Stay tuned for what I had originally needed 3 cups of ricotta for!) It's yummy and super easy to prepare, so makes a great weeknight meal. I used asparagus and frozen peas (I looooove frozen peas, I can eat a big bowl of them plain) but feel free to use whatever vegetable you have on hand. I liked the tarragon but if that's not your favourite herb, try a different one.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
French Pasta Salad
Asparagus and Feta Pasta
Artichoke Rotini Pasta
Pasta with Portobello Mushrooms in Mustard Wine Sauce

Asparagus and Pea Pasta with Ricotta and Tarragon
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Serves 4

12 ounces gemelli or other short pasta
1 bunch asparagus (about 3 cups), ends broken off, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 package (10 ounces) frozen peas
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons dried tarragon (not the crushed kind)
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup ricotta cheese

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 3 minutes less than al dente. Add asparagus and peas, and cook 1 minute (or until asparagus is bright green). Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water; drain pasta and vegetables, and return to pot.

Toss pasta and vegetables with butter, tarragon, pepper, salt and ricotta, adding a little reserved pasta water as needed to create a thin sauce that coats pasta; season with salt and pepper as desired.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Tres Leches Cake

This tres leches cake may not look like anything exciting but it really is. I've wanted to make a tres leches cake for years. But I must admit I was always scared of the cake being mushy because you pour a mixture of condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream over it. And when I say you pour it over the cake I mean you completely drench it. I was happy to find out the cake was actually really nice and moist, and NOT mushy - I'm thinking this works out well because the cake is kind of like angel food cake. Combined with the whipped cream on top, it was perfect. This is a really simple but unforgettable cake! Ree suggests topping the cake with maraschino cherries which I looooooove but I know not everyone feels the same so I left them off.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Maple-Walnut Cake
Lemon Lust Cake
Strawberry Cream Cake
Creamy Coconut Cake

Tres Leches Cake
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

1 cup All-purpose Flour
1 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoons Salt
5 whole Eggs, separated into yolks and whites
1 cup Sugar, Divided
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1/3 cups Milk
1 can Evaporated Milk
1 can Sweetened, Condensed Milk
1/4 cups Heavy Cream

1 pint Heavy Cream, For Whipping
3 Tablespoons Sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 9 x 13 inch pan.

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

Beat egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar on high speed until yolks are pale yellow. Stir in milk and vanilla. Pour egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir very gently until combined.

Beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. With the mixer on, pour in remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until egg whites are stiff but not dry.

Fold egg white mixture into the batter very gently until just combined. Pour into prepared pan and spread to even out the surface.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Turn cake out onto a rimmed platter and allow to cool.

Combine condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream in a small pitcher. When cake is cool, pierce the surface with a fork several times. Slowly drizzle all but about 1 cup of the milk mixture—try to get as much around the edges of the cake as you can.

Allow the cake to absorb the milk mixture for 30 minutes.

In an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk together the heavy cream and sugar until peaks form. Spread over the cake.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Roasted Red Pepper & Almond Hummus

I love sharing the food that I make on this website but as I've mentioned before, sometimes (okay more than sometimes), I get sick of taking photos of the food. Like when I made this hummus. I couldn't be bothered to put it in a separate container to showcase it better, and hey maybe it will be interesting for someone to see what my food processor looks like! By the way, I really don't like this food processor. It doesn't shred/grate very well (or I don't know what I'm doing - possible) and it has this place in the lid where food can shoot out of it (if that makes sense) and it always leaks out whatever I'm making.

Anyway! On to the hummus. Supremely delicious. I love the addition of roasted red peppers and almonds. I think this hummus takes the place of my old favourite hummus. It's really flavourful and tastes & feels really creamy. I've also tried the olive & sun dried tomato hummus from the same cookbook (Eat, Drink & Be Vegan) but wasn't a fan of that one.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Olive Tapenade
Cheddar Ale Dip
Grape Tomato Salsa
Pan-Fried Onion Dip

Roasted Red Pepper & Almond Hummus
Adapted from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

1/2 cup raw almonds (with skins on)
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups cooked chickpeas (about a 19oz can)
1/2 cup roasted red peppers (from jar), excess liquid drained or patted off
2 medium garlic cloves, sliced (less if you're not a super garlic person)
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2-4 tsp water (to thin dip as desired)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

In a food processor, add 1/2 cup almonds and pulse until very fine. Add vinegar, oil, chickpeas, roasted red peppers, garlic, salt and pepper. Puree until smooth, gradually adding water as desired to thin dip and scraping down sides of bowl several times. Once smooth, add parsley and puree briefly to lightly incorporated ingredients.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Peanut Butter Waffles

I love waffles. I've discovered they make a great snack so I freeze them and then toast them when I want some. These peanut butter waffles are excellent - not too sweet and definitely peanut butter-y. They're kind of "heavy" or dense - maybe somewhere between a waffle and a biscuit? I'm not sure how to describe it but they're really good and I will definitely make them again!

This picture is from around Christmas time. I need to take more Abby photos!

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Gingerbread Waffles
Maple Pecan Muffins
Banana Peanut Butter Oatmeal Muffins
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Scones

Peanut Butter Waffles
Adapted from Vegan Brunch

Makes 4 six-inch round waffles or 6 four-inch square ones

3/4 cup natural peanut butter
3 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp oil
2 cups soy milk
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt

Preheat your waffle iron. In a large mixing bowl, mix together peanut butter, maple syrup, and canola oil until well combined. Separately, mix together the milk and cornstarch in a measuring cup and add to the batter along with the vanilla.

Add flour, baking powder and salt and mix until the batter is relatively smooth.

Spray the waffle iron with cooking spray and cook waffles according to manufacturer's directions.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Hot Crossed Buns

I mentioned in my last post that I was planning on making hot cross buns and the lovely Johanna recommended her recipe, and it sounded good so I went with it! I love how everything is done by hand and not at all with a Kitchenaid mixer, though I know you can make any recipe really by hand but I don't know if I would've if it weren't written that way (ie. kneading by hand instead of a dough hook, mixing the butter in with my fingers). Am I making sense or just rambling on? Anyway, I was really happy with how these turned out! They were easy to make, nice and soft, and perfectly spicy - also delicious toasted! I chose to use candied dried fruit because that's what's in the ones my mom would buy, but next time I'll try chopping up some regular dried fruit. My only problem was with the crosses. I was hurrying to get them in the oven so I only ended up putting crosses on a couple of them. The flour/water mixture was so gloopy - I'll have to try again when I have more time to play around with it.

I've read about this method of forming rolls/buns into balls by stretching the skin around to the bottom. Which I found really hard to comprehend when I was reading about it and looking at photos, but I think I've got the hang of it now. I really should've taken process photos of these buns as they were rising and what not. I love how risen dough looks!

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Buttermilk Honey Bread
Christopsomos - Greek Celebration Bread
Pecan Fruit Rye Bread
Golden Cinnamon Loaf

Hot Cross Buns
Adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe

Makes 15 buns

4 1/2 tsp dried yeast
300ml milk, warmed
4 cups (600g) plain flour
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
90g butter, chopped
225g container candied fruit mix
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg

1 cup (150g) plain flour
8-10 tbsp water

1/4 cup water
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp nutmeg

Sprinkle yeast over warm milk. Stand 5 minutes til frothy.

Place flour and spices in the bowl and rub in butter until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. You could do it in the blender but it is quite a relaxing activity. Stir in fruit and sugar.

Whisk egg into milk and yeast mixture. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in the milk mixture. Mix to a soft dough. Tip onto a lightly floured board. (This is a dough that hardly needs any flour.) Knead for approximately 10 minutes until smooth and elastic (this is the moment it should feel like an ear lobe). Use the heel of your hand to knead and put some good rocking music on the stereo and enjoy the rhythm.

Lightly oil a large bowl. Turn the dough in the bowl so it is covered with oil. Cover with cling wrap. Stand in a warm place til doubled in size – this should take about 45 minutes.

Punch down the dough – this is the fun bit! Knead a few minutes til the dough is smooth. Divide into 15 pieces and form each piece into a ball. Arrange close together on a tray and cover with a damp tea towel. Stand in a warm place til doubled in size – this should take about 40 minutes.

About 10-15 minutes before the buns have risen, prepare a baking tray (I used my swiss roll tray), preheat the oven (425F) and prepare the cross mixture. To make the cross mixture, mix the flour and water in a small bowl until it forms a paste. There is nothing worse than not having enough so this makes extra so you can refill if needed. Any piping equipment will do but it is quite a thick mixture so a really thin nozzle isn't recommended. Don’t worry - this mixture is tasteless. Once the glaze goes on at the end it tastes great.

Once the crosses are piped, put buns in the oven at 425F for 10 minutes. Then reduce to 400F and bake a further 7-10 minutes or until buns are browned and hollow when tapped.

About 10 minutes before the buns are cooked, prepare the glaze. To make the glaze, place sugar and water in a small saucepan. Stir to combine and bring to the boil. Simmer for 1-2 minutes without stirring. Add spices.

When the buns come out of the oven turn out onto a wire rack. Brush glaze on to buns a few times to ensure they have a thick coating. You will have more glaze than you need so be quite generous with the glaze.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Autumn Panzanella

I know it's not autumn but once you try this salad you won't care that it's not season appropriate! (Well who does care when the food is good?) I'd never had panzanella (bread salad) before trying this recipe. The idea of always sounded kind of strange to me, plus I hate soggy bread so I didn't like the idea of putting dressing on a bread. But! How things changed once I tried this recipe. It's now one of my favourite meals! I'm so in love with the dressing - it tastes like stuffing with thyme, herbes de provence, sage and garlic. I love the acidity of the lemon juice and cider vinegar. I love the bits of roasted sweet potatoes and onions, chopped tomatoes and chickpeas. The original recipe calls for Parmesan cheese which I tried the first time but I think it's just as good without so I don't usually add it.

Happy early Easter! At the request of my mom, I'm going to attempt making hot cross buns for the first time. If you have a good recipe, please share!

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Broccoli Slaw
French Pasta Salad
Mediterranean Pepper Salad
Portabello Salad with Mustard Dressing

Autumn Panzanella
Adapted from Phoo-D

Serves 4 as a main course or 8-10 as a side salad

Be sure to allow the finished dish to sit for an hour before serving. This is necessary for the flavors to fully develop, otherwise the bread will not have time to absorb the dressing and may taste rather bland.

10 cups cubed whole wheat bread (cut into 1" pieces) (Ashley note: I use whole wheat baguettes usually but use what you like.)
1 cup diced sweet potato (about 1 medium)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large red onion, cut into 1/2" wedges
2 cups diced fresh tomato (or a 14oz high quality can, drained)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
1 1/2 cups chickpeas, cooked

1/4 cup olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon herbes de provence

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees, with a rack in the middle. Line a large rimmed baking pan with foil, and evenly spread the bread, sweet potato, and onion across the sheet. Drizzle 1/4 cup of olive oil over the baking pan, and then toss all ingredients so they are evenly coated with oil. Place the pan in the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring the contents occasionally, until they are evenly toasted and the vegetables are soft.

Meanwhile, assemble the dressing. Place olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, sage, thyme, vinegar, salt, pepper, and herbes de provence in a blender. Blend in quick five second bursts, until the garlic is emulsified and the ingredients are well combined.

Once the bread and vegetables are toasted, place them in a large bowl along with the diced tomatoes, grated Parmesan (optional), chickpeas, and dressing. Gently toss all ingredients until they are well combined and the bread is evenly coated with dressing.

Cover the salad, and let it sit at room temperature for an hour, which will give the bread time to absorb the flavors of the salad. Once the flavors have melded together nicely, taste the salad to see if it needs any additional salt, pepper, or apple cider vinegar. Adjust seasonings to your taste, and serve.