Friday, 8 March 2013

Fresh Whipped Cream

Fresh whipping cream is a simple easy way to add something extra to a dessert.  Plus I prefer real cream to something mysterious in a can. . .  I usually just use my stand mixer, pour in the whipped cream and extras, and turn it on and walk away for a bit. But the exact same result can be achieved with a hand mixer or by hand. If you are trying this by hand you will likely need a whipping buddy because your arm will get tired before you have whipped cream. Oh and Whipping cream is basically just any really heavy cream, for a good texture you want a milk product that has a fat percent somewhere around 35% or so.

Making Fresh Whipped Cream

Basically for every 2 cups(I always buy a 500ml carton) of whipping cream I add:
1-2+ tablespoon of sugar (I wont tell if you add a bit more)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Then it is really just a matter of whipping it until stiff peaks begin to form and stand. Fresh whipped cream is best when whipped right before dessert is served, but it can be done a short while ahead of time as long as it is kept in the fridge and you take in to consideration that it might need to be whipped up a bit at serving time. Also, this is FRESH whipping cream, you really do want to try and buy the freshest carton possible, and buy it either the day you plan to serve the dessert or the day before at most.

Tea Biscuits

Biscuits

Ingredients:

3 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup room temperature butter
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup milk

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 450 °F

In a large bowl or your stand mixer(whisk attachment) measure out the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, butter, and shortening and mix together until it looks like fine grains of sand and appears evenly mixed.

Stop the stand mixer or whatever mixing method you are using once this consistancy is reached. I left it all unattended in the stand mixer once like a fool and things go very wrong. It will all clump back together and the biscuits simply will not be as good a texture.

Remove bowl from the stand mixer and create a small well in the center of the bowl, pour all the milk in at once and using your hands mix until flour and milk are just combined. You'll likely get this wrong the first time and have tough biscuits. That is ok, getting the technique down for mixing the dough is where I always went wrong too. As I also mentioned over mixing leads to tough biscuits so be careful of that since you still need to roll the dough out. Once again, really seriously just mixed is what we want.

On a floured surface gently turn and roll the dough out to be about 1 inch thick and use a biscuit cutter (or a clean empty can cut in half works well) to cut out the biscuits. Place biscuits onto an un-greased baking sheet and bake for about 10-14 minutes or till just golden.

Check after 10 minutes regardless on the bottom of a biscuit near the center, if it is getting too dark adjust and finish baking the biscuits on a higher rack. Cool on baking racks. Or eat them fresh from the oven, but wait about 5 minutes at least or else risk a nasty burn on the roof of your mouth.

Before adding milk you can also add 1 cup or raisins or blueberries or something to make a more fancy biscuit. Or 1 cup shredded cheese for a cheese biscuit.

Enjoy!

Notes:

Ps. February 2014, Like most people my age I have a strange addiction to trolling around on Buzzfeed mostly around the DIY and Food sections. Lately there has been a lot of Copy Cat Recipes for Red Lobster floating around. Now personally I've never eaten there since I have only lived on the east coast of Canada and I am pretty sure it just doesn't exist here. Anyways the Cheddar Bay Biscuits looked too yummy to refuse. So I followed their recipe to the letter and they sucked. Not the right texture, and a little bland. Plus the recipe called for bisquick mix and this Miss does not cook like that.

So if I were in the mood to re-make Cheddar Bay Biscuits I would use my own biscuit recipe, swap the milk for butter milk, and fold the cheese into the dough right before adding the milk to combine. I would use about 1 cup of sharp strong flavored cheddar with this recipe. Then melt 1/4 cup butter, add 1 teaspoon each fresh shredded basil, parsley and oregano, and about 1-2 teaspoons garlic powder, mix together and brush over tops of biscuits. Bake according to recipe directions.

Notes:

I have this tagged as an easy recipe, and it is. However I must disclose that for the longest time I could not make a decent biscuit to save my soul if the devil was demanding it of me.  I'm still not sure how I managed to stuff up this recipe so often when I was younger but I have a recipe that hasn't failed me yet and it is pretty easy to pull off.  I started using my stand mixer to make biscuits, but you can get the same results with a power hand mixer, or if you own a pastry cutter.  My mother has magic biscuit fairies or something and can make perfect biscuits every time with only a fork and bowl, no measuring or anything. I have no clue how she pulls it off but it is truly magic.  I don't think I'll ever have the same gift but I do at least have this recipe to get me through my biscuit fixes.  Oh and a final word of advice, this is another recipe that instructions should be followed fairly carefully. Listen to my words children. . .

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

2 1/4 + cup flour- remember I said the amount could be much more
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup soft butter (this means room temperature, not melted!)
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cup chocolate chips (I am very generous with this amount when I make them)

*sometimes I add a little bit less white sugar and make it up some with honey and cinnamon, yummy*

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°F

In a medium bowl cream together the butter, white sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, and eggs, set aside.

In a large bowl whisk together the 2 cups of the flour, the baking soda, and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar-egg mix stirring thoroughly with each new addition of flour. Stir in the last 1/4 cup of flour and the chocolate chips.

The dough should be pretty stiff now and not too sticky when you handle it. If it is still not malleable, stir in more flour. This can get difficult so you might need a set of strong hands and arms to help or at least offer some relief. I have added closer to 4 cups of flour on occasions with this recipe, maybe I didn't measure my butter or something carefully but whatever the cookies always turn out. Once you are happy with the consistency of your dough, either spoon and drop it on to your un-greased cookie sheet, or roll it into balls that are about one inch in diameter and place either the spooned or rolled cookies about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.

Bake for 8-12 minutes, and allow cookies to sit on the hot pan out of the oven for an additional two minutes before moving the cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely. As I said above I do recommend putting the dough into the fridge in between baking rounds, if like myself you do not have a massive oven, because this recipe makes a good pile of cookies at the end.

Enjoy!

Notes:

So this recipe is pretty much my baby. When I meet new people I tend to try and make them like me with food. Chocolate chip cookies have always worked well for this purpose and I'm pretty sure they are half the reason I landed my most wonderful fiance.  There really isn't much of a trick to making good chocolate chip cookies, but it does require just a little bit of finesse.  This is a basic recipe and depending on the weather or time of year the amount of flour could vary, by a lot.  At the end you want a cookie dough that is very firm, and not too sticky. I usually have my dough stiff enough that I can roll it into a a ball in my hands, and then bake it. I find rolling the dough into a ball before baking it helps create a nicely shaped cookie that isn't too thin and crunchy because I like a nice chewy, still warm chocolate chip cookie. If you are more into a crunchy cookie then a less stiff dough and simply spooning the dough onto the cookie sheet will probably work better for you.

One final tip, putting the un-baked cookie dough in the fridge between baking rounds will help keep the texture that we want, or if you run out of baking time un-baked dough can be kept in the fridge in an air tight container for up to 2 days. I hope this recipe brings you as much success and cookie-related happiness as it did me.

Muffin Mania!

Muffins are great. Great for a snack, for breakfast, for dessert anytime can be muffin time.  I might be a little extra partial to muffins since they were the first thing I ever got to bake for real in the big oven by myself. That very first batch of muffins was with this very same recipe, I made the chocolate chip variation and they were perfect. I still make these on occasion since it gives me an excuse to drag out the very first cook book I ever bought, it was a community fundraising collection of recipes put out by my best friend's elementary school, this was her addition to it so it always brings me to a happy place. Happy memories and happy people make the best baking companions.

Basic Muffin Batter

Ingredients:

2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 cup canola oil
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°F

In a small bowl mix flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.  In a large bowl cream the eggs, sugar, vanilla and oil together until smooth. Using a wooden spoon mix, the flour mixture into the large bowl and stir well to combine. To make just plain muffins spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pan now, or see below for some variations. Bake muffins for 15-18 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Chocolate Chip Muffins- Add 1-1 1/2 cup chocolate chips to batter and fold in before baking

Cranberry Muffins- Add 1 cup Craisin's or frozen cranberries and 1 tablespoon lemon juice, fold in before baking, maybe some orange rind too if you are into that.

Blueberry- Fold in 1-1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Jam filled- Either prepare a berry sauce of your own, or use your favorite jam and use a piping bag to gently fill baked muffins with jam or sauce. All you need to do is poke the tip of the bag into the muffin top (That IS what she said) and slowly pipe the jam into the middle. Slow is key or else you will end up with a jam explosion.

Enjoy!

Chocolate Cake

I remember sometime around when I was about eight coming to a startling conclusion. . . . Cakes did not always come from a store or from a box, there had to be a way to make a cake "way back in the day".  While this might not seem like a genius conclusion, it was eye opening for me and likely the start of me trying to work backwards and learn to make things for myself instead of having someone or something else do for me.  So here we have an easy and pretty much no-fail chocolate cake recipe. Seriously no one can ever go to far wrong with chocolate cake.

Tips and Tricks:
A cake with frosting lasts longer and will stay more moist. If your not into frosting a cake then I suggest you make short work of eating it.

Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:

1 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup chocolate chips

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°F, lightly grease a bunt pan, dust with cocoa powder or flour. Knock excess out.

In a small bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

In a large bowl cream together the oil, vanilla, almond extract, sour cream, and brown sugar mix in the eggs.

Add the flour mix to the large bowl and mix to combine. Fold in chocolate chips.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 40-45 minutes till a cake tester comes out clean.

Allow to cool in pan for about 10 minutes before inverting on to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Enjoy!

Banana Bread

Well since I have something as fancy as Avocado loaf on here I might as well also include my homey little recipe for Banana Bread.  Now I like to make my banana bread with a little something extra baked inside of it, chocolate chips are an easy go to but I'll be putting my banana bread with strudel recipe here.  It looks like a normal loaf from the outside but once it is cut open there are light swirls of cinnamon and sugar baked right in, it is awesome with some butter and served warm.

Banana Bread

Ingredients:

2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs
4 soft and mashed bananas
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon all spice

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°F and prepare your loaf pan

In a small bowl whisk the 1/2 cup of brown sugar, with the 1/2 teaspoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg and all spice, set aside, this is your strudel mix.

In a medium bowl whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg together, set aside.

In a large bowl beat the oil with the brown sugar and eggs. Stir in the mashed bananas  till reasonably smooth.

Pour the flour mixture into the banana mixture and stir with a wooden spoon till combined.   Pour about 1/3 of the banana bread batter into your loaf pan, next sprinkle 1/3 of the strudel mix on top of the batter. Pour in another 1/3 of the batter and top with 1/3 of the strudel, and repeat with the final third.  Bake the load for about 45-55 minutes.

Serve warm with butter for best results.

Enjoy!

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Or apple spice muffins, all you need to do is swap out the pumpkin puree for some apple sauce! Or I have noticed at my local grocery store mixed fruit sauces, like blueberry apple, that would also work well in this recipe. These muffins could also be good for a quick bite in the morning if you don't have time for something better, or with a little bit of cream cheese frosting they could make an excellent dessert.

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup pumpkin puree (or whatever fruit you are using today)
1/3 cup canola oil
2 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon each of nutmeg, cinnamon, all spice

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 °F and prepare a muffin pan

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and all spice, set aide.

In a medium bowl beat the eggs along with the canola oil, brown sugar and pumpkin puree till it is pretty smooth.

Add puree mixture to the flour mixture and combine with a wooden spoon.

Spoon batter into prepare muffin cups and bake for about 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. I suggest checking between 15-20 minutes though because some ovens run hot.

Enjoy!

Porcupine Cookies

Also known as a macaroon to some people, these little bites are delightful. These have probably been one of my favorite cookie recipes since I was a little girl. They are also probably one of the first things I ever made on my own as a kid.

Tips and Tricks:
I have found that sometimes the chocolate sets a little too quickly for me to measure out the coconut and oatmeal when it is time to add them, so I usually just get a bowl out and measure the rolled oats and coconut into the bowl before I get started.

Also the time the chocolate mix needs to boil is very important. If you don't boil it long enough the chocolate wont set right and it will be gross. Let me promise you as I was learning to cook, waiting the right amount of time was always an issue for me and this is a recipe that is not kind to people who rush it. Let the chocolate mix boil for 6 solid minutes before you add anything else to it. Also rolled oats or quick oats are necessary or else the oat will be too chewy in the cookie.

Porcupine Cookies


Couldn't get enough of these cookies as a kid!


Ingredients:

2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup coconut

Instructions:

In a large sauce pan over medium heat combine the sugar, butter, milk and cocoa powder, stirring constantly.

Wait for the mixture to come to a full boil then start a timer for 6 (SIX) whole minutes. This is a critical step, seriously just let it boil for six minutes, while keeping an eye on it because it might start to bubble pretty high in the sauce pan, if it does just give it a stir to tame it.

After six minutes, add the vanilla and stir it in. This will cause it to bubble rapidly for a second so do be careful.

Next using a sturdy wooden spoon, poor in the coconut and the rolled oats and mix thoroughly with the chocolate mix.  Still moving quickly, drop by heaping tablespoons onto a baking sheet lined with wax or parchment paper.  Once all the mix has been spooned onto the sheet, put them in the fridge for about 2 hours or until they are set. Once the cookies are set they can be stored at room temp, and are delicious.

Enjoy!

Notes:

PS: June 2013, Oh goodness,  I just made these but instead of 1 teaspoon of vanilla I used one teaspoon of vanilla and one of almond extract and my dear it was quite good. Gives it more of a real milk chocolate taste I think.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Dutch Baby

For most things I make, and really most recipes I put here, instructions are more like guides; However this one really needs some attention to a few details or else it will all go wrong. So listen to my words children. . .

Dutch Baby

. . .  Because that is what it is really called, and the Dutch get so little food credit in my neck of the woods

Ingredients:

1/3 Cup white sugar
3 Large eggs at room temperature (left out of fridge for about 30 minutes, but no more than 1 hour)
2/3 Cup milk, also at room temperature, same rules. NOT skim milk, it must have some fat
2/3 Cup flour
1/4 Teaspoon vanilla
1/4 Teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch salt
About 3 tablespoons butter

Special Tools:

Cast Iron Skillet or Dutch oven without a lid. Must be heavy cast iron cook ware!

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 450 °F with the skillet inside the oven, to heat both.

Beat eggs in stand mixer with whisk attachment or with electric hand beaters until they are pale and frothy. At least 5 minutes. Add milk, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt beating mixture till smooth. Continue to beat for about 2 minutes, batter will be very thin and light set aside.

Once oven and skillet are at temperature, remove skillet from oven and add butter to pan and use a brush to coat the bottom of skillet and all the sides evenly. Return skillet to oven for additional 10 minutes. Just before removing skillet from oven, beat batter again for about 1 minute.  Quickly but carefully remove skillet from oven and pour in batter and return to oven immediately. Bake till puffed and golden brown which takes between 18 and 25 minutes. Serve fresh from the oven for best results.

Topping Options:

-Berry sauce, any berry!
-Maple syrup
-Icing sugar
- Half and Half mixture of citrus zest and white sugar (lemon works well)
-Jam
-Jelly
-Nutella
-Whipped Cream

Enjoy!

Notes:

No I didn't name this one and I don't remember where it came from but I do know this is delicious! It is kind of like a pancake but better somehow. It's hard to explain till you've tried it, but once you do try it I promise it'll become a breakfast and brunch favorite. Especially since there are a lot of ways to finish the dish, I'll leave some of my suggestions and variations I've tried on the bottom of the recipe.

Tips and Tricks:
You MUST have a cast iron skillet or cast iron pot or wok or something made from heavy stoneware for this recipe to work properly. I've done it in a cast iron casserole dish with success but a skillet is best. If you use a casserole dish some of the wow factor from this will be lost because instead of the batter puffing up like a balloon it will simply crawl up the sides of the casserole dish.  Either way it will be yummy.

Using cast iron cookware tips: I'm going to assume that you already know the basics if you own such a nice piece of cooking equipment but here are some basic tips to help you keep your nice cookware, nice.  Cast iron needs to be seasoned well in order for this recipe, and most recipes in fact to work.  Seasoning is the process of oiling the hot skillet.  The basic rule is to never add oil to a cold skillet, so allow your skillet to preheat, then season it by pouring a small amount of oil into it, and spreading it with a silicone cooking brush to coat the entire bottom, and all sides of the pan. Allow the pan to come back up to temperature and re-brush the inside of the pan to ensure it is well seasoned. This process basically makes the cast iron act almost like a non-stick pan, which is what we want so our Dutch Baby will pop right out! (Terrible joke, I already know it).

Tonkatsu Chicken (Breaded Japanese Chicken with sauce)

Tonkatsu Chicken

You can also use pork, just be sure it is boneless and flattened.

Ingredients:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or boneless pork) pounded flat and thin
1 cup (or more) panko crumbs
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon garlic
vegetable oil for frying

Sauce:

1/2 cup ketchup
1 1/2 - 2 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/4 cup mirin (use about 3 tablespoons of white sugar dissolved in about 2 tb+ water if you don't have mirin)
1 teaspoon Cider or white vinegar (if you used sugar instead of mirin use an extra 1/2 teaspoon vinegar)

Sesame seeds, for garnish

Instructions:

Combine all sauce ingredients in a small sauce pan and simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally and skimming the foam that forms from the top.

Preheat a non-stick skillet to medium heat, or pre-heat a deep fryer to the manufacturer's recommended temperature for cooking chicken.

In a flat marinating dish whisk the egg with the garlic powder and add the flattened prepared chicken, coating on all sides, allow to marinate for about 10 minutes in a fridge.  Spread the panko crumbs out on a plate or platter large enough for one of the chicken breasts to fit on. Using the tongs or a fork remove one piece of chicken from the egg, allow excess to drip off and lay chicken in the panko crumb, turning to coat on all sides.  Lay the breaded chicken breast on a piece of parchment paper, and repeat process on remaining pieces of chicken. Deep fry for about 6 minutes, or pan fry in vegetable oil for about 3-4 minutes per side. If unsure about how long to cook a particular piece of chicken I suggest getting a meat thermometer, they are exceptionally useful for preventing food poisoning. To serve, remove chicken from oil and lay on a cutting surface and cut into finger width strips, serve hot with tonkatsu sauce garnished with sesame seeds on the sauce and chicken.

Enjoy!

Notes:

Tonkatsu was my first adventure into Asian food, aside from a "Chinese-Canadian" style restaurant.  People who truly enjoy Asian foods will laugh at me since it is basically just breaded and fried chicken with a sauce, and is Japanese not Chinese. I know these things, but I will be the first to admit that I am not very well versed in Asian food. At all. But I do at least know what I like!

A key feature of this recipe is the chicken (or pork), in order for it to have the right texture the chicken must be pounded flat and thin. If you have a fully stocked kitchen you might have a mallet that will do this job excellently. If not I recommend  wrapping an empty wine bottle up in some plastic wrap and using that, or a rolling pin, I have a lovely marble rolling pin that has some excellent heft to it, which is good when you want to pound something to be about 1/2 inch thick.  Or really I have seen my mother just put the chicken in a plastic ziplock and pound it with the bottom of her fist. As long as the chicken (or pork) gets thin and flat, it'll all work out.  The other key feature to get this dish to work out right is getting the right bread crumb, you need panko bread crumbs and only they will do. Luckily panko is available at most grocery stores now, or Bulk Barn, or really just check out your local Asian market/store. Oh and While you are there pick up some mirin, it is a Japanese sweetener, that works excellently in a lot of sauces and dips. Plus since it is a liquid it is much more miscible in the sauce, and there wont be any undissolved grains of sugar in the final product. You can use sugar, but I would try and dissolve it into water before adding it to the sauce.


Cheating Cook's Gravy

Cheat's Gravy

Ingredients:

1 1/2 tablespoons soup or bouillon base (I like vegetable flavor but beef or chicken also work)
1 tablespoon parsley
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons flour or corn starch (use slightly less if using corn starch)
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon thyme or sage or both. . .

Instructions:

Measure all ingredients into a medium microwave safe dish (I have this awesome microwave "pot" from Paderno that I use) and whisk together to combine and then microwave for about seven or eight minutes, stopping to whisk every two minutes to so.  It will thicken and look like real gravy and then it's ready! This can also be done on a stove top over medium heat, stirring occasionally till it thickens.

Enjoy!

Notes:

As already mentioned I really enjoy a bit of gravy, especially on nice crisp french fries.  However it's not like I can roast something to get pan drippings every day, and I am really, really not a fan of pre-made, powdered or goodness forbid canned gravy. This leaves me with only one alternative, a home made gravy that tastes good, and is made with things I already have in my kitchen.  This is a base recipe and I find the flavor works pretty well for me, you may find that you need to add more onion or garlic for your taste or maybe a dash of Worcestershire sauce.

Thai Sweet and Spicy Sauce

Excellent on chicken or pork, or coat chicken tender pieces in the sauce and garnish with sesame seeds for a fancy Thai bite bar menu special.

Thai Sweet and Spicy Sauce

Ingredients:

1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup white sugar
4 peeled garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon hot red pepper flakes

Instructions:

In a small sauce pan bring vinegar to a boil, stir in sugar and reduce heat. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Finely mince or press the garlic cloves and add to pot along with the salt. Stir in the hot pepper flakes and remove from heat. Cool the sauce in the fridge until ready to serve.

Enjoy!

Notes:

Ps October 2013, if you can get your hands on fresh Thai Chilies then use one or two of those diced up really fine in the sauce instead. Also Try honey instead of sugar, I like the extra flavor it adds.

Berry Sauce

Making your own sauce from frozen or fresh berries couldn't be easier since it only takes two ingredients and a small amount of time.  It is also a rewarding recipe since it can be used to add something extra to a muffin, piped inside for a fruit filling, as a sundae topper, a glaze on a cake or loaf with pancakes etc.

Berry Sauce

Ingredients:

1 cup Berries fresh or frozen any variety
1/2 cup icing sugar*

*Can sub brown, white, or a simple syrup.

Instructions:

Either mash the berries up with a potato masher in a bowl or in a blender to loosen them up and separate the seeds from the fruity parts.

Push the berry paste through a fine sieve, basically we want just the fruit and juice from the berry and no pits or seeds or anything that isn't smooth.

Once the berry seeds have been removed whisk the icing sugar into the berry pulp.  Depending on your own tastes and the type of berries used the sauce might be too sweet or not sweet enough, if it is too sweet for you just add a little bit of lemon juice to taste, and if it is not sweet enough just add more sugar.

This sauce will keep well in your fridge for about week since there is so much sugar in it, just make sure it is kept in an air tight container.

Enjoy!

Notes:

PS. So sometimes the icing sugar makes the color of the sauce a less brilliant bright color than is ideal. But I have a solution for this. We basically need to make a sugar syrup which can be done by substituting the icing sugar for regular table sugar, and mixing the table sugar with boiling water one tablespoon at a time. Until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture doesn't feel too grainy when you stir it. Combine this sugar syrup with the mashed and de-seeded berries and good to go!

Also adding a small bit of rum or brandy to the sauce and gently simmering it for a while over low heat can have excellent results.

Avocado Loaf

Avocado Loaf

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, separated into yolk and egg white
1 extra egg white
3/4 cup white sugar
1 mashed avocado
1/3 cup room temp NOT MELTED butter
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325 °F and lightly spray your loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside

In a medium sized bowl whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together and set aside. In your stand mixer with the whisk attachment or in a medium sized bowl beat the two egg whites at medium speed until frothy, this takes about 2 minutes.

Gradually add 2 tablespoons of sugar, while continuing to beat the mixture for about three minutes more when stiff peaks start to form in the mixture (like you were going to make meringue).

 If you are using your stand mixture, I would switch to another bowl if you are lucky enough to have one, or to just scrape the egg mixture into a small bowl and set it aside.

In a large bowl or your other stand mixer bowl, beat the avocado with the butter until smooth. Beat in the remaining amount of sugar until mixture is fluffy, this takes about three minutes.

Beat in the egg yolk, milk, and vanilla.

Remove bowl from stand mixer then stir in about half the flour mixture in to your avocado mix. Fold in half the egg white mixture.

Fold in remaining flour mixture, then fold in remaining egg white mixture. scrape the batter into your prepared pan.

Place loaf in over and bake for about 40 minutes, then cover with tin foil to prevent over darkening of the loaf and bake another 20-25 minutes or until done through to center. Cool the loaf in the pan for about 10 minutes before turning it out onto a cooling rack.

This loaf is delicious when served with a berry sauce like raspberries, see my recipe for an easy berry sauce if interested. The avocado loaf will also freeze well if wrapped up right and frozen without any glaze on it.

Enjoy!

Notes:

Pretty much everyone on earth loves a good slice of still warm banana bread, this avocado loaf is similar in concept though it is slightly more difficult to make since avocado is slightly denser than mushy bananas. Still this recipe is pretty easy, delicious, and very fun.  I first served this for the start of season three of  The Walking Dead, because green cake served with a blood red raspberry sauce seemed pretty darn perfect for the occasion.

Tip: When buying avocado be careful, it is pretty easy to get stuck with a useless piece of fruit if you aren't aware of what to look for. If you are like me and live in a country or climate that simply doesn't support the growth of avocado's locally, then you like me probably have to deal with avocado's which have been picked before they are ripe, frozen, and then shipped clear across the world. Not ideal. So look for an avocado which have a nice unblemished rind, it might be green or brown, or because of the freezing process it might be nearly black. That is all normal, be sure to check around the navel of the avocado because that is where most bacteria will find a way in, it should be intact and not look wrong. If the area around the navel is black and squishy- move on it's rotten. Finally avocado is beloved because of its smooth creamy texture, if you find a nice unblemished avocado, the navel area looks good, the last quality test is texture.  Gently squeeze the avocado, it should have some give to it and not have the firmness of a rock. This can be tricky, too soft and it means the fruit is rotten, too firm and it wont be nice creamy when you finally get it out of the rind, which will affect your recipe when you try and use it.

**If you have a stand mixer life will be easier for you, if you are not so lucky you can get the same results with a hand held electric double beater.


Pancakes

Pancake Batter

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 tablespoons oil
1 1/2 cup milk

Instructions:

 In a large bowl sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together, set aside.

In a small bowl whisk the egg, add the oil and milk and stir well.

If you plan to add cinnamon and nutmeg add them to the large bowl now.

Create a small well in the middle of the large bowl with dry ingredients, pour the milk and egg mixture into the well and mix.

Batter will remain lumpy but should look even.

Make sure to scrape the bottom and sides. If adding chocolate chips, do so now. The batter is now ready to make into pancakes!

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat and add about 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. The pan is ready to go when a small drop of batter dropped in begins to sizzle and turn golden right away.

Pour in the batter quickly but smoothly. With confidence like you know what you are doing. Let the pancake cook on the first side until you see bubble form and pop from the edges all the way to the center of the pancake. If you turn it too soon you will have raw pancake middles to contend with.

Once the first side is cooked, quickly, smoothly and with confidence slide a wide slim edged spatula under the pancake and flip. Don't worry, no one gets the first pancake right. Its pretty much good luck to just sacrifice the first one for the sake of the rest.

Cook the pancake for an additional 2-3 minutes or until the second side is also golden brown.

You can keep pancakes warm on a pan in an oven set to about 200 °F, while you finish the rest.

Enjoy!

Notes

Everyone loves a good pancake breakfast. Though making the perfect pancake can be tricky. If you prefer a thick fluffy flapjack try adding just touch less milk to your batter, or if you are like me and prefer a thin pancake with the little crunchy edges try adding just a touch more milk. It all comes down to preference.
There are other ways to customize your pancake as well, adding chocolate chips (a little less than 1 cup for this recipe) can make a kids day, or for a more grown up variation, I sometimes like to use brown sugar instead of white, and add a teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg each to the batter.  All pancakes go great with some maple syrup whatever your choice!

Tips and Tricks:

Pre-heat your non-stick pan before adding any oil, to check that your pan is heated enough drop a small amount of water on the pan, if it sizzles and vanishes in a second, your pan is ready for oil.

Add a small amount of oil and coat the pan, let the oil heat for about 2-3 minutes before adding batter. Once everything is ready, I like to use my big soup ladle to measure out the batter and just pour it from the ladle into the center of the pan.

Let the pancake cook on it's first side until it starts to bubble at the edges, and in the middle.  Confidence is key to flipping a pancake, just go for it and be swift and if it doesn't work out the first few times just try it again.  To flip a pancake you will need a nice flat spatula, that has a smooth edge to get under the pancake, gently move the spatula under the pancake till its about in the middle then FLIP. Let the pancake cook on side number two for about another 4-5 minutes, or until done.  I test for "doneness" by just poking at the middle of the pancake, it should feel firm and not squishy in the middle when it is cooked.

PS October 2013: My mommy used to put the pancake batter into an empty and cleaned out ketchup bottle and make my brother and I animals with faces for breakfast. I was a pain of a child and always wanted her to make me a raccoon face and always got mixed results. A raccoon face is hard to make with batter I suppose, cats and dogs are much easier. Bears and bunnies are the easiest.

Sweet and Spicy Salmon Glaze

Sweet and Spicy Salmon Glaze

Makes enough for 1/2 whole salmon or about 6 portion sized fillets

Ingredients:

1/4 cup pineapple juice
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon garlic

Instructions:

In a small sauce pan over medium heat bring pineapple juice, soy sauce, vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, and honey to a slow boil.

Reduce heat and add the remaining ingredients.

Simmer the glaze over medium-low heat for about fifteen minutes or until the glaze has reached a nice syrupy consistency.

Divide sauce in half, and put half aside for now or keep it warm on a back burner for later.

Prepare your salmon for cooking and prepare either the plank or pan.  Season the salmon fillet on both sides with some salt and pepper, place it on the pan or plank and lightly glaze with the sauce. You want to just cover the salmon with this glaze.

Cook the salmon, re-glazing every 10 minutes in the oven, or after about 6 minutes on a grill. Once salmon is cooked, re-heat the remaining glaze, and serve the salmon with spoonful of the glaze on top to keep it moist.

Extra style points can be gained by garnishing with some fresh parsley.

I usually cook salmon for between 7-12 minutes at a 375 °F

Enjoy!

Notes:

Salmon is not my favorite fish. I tend to prefer a nice beer-battered haddock fillet with crisp chips. However, beer-battered fish and fried chips aren't exactly a meal I can eat every single day(especially since I also want to eat it with gravy). So To try and live better and eat healthier I've tried a lot of Salmon recipes. Not all were successful, but this is a recipe that I tried on some friends who are professed "not sea-food eaters" and it was a smash hit! I've also given it to a few friends to test it out with pretty excellent results.

Before we get started there are a few different ways to prepare a nice salmon fillet, on a grill, or baked are my favorite ways. If you are into a nice smoked flavor in your fish you can also invest in a cedar plank for grilling the salmon on.  If using a cedar plank, make sure it is one made for cooking and hasn't been treated with anything, because you really do not want to eat wood treatment chemicals.  Also keep in mind that a little extra prep work will be required, the best way to prepare a cedar plank for grilling is to let it soak in warm water for at least 2 hours before cook time.  If desired you can add some bourbon, or herbs (like basil, parsley, dill etc) to the water to add some subtle flavors.  Once your plank is soaked, heat up your grill and let it come to temperature, lay the plank on the grill and wait until it is steaming hot before laying the fish on top of it.  Far easier than using a plank is to simply bake the salmon in the oven on a prepared pan. Preparing the pan is a lot simpler than the plank, all you really need to do is lightly oil the pan with olive oil, and season the pan with salt and pepper all over before laying the salmon on the pan.

Last points: Cook salmon at a low temperature, medium-low grill settings, or between 320-350° degrees in an oven.  I usually cook my salmon for about 10 minutes at a time, re-glazing and checking if the salmon is done.  With salmon it is easy to tell if it cooked or not, all you need to do is use the tip of a knife and poke it in the thickest part of the salmon down about halfway through the fillet and give the knife a slight turn, if the fillet "flakes" around the knife the salmon is done, if it still feels "meaty" or soft, it still needs more time.  Final point of advice, since I have the salmon cooking at such a low temperature, you need to be swift when opening the oven or grill to try and maintain heat consistency.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Somewhere to collect recipes that worked

Mission Statement:

I sincerely love food. Simple, good, home-cooked, food that anyone anywhere could make and enjoy. However there are some "food" things which I hate, like margarine (I didn't even know how to spell that), artificial sweeteners, low fat nonsense which adds chemicals or sugars  make up for the taste, and I really enjoy butter, a lot. I prefer fresh since it really is the best, but there are all kinds of examples of things that are just as good in a frozen variety when prepared the right way.  I have no professional culinary training, unless you want to count my two summers working in the kitchen of Boston Pizza (trust me, it doesn't count), my mom taught me the basics as I was growing up and was a saint of a mother for letting me try all kinds of cooking experiments in the kitchen, even though I am pretty sure I almost never did the dishes after*. I was also lucky to get to live with one excellent cook in university who taught me the extra little steps that can really make something special.

Some of the recipes I try are from cook books I own, have been given, or made up on my own; Others will be based on dishes I try in restaurants then try and copy; Some will be from cooking shows, I love Masterchef Australia and Top Chef America and Canada, and others will be from my imagination because sometimes after watching thirty or so hours of Disney movies and then watching Waitress (2007, with Keri Russel) weird recipes come to life in my head. Imagination should always be put to use.

Oh I also promise to try and make all these recipes as easy to follow as possible, because I to plan to reuse them all and it would be terribly tragic if I couldn't understand my recipes**.

Also I promise that everything I put here worked out really well for me and was tested on at least one other human being for taste and enjoyment. Usually my lovely husband to be will be the other guinea pig.


Foot Notes:

*Mom's should make children wash their dishes more often, it is still a massive chore and effort for me to wash dishes.

**My mother also has about two hundred or so recipes in books or boxes at her house, but she can't use any of them because she only listed the ingredients. For all of them.

Finally I Love my Mom very much! You can only tease nicely when it is backed by love.