Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Spring Fever

Last night, The sky looked like this:

And then of course, it rained for most of the night (light rain luckily)

Then today, it snowed.. and it is expected to snow again tonight... we are exprected to get about 5-10cm... not a lot.. Except that it is the END OF APRIL!!!

And I have spring fever... Less time in the kitchen, and more time outside... or at least wanting to be outside. I want to plant my garden and I can't wait until I can pick fresh green beans... and strawberries, and whatever other mystery plants are in the flower bed. The only thing I know for sure:

We have Rhubarb!!! so I can make fresh (homemade/homegrown) Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam (cuz i know how to now!!)

I bought some Tomato Plants, and I planted Seeds... Every available surface in front of a South facing window is currently occupied by containers of dirt and plants... JUST WAITING for Spring to actually show up (and frost-free nights of course)

I made Double Ginger Cookies that were Vegan (Joy the Baker)... I'm not in love, but they are definitely growing on me

I've made a lot of muffins... Blueberry/Blackberry/Raspberry/Banana are my favourite so far... And with all the fruit in them, they definitely don't need any added sugar

I made Jam!

The Boyfriend cooked me a Birthday Dinner last night

And I've been working... a lot

So I'm sorry for not being as active on here as I should be... But I have been busy!

And right now, I have to run to the Vet so they can poke my puppy with needles.

Geraniums... inside, because otherwise Old Man Winter will stomp them out :(

April 2011 Daring Baker Challenge

Blog-checking lines: The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at!

This month, I was pretty un-inspired... which is why I didn't add my photo of my challenge on the forums until today... I intended to go back and try different things, But Life... She's a bitch sometimes... and she's got puppies..

So I made maple mouse,
and I made bacon cups....
and I put the maple mouse in the bacon cups,
expecting to be very grossed out and never want to eat either again (because I'm not a huge bacon fan to begin with)
and it was actually good...
Honestly, I wouldn't really eat it again, but Maple Syrup on breakfast is a definite Yes (but I do that already on the odd occasion that I actually eat a proper "breakfast"
I might make the mouse again... It was really good, but the bacon cups were not worth the effort, Although they did look good when I made a Salad in them instead

My dad loved the maple mouse bacon cup, and had 3 of them... So whatever floats your boat

OH, HERE is the link for the recipes and info... I didn't try anything new, so I'm not going to claim any knowledge of this one, But I definitely recommend checking out the other blogs and going and voting for the winner of this month's challenge!!!

I'm loving the DB challenges because I have done things that I never would have dreamt up myself. I never would've made Pana Cotta, or Maple Mouse, or the sponge cake thing from January... So even if my effort at the challenge this month was uninspired, I still felt like I learned something new from it. So thank you Evelyne!
Also... Maple Syrup is not as easy to find here in Calgary as you may suspect... We don't have Maple Trees here, I don't think they are fans of Chinook Winds and 4 days of summer

Here is the newest pic of Ava... She's growing like a weed, and has her first vet appointment tomorrow... Pretty exciting!!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Black Forest Cake!

I have been meaning to tell you about my Black Forest Cake for nearly 2 weeks, but Life keeps getting in the way...

...and I keep telling it to go away and come back when I'm ready to deal with it

But it totally doesn't listen to me

I finally went and got my License renewed today... The last day I could before It expires

And then didn't have enough money in my bank account to pay for it

Luckily I had some birthday cash hanging out in my Wallet (thanks Grandma! I can still drive a car thanks to you!)

Then I figured I needed to go and do something to make me feel better and less like a failure at life, so I finally stopped at the vet clinic by our house and made an appointment for Ava's shots... and got an estimate on Wilson's neuter if i can ever convince the boyfriend to not feel bad about chopping his Balls off.

But you don't want to hear about any of this...

so Let me show you the Black Forest Cake that I finally checked off the bucket list...

...which was delicious, and even better than I imagined.
Although, we used a Chocolate cake recipe, that I don't really like, so next time I'll try some kind of Chocolate Sponge Cake, I think that would be much nicer (I wrote the chocolate cake recipe down, but I have lost the piece of paper somewhere between my parents house and my house, so if I do ever find it, I will post the recipe here, until then, I guess I just have pictures for you)

Honestly, I don't know why it took us this long to make this cake. It was pretty easy! (and amazing). We thought we put a lot of the Cherry Kirsch on too, but It wasn't very boozy... I think next time I'll add more than I think is enough, and We'll be in business!

The night before we made the cake, I shaved a bunch of chocolate squares into Chocolate shavings. I tried to take a picture, but it was late, so not light, and honestly, a bowl full of chocolate shavings isn't that pretty... but tastes so much better than store-bought chocolate sprinkles.

Then bright and early in the morning (while I worked on my Daring Baker challenge for the month... will post on April 27... but don't hold your breath, I wasn't very inspired) I made the cakes
They rose really high in the middle, so we had funny looking layers, But really easy to cover up. My mom knows a lot of tricks, after years and years of cake decorating so I try and force them out of her, so I can learn them too.

Then we layered the cakes (Two 9" chocolate cakes, sliced in half) with Canned Cherry Pie filling and a little whipped cream in between each layer.
OH, and Cherry Kirsch brushed onto the cakes... Probably the most important part

See... funny layers... but definitely yummy!

Then you just coat the thing in Whipped Cream, push some Chocolate sprinkles onto the sides, and then pipe some Whip Cream puffs (stars, whatever you want to call them) onto the top
Then add some maraschino cherries to each puff
and TA DA!!!!

Black Forest Cake
(Finally checked off the Bucket List!)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

NOT grandma's Bran Muffins

I'm not a huge bran muffin fan...

Actually that is a lie... Every once in a while I get a Bran Muffin craving...

And I'm usually disappointed.

Store bought Bran muffins are boring and not very yummy... and I never end up eating all 6 of them, since they are boring and not very yummy.

My grandma used to make really good bran muffins, and in the cook book she just gave me, has the Bran muffin recipe she used... Which isn't what these are... but I will try and make them on my next Bran muffin craving kick (probably)

I kind of just went rogue and made my own... Well, I tweaked the Blueberry Bran muffin recipe from Joy of Baking... a lot

so without further ado... (where did that saying even come from? am I using it correctly?)

Apple Peach and Blueberry Bran Muffins
(with oats and flax and whole wheat too)
(and no added sugar!)

3/4 cup All Purpose Flour
1/3 cup Whole Wheat Flour
3/4 cup Wheat Bran
3 TBSP Milled Flax Seed
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1 large egg White (slightly beaten)
1/4 cup Molasses
1 cup buttermilk (I used regular milk, with 1 TBSP added vinegar)
3 TBSP Coconut Oil
1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
Apple and Peach - cut into small pieces
(make your fruit equal about one and a half cups)

Prepare Muffin Tin - grease top and use paper liners
Melt the Coconut Oil so it is Liquid
Preheat Oven to 375 F
Add the vinegar to the milk if you aren't using commercial buttermilk
Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl - Whisk together well
Combine all the wet ingredients in a small bowl - Whisk to combine
Add wet ingredients to the dry - stir to combine (stir as little as possible until everything is combined... the more mixing you do, the less your muffins will rise)
Fold in the fruit. Be careful with the blueberries or the batter will be blue. If you use frozen fruit (my blueberries and peaches were both frozen) Keep it in the freezer until just before you put them in the batter
Divide the batter evenly between your muffin cups (I got 12 muffins out of the batter)
Sprinkle some old fashioned Rolled oats on the top

Bake for about 20 minutes. Use a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins to check for done-ness

You could add sugar to make these sweeter, But I kind of like them without the added sugar.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Orange Chicken

Tomorrow is garbage day around these parts...

Which means today is cleaning day

Which means yesterday i told the boyfriend that he needs to help me clean up the house today

Which means he will probably be home late, and I will already be done cleaning by the time he gets home

EXCEPT that I remembered that I need to share a recipe with you...

I'm sure between the 2 of us, we will get the garbage on the curb before we leave for work in the morning.... hopefully

But none of that is your problem... But if it sounds familiar, and you just bought some oranges, and stir-fry peas, and green pepper, and pineapple and Chicken... Then make this for dinner, because it is really yummy, and delicious and apart from marinating time (which isn't necessary, but it helps the flavour sink in better), it comes together pretty fast. I made this last week on garbage-day-eve

Orange Chicken
Inspired by Spicy Sumo Chicken at The Enchanted Cook

Chicken Breast - cut up in cubes
Oranges (I used Naval Oranges, because they were on sale, but you can use whatever kind you want)
Green Onion
Garlic and Ginger (amount depends on your taste)
Pineapple tidbits (unless you don't like pineapple, then don't use it)
Bell Pepper (I used Green because they were cheaper, but the dish probably would've been more pretty if I used a red one)
Sesame Oil
Spices to taste
Dried chillies

Honestly, I did 2 versions of this dish. One right away, and one marinated, which we had the following day. I liked the marinated one better. But the one we ate right away was delicious too, So just go on what amount of time you have to work with

If you are marinating, then cut up your chicken, Zest the orange(s), and then juice them, and reserve as much of the inner fruit as possible to add to the dish. Mince garlic and ginger. Add in any spices you wish. I used about 5 dried chillies, but I wish I had used more. Fresh chillies probably would've been a better idea too. Add in some Soy Sauce and Sesame Oil and make sure you stir well... and occasionally when it is sitting in the fridge.

Also, feel free to tweak this "recipe" to whatever you have on hand, and also what you like to eat. If you aren't going to marinate, It is easiest if you still assemble the ingredients like this, let it sit for as long as you can (maybe a minimum of an hour), and then continue

One the chicken is done marinating, Heat up a saute pan and then pour in the prepared chicken and marinade. Heat up, stirring often. When the chicken is mostly cooked, add in your vegetables and continue to stir often. Let the sauce cook down a bit. I also added in some left over coconut milk from when I made the Coconut Bread, which added in a nice hint of coconut flavour.

While all that is going on, make your rice. I just use Minute Rice, because it is easy and I really like it.

When everything is done, serve your Orange chicken on a bead of fluffy Minute Rice.

Coming soon.... Black Forest Cake (yep! I checked it off the Bucket List!!!)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I'm back.... I took Ava home to meet/visit my parents/grandparents/Horses... And my mom and I made many yummy things, which I will try and post later this week... (sorry, no recipes today)

While visiting my grandparents, My grandpa tried to trade their dog for Ava, until I told him that she isn't really house trained yet, and she leaves big puddles everywhere... My grandma gave me my birthday card (read:money), and I got her to give me her dill pickle and anti-pasto recipes... and ended up with a whole cookbook, because she said she never uses it anymore.

The Dill pickle and anti-pasto recipes are the key to the story.... Because this year, I want to learn to can.
When I was little, during the day, a few days a week, I used to go to my grandma's house while my Mom was at work. and we used to do cool things, like work in the garden, or make yard dolls, or learn to knit/crochet, and watch the Golden Girls. My grandparents used to have this really awesome garden too, and I would help pick weeds or pick the vegetables... or sneak away to the raspberries and eat a bunch before I got caught. And I remember getting to help pick the cucumbers for making pickles. I never got to really help can, In fact, i don't think she even let me near the kitchen when she was canning... I'm kind of clumsy and don't mix well with boiling water i guess...
BUT I got to put the dill in the jars, and I remember the smell of the fresh dill and garlic, and then getting to bite into the crunchy pickles after they were all done and canned.

So this year, I am learning to can

And while on my hunt for coconut oil a few days ago, I saw a home canning kit for only $20... For Serious... only $20... to buy all the stuff individually would be at least $50
So guess what I'm going to do one day really soon...

Make Jam thought I was going to say pickles didn't you? And I would, but, the home canning kit came with 4 tenny jam-sized jars, and since I don't really know what im doing, then I figure I should start somewhere easy.... with Jam

Look at my early birthday present: It's so pretty! Thanks Grandma!!! (and I even have enough birthday money left over to put some gas in my car!)

Recipes you have to look forward to in the near future:
  • Black Forest Cake (checked it off the bucket list finally!)
  • Meringue kisses (convinced my mommy to make them for me)
  • My Daring Baker Challenge (will post it on April 27th... Its not that awe inspiring though)
  • And I'll think of some more for you

Take care!! and Enjoy the nice weather if you got it... I think we have snow in the forecast again this week... Or as I'm beginning to call it: Canadian Rain... the kind of snow that almost melts right away, but still sucks because its snow'

ALSO: I tried a grapefruit curd version... and the lemon lime one is much better!!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Coconut Bread

Until I found this recipe on Sweet Savory Planet, I had never heard of Coconut Oil... But I knew I had to try this bread, so I went on a search, a hunt... A quest is probably more accurate to be honest.
After checking at 3 different stores, I finally found it in the 3rd one. I really didn't want to have to go to a health food store, Because I have a really long list of things I want and not a lot of money for them, and not a lot of will power against my own will sometimes. Luckily Superstore had it in their health food/organic/save-the-earth section. I kind of had to dig to find it, but I found it...

It is weird stuff. Really hard... REALLY REALLY hard, and you have to melt it to use it, so it adds an extra step, But It adds a whole different level of flavor too. I did a little google-ing and found this site... If you want more info, just do some google-ing of your own... TONS of links pop up.

(in the picture below, you can see Wilson's head. He was catching some sun comming through the windows... and trying to get me to drop something on the floor that he could snatch up)

1 cup sweetened coconut (grated, shredded, flakes, whatever works for you, I used shredded)
2 cups All Purpose Flour (I took out about 2-3 TBSP of the flour and added in some Milled Flax seed)
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 TBSP baking Powder
1/4 cup Virgin Coconut Oil (melted, so it is liquid and not rock-solid)
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 egg
1 tsp. Vanilla

Preheat Oven to 350 F
Prepare the loaf pan by greasing the pan and the flouring (pay close attention to the corners)
sprinkle a little coconut on the bottom of the loaf pan.
Mix the coconut, flour, sugars, and baking powder in one large bowl
In another bowl, add in the coconut oil, coconut milk, egg, and vanilla and mix together well.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just blended.
Pour into the prepared loaf pan
Bake at 350 for about an hour until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Cool in the loaf pan for about 10 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling.

You can toast the coconut also, But I prefer the un-toasted.

This bread is amazing with the Lemon-Lime Curd used as a spread on top... Laura at Sweet Savory Planet is a genius!!!!

I will definitely be trying the coconut oil in other baked goodies now... and Same with the coconut milk. Its a whole different layer of flavour, and I can't wait to use it in baking again. Every time I've used Coconut milk, it has been for something Savory, like Marinating shrimp skewers (BTW, I'll post some really yummy BBQ recipes in the summer, when there isn't 4 feet of snow on the ground)

Lemon-Lime Curd

OMG I think my taste buds might have just died and gone to heaven...

I've never had lemon curd or lime curd ever before... Well, except Lemon Meringue pie, But I've never had a homemade one... Just store bought kits with homemade Meringue on top...
Either way the lemon part was never homemade, it was a package that you mix with another package and pour in a pie shell and then put the meringue on top and then bake...
Fake homemade? Semi-homemade is probably more Politically correct though right?
Assisted homemade?
Anyway... I've never had it before.
Until this morning

Last night I was stalking Tastespotting and saw a pretty little jar filled with some creamy looking stuff, so I clicked on the picture, and found this Blog, with this recipe (the pretty jar stuff).

I wanted to make just Lime Curd, but the Limes I bought were not very juicy, So luckily I had some Lemons too... Thus Lemon-Lime Curd.

Lemon Lime Curd
(adapted from Sweet Savory Planet)

3 Large Eggs
1/3-1/2 cup sugar (I used 1/2 cup, but found it a little sweet, so next time I'm going to do the 1/3 cup instead)
Zest of 1 lime
1/2 cup fresh Lemon and Lime juice (I used about 1/4 cup of each)
1/4 cup Butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 tsp. Vanilla

Whisk eggs and sugar in a saucepan until they are a light lemony color (I whisked about 5 minutes, maybe a little longer... switch arms for a more even work out lol) You can use a stand mixer to do this part too... But I HATE doing dishes, so I would rather just whisk by hand for 5 minutes instead of doing extra dishes
Add in the zest, lime juice, and butter
Place saucepan over medium heat and constantly whisk until mixture starts to thicken. Allow it to come to a simmer for a few seconds and then remove from heat.
Add in vanilla
Cool to room temperature and then place in a container in the fridge
It thickens more as it cools.
If you don't want zest in your finished curd, then run through a fine mesh strainer before you put it in the fridge. I didn't strain mine this time because I don't have a fine mesh strainer, so next time I'm at the store, I will be buying one. My long strands of zest were kind of annoying.
(my jar isn't pretty like the one at Sweet Savory Planet... Because it was a jar of baby artichoke hearts originally, and I don't have any pretty fabric to cover the ugly yellow lid... But look at Mother Nature's April Fool's joke to us... another 8 inches or so of snow on the ground... Fortunately, The Lemon Lime Curd makes it less depressing)

And Now, I may just be hooked on this Curd stuff... I'm wondering what Grapefruit curd would taste like? Pink lemonade (the grapefruit stuff) is one of my favourite drinks (although, I've never made it myself either, maybe I should be adding these things to my bucket list), so I'm betting it would be good in curd-form too... I'm going to have to think on this one...

Coming soon (because it is in the oven right now): Coconut Bread (also from Sweet Savory Planet) because I was so inspired by the Lime Curd, I had to make her Coconut Bread too)

Wilson an Ava helping in the kitchen <3

Link to my Coconut Bread Post