Sunday, May 30, 2010

so I made cupcakes (chocolate ones)

It was my Dad's birthday the other day and I mentioned to T that we should call him. So T could sing Happy Birthday over the phone. T wanted to go over to his house right away. When I told him we couldn't T was very disappointed. "But then I won't get any". "Any what, honey?" "Cake, Mummy. I'll miss out on the cake if we don't go to Grampie's now".

So yesterday, I made chocolate cupcakes so T could have his favorite cake. I used a recipe out of Jennifer Low's "Kitchen for Kids".

1 1/4 c flour
1/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 c plus 1 tbsp sugar
1/2 c unsalted butter, soft
1 large egg
1 c milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp white vinegar

I lined 12 muffin tins with paper cups and greased. Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Stir the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl.
Beat together the butter and sugar. Add in the egg, milk and vanilla and beat together. Add the flour mixture and mix well to combine. Once smooth, add in the vinegar.
Add the batter to the muffin tins (the recipe makes 14, I filled (overfilled 12)). Bake for 27 minutes.

I frosted the cupcakes with a milk chocolate frosting in the book - although I barely had enough icing sugar - which meant the frosting was a bit thin and almost slides off the cupcakes.

The cupcakes passed the small boy taste test.

And the big boy taste test too!

baking saturday

It's rainy and cold here - well for the time of year. And we're dreaming of summer days so it feels colder. So my antidote is to make the house smell yummy. So yesterday I baked. Another loaf of oatmeal spelt bread,

and while I was doing that I whipped up this yummy cake and it is delicious for breakfast.

I used more fruit (I had 4 stalks of rhubarb which made 3 cups of sliced pieces) so I added another 1/2 cup of chopped strawberries. When I make it again, I might add a sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar to the top like with this cake for a bit of crunch. Also referencing another of my strawberry rhubarb favorites - struesel topping pie.

But the cake. I used a ceramic 11x7 pan and the fruit bubbled up a bit (you can see the fruit dribbles on the pan in the picture).

Strawberry Rhubarb Buttermilk Cake (from Sassy Radish and Gourmet)
1/4 c water
1/2 c sugar
1 1/2 tsp corn starch
3 c sliced rhubarb
1 1/2 c chopped strawberries
1 c flour
1/3 c sugar
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
1/2 c buttermilk
1 stick butter (1/2 c), melted and cooled slightly
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 400 deg F and butter the dish (the recipe calls for 8x8 glass or ceramic - I used 11x7 ceramic). Heat the water, sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan. Once the sugar is combined, add the rhubarb and stir to coat. Heat to simmer and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the strawberries and take off the heat and set aside.

Add the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. Blend well.

Whisk the egg, buttermilk, butter and vanilla together. Add the flour mixture and blend together just until mixed.

Spread about 1/2 c of the fruit mixture over the bottom of the dish. Dollop the cake mix somewhat evenly over the top of the fruit and use a spatula to even it out. Pour the rest of the fruit over the top, as evenly distributed as possible.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until a tester comes clean from the middle of the cake.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

simple things

I hate it when things don't turn out the way you think they should. Especially food things. So tonight I was very disappointed when we tried some portobello mushroom bites which were supposed to be yummy bites of porto and mozzarella and parmesan goodness but ended up being rubbery, odd tasting breaded hunks on our plate. Redeemed somewhat by toast and homemade tapenade, roasted broccoli with pine nuts and parmesan and oven roasted potatoes. Maybe D is right - homemade is better. So I'll give mushroom bites a go and see if I can come up with a recipe that tastes like cheesy mushrooms. Stand by.

In the meantime, here is a picture of lunch on Monday

 - our Victoria Day Holiday which meant we (T, D and I) were all home together. It stopped raining for the day and I was able (with my trusty assistants) to plant my tomatoes and basil. Which gives me hope that soon the weather will be warm and sunny. Fingers crossed!

So lunch was green olive tapenade and oatmeal spelt bread, sliced radishes, microgreens salad with balsamic vinagrette (with garlic, dijon and lemon zest) with warm goat cheese rounds. Simple and delicious.

Here is how I made the tapenade:

2 cups pitted green olives, drained
1 tsp minced garlic
good grinding of pepper
a handful of capers
a couple of sundried tomatoes in oil
~ 1/4 of a lemon's zest

Whiz all this in the food processor until chunky, scraping down the sides. Drizzle olive oil in a stream into the mixture while the processor is running until the mixture comes together. Keep whizzing until the consistency is as you like it. (I usually make my green olive tapenade with goat cheese added but as I was serving warm goat cheese rounds for lunch, I left out the goat cheese - and also I had used it all up making the rounds...). The goat cheese rounds I made following a recipe from Nigella Express. It was a lovely lunch and reminded me of our honeymoon in provence and yorkshire - lovely food and markets. I hope soon I can serve this outside in the garden. (Now I just have to source a bigger table to share the bounty!).

Sunday, May 23, 2010

wanda's roasted yam pierogis

I'm extremely late making good on a promised Christmas present - a batch of yam pierogis for my sister-in-law. So yesterday I knuckled down to it. I opened my recipe book (if you don't have this book, I highly recommend it - all veggie recipes but a wide variety of lovely food. Don't be intimidated by the long ingredient lists - most of the ingredients are fresh herbs). I had purchased a large number of yams a couple of days ago, so they went into the oven to roast.

Then I sauted leeks

and grated cheese.

The recipe calls for smoked gouda, I used half and half smoked gouda and sharp cheddar. And instead of caraway seeds I used celery salt. Then I peeled and pureed the roasted yams and added the yam to the leek and cheese mix.

While they guys were off at the park playing soccer, I mixed up the pierogi dough. Using my new pasta attachmend on my KitchenAid I rolled the dough into strips and started making the pierogi.

And making.

And making. I used my pierogi zipper (from Winnipeg!). (Do you like my Dora bandaid?)

I froze each pierogi on a baking sheet in the freezer, bagging them into dozens and freezing them.

I ended up with 2 short of 8 dozen. And I still have a vat of filling left over. Maybe more pierogis will be made tomorrow. D loves the filling all on it's own so by tomorrow there may be none left....

a cloudy saturday

Saturday at home.

Breakfast -

Imagination games - creating a city, monster truck race track and river for various animals and cars/lego vehicles to play in.

The city made from toilet paper and tape - including a swimming pool and broken crosswalk for Bob the Builder to break up -

The monster truck race track, complete with bumps, cars to jump over and rocks -

The river with swimming gummy bears and water snakes - nice ones who rescue people - a big one to rescue big people and a baby one to rescue babies!

Later one a mine was created, far away from the city -

The stuffies (stuffed animals) went on a train ride with elephant playing the conductor and collecting the tickets and Lambie as the passenger. They were off to Poppyland where you pop bubbles and eat Lollipops!

And a lighthouse (water flute) was added to the river along with speed boats, tug boats and a frog family, duck family and a seal to swim with the gummy bears!

The stuffies and trucks and monster trucks had a great day. And more fireboats and cranes and dumptrucks were made later on (from lego). The fireboat even had a helicopter landing pad! To rescue people. T is big into rescuing people these days. And getting rid of bad guys. Makes me wonder what the kids are talking about at school these days.

Friday, May 21, 2010

brown rice sushi salad

Yum! I saw this salad posted here and here and I had to make it. So I made it tonight for myself, when D is working late. D is not an eater of fish or seafood and professes to loathe sushi, although I don't think he has ever tried a vegetarian maki roll. I'll get him to try some of the salad and see how he likes it ( minus the nori). I left out a couple of ingredients from both of the listed recipes (tofu (not my fav) and green onions as I didn't have any) but added some baked yam and chopped roasted asparagus (left over from dinner last night) as I like maki rolls with both of those.

I liked the wasabi and soy dressing but found my salad a bit gooey so next time I think I will decrease the oil and vinegar if using the dressing, possibly down to 1 tbsp each. I love the crunchy, salty, sesamey, creamy sweet rice flavours which is definitely like eating sushi in a bowl.

(Update - I had some leftover salad for lunch yesterday and fed some of it to D - he loved it! So this recipe is definitely a keeper.)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

eggs with creamy cheesy spinach

I'm in love with creamed spinach at the moment. Maybe its hormonal, maybe not. D hasn't complained yet about the various guises this has been served up at our table lately so maybe it's not just me. The other night I had two hard boiled eggs on tap for my supper and some spinach hanging around saying eat me so I went back to a version of a new favorite. I found the cookbook at Heathrow airport last year, while waiting for our flight home. It was part of a special two for package which in hindsight wasn't that great a deal but I forgot to do the pounds to dollars conversion in my head at the time (probably due to lingering stress over a huge detour on the way to the airport and getting up too early to make it to the airport and the end of a lovely holiday and missing my English family already...but enough of that). I don't remember what the other book was which probably means it was a novel and not a cookbook.

The recipe is for 2 people although with my adaptations it usually serves 3. (the pictures shown are when I made it last Monday using half of everything)

1 bag of spinach (~ 225 g)
4 large eggs, hard boiled
50 g butter
1 small onion, minced
1 1/2 c sliced mushrooms
25g flour
275 ml milk
75g grated sharp cheddar
splodge of cream (1-2 tbsp)
salt, pepper, cayenne, grated nutmeg

Saute the onion in the butter for a couple of minutes and then add the sliced mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms are slightly brown and the onion is soft. Add the flour and milk and whisk until smooth. Cook for about 5 minutes until the sauce is thickened.

Add the cheese and season with salt, pepper, a pinch of cayenne and grated nutmeg. Add the spinach and stir until the spinach is wilted. Add the cream. Into a greased dish, pour ~ 1/3 of the sauce to cover the bottom of the dish.

Layer the egg on top - I slice mine but the recipe calls for halved eggs nestled into the sauce. Pour the rest of the sauce over the top and pop into the oven under the broiler and bake until the top is bubbly and brown.

I've made this for supper and for brunch. It could easily take additional veggies or bacon/pancetta.

harvest bread pudding

Last Friday night, I was contemplating the contents of my refrigerator and found a drawer full of carrots and cabbage and a lot of bits of bread. So I made Harvest Bread Pudding. The recipe comes from here but was liberally adjusted.

8 slices of bread (I used oatmeal bread), crusts removed and cubed
1 tbsp butter
1 scallion, minced (only because I was out of onions)
1/2 head green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
4 carrots, peeling and sliced into diagonal coins
1 leek, white and light green parts only, sliced
1 tsp minced garlic
1 1/2 c grated sharp cheddar or gruyere cheese
2 1/2 c milk
2 large eggs
cayenne, salt, pepper, nutmeg

Saute the vegetables and the garlic in the butter over medium heat until soft and fork tender. Put the bread cubes into a greased casserole dish. Add the cooked vegetables and the cheese.

 In a bowl or mixing cup, mix the egg, milk and spices together and pour over the bread and vegetables. Mix well. Let stand for at least an hour or overnight, then bake at 350 deg F for 30-45 minutes until browned on top and well set.

This is a popular family dish around our house and does well for brunch or dinner. Any vegetables can be used so it is great for using up bits and pieces in the fridge.

Monday, May 17, 2010

strawberry applesauce

When T was a baby, I used to make some of his food. I even had a book of first foods to make for babies. First the individual steamed and mashed carrots, sweet potatoes, peas, etc and then the mixes with great names (potato, pea, brocoli). I even used to make tiny containers of lamb and vegetable curry. Back in the day when my baby ate everything except bananas. Now my boy is a bit more discriminating about what he chooses to eat. He loves applesauce but for whatever reason, I stopped making it myself and have been buying the little pots for his lunches. It took this post to remind me to start making my own again. So yesterday morning I peeled some apples

and hulled some strawberries,

steamed them together in a tiny bit of water and a tiny smidge of sugar (to sweeten up the non-local strawberries) with a touch of cinnamon and vanilla. Once fork tender, I whizzed the fruit in the food processor until smoothish. And voila.

Strawberry applesauce. My boy has turned up his nose at it (don't want it, don't like it - without tasting it, of course, grrrr) but my man loves it.

more bread!

So while I was feeling somewhat chuffed about recent successes with bread making, I came across this lovely post on Friday. And by Saturday morning I was itching to try it. I had a jar of lemon curd sitting in my fridge calling me to bake it into a lovely bread braid. But alas, I had no flour. So I took myself into the garden

and lugged soil around to make my arms and back ache. I was really just trying to get my assortment of containers filled up and ready for planting.

 But after some gardening and preschool soccer and a trip to the garden center and the grocery store (yes - I remembered to buy flour) I was too tired to bake bread. But yesterday I gave it a go.

The dough is easy to make and mine did take a while longer to rise than the suggested 60-90 minutes for the first rise. I did have the back door open so it may have been a tad drafty but the sunshine was so lovely. I decided to divide the dough into two as the loaf seemed to be quite large and I thought it would be better to be tea bread sized somewhat like a local bakery chain makes. The braid technique is easy but do remember to place the dough on the parchment paper prior to filling and braiding to avoid hassles with transfering to a baking sheet. One loaf I made with the dough wider than longer and one I made longer than wider. Here they are filled and braided before rising.

Here are the pictures of the baked breads. Wider braid -

A bread of beauty! and the skinnier braid -

This reminds me of our cat, waiting to have her tummy rubbed! So skinnier isn't better, at least when it comes to bread. But delicious! Not too sweet, delicious, lemony bread. Perfect for breakfast or tea or brunch...(or maybe a post posting snack...). Try it!

And speaking of bread - here is tonight's version of oatmeal spelt bread. Sandwich or toast anyone?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

baking bread

So Tuesday night, in between making quinoa pilaf and cabbage gratin I made a loaf of oatmeal spelt bread (above, pictured in the background) using the base white bread recipe from America's Test Kitchen Home Collection. I mix it up using my stand mixer (love it) and let the dough rise in the bowl as suggested by a friend. I love this idea as you can punch the dough down using the dough hook and you don't end up with another bowl to wash! Admittedly my loaves aren't pretty but they are tasty.

I also whipped up a batch of pumpkin chocolate chip toffee muffins. Then I collapsed and haven't cooked or baked since. Just kidding!

Also in the picture are bluebells and lily-of-the-valley from my sister-in-law for mother's day. Isn't she lovely! I love lily-of-the-valley. They remind my of my mum, who loved them. When we lived in Germany, Dad used to gather them for her and bring them home in his hat. Probably not the proper use of a uniform hat (Dad was a Flight Lieutenant in the Air Force).

a cabbage is a cabbage - no?

I had a lot of cabbage in my vegetable drawer this week so on Tuesday, I made a cabbage and sausage gratin for supper on Wednesday. Something I could pop into the oven after swimming and heat up in time for supper. It's adapted from this recipe. It was suggested as a side dish to sausages so I added the sausage to the mix to make a complete supper.

And silly me, although the recipe calls for savoy cabbage, I used the head of napa cabbage I had that originally was destined for potstickers but I felt less and less like fiddling with wrappers so made a gratin instead - much more my style.

1 head cabbage, cored and sliced ( see above, I used napa)
1 leek, sliced
3 mild italian sausages, casings removed, crumbled
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c vegetable stock
grated nutmeg
2 tbsp flour
1 1/2 c milk

3/4 c bread crumbs
1/2 c grated gruyere cheese
2 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp thyme

Saute sausage, leek and garlic until the sausage is browned and the leeks are soft. Add cabbage, stokc, pepper and nutmeg and cook covered until the cabbage is wilted, about 15 minutes. Stir in the flour and stir for about 2 minutes. Add milk and bring to a boil, then simmer until thickened, or about 5 minutes. I used milk and a softer cabbage so mine was a bit runny at this point. Pour into a greased baking dish.

Combine the topping ingredients and sprinkle over the mixture. I covered with plastic wrap and kept in the fridge until the following day. Then I baked at 400 deg F for about 30 minutes until browned and bubbly. It was yummy and the leftovers were even better heated up. So next time I might bake first before keeping in the fridge for a day or so and then reheating.

quinoa for supper

The other week I was perusing the grocery shelves for some spelt flour as I was looking to add spelt to my bread recipe based on a suggestion. I didn't find any in the flour aisle so I asked a clerk. They didn't have any spelt he didn't think but they did have another ancient grain and he took me to the coucous/rice section and proudly handed me a box of quinoa. Well, chops to him for knowing that quinoa is an ancient grain and I felt as he'd gone out of his way I would get the quinoa. And figure out what to do with it later. So Tuesday found me with some chard from the market needed to be used up in my vegetable drawer and quinoa in the cupboard so I found this recipe.

Here is how I made it:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, diced (simply because I ran out of onion)
3 garlic cloves minced
3 small carrots, peeled and diced
1/2 red and yellow pepper, diced
2 c uncooked quinoa, rinsed
1 c dry lentils, rinsed
1 1/2 c sliced mushrooms
900 ml vegetable broth
1 bunch chard, stems removed and sliced into ribbons

I heated the oil and sauted the shallot, mushrooms, peppers, carrot and garlic until soft. Then I added the quinoa and lentils and stirred for a minute before adding the broth. Cook for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the chard until wilted.

I added parmesan crumbles to the top. It was a bit dry and the chard could have used a bit more cooking. I liked it but D felt it needed more zip. For him I added more liquid (if I made this again I would add at least another c of water) and 1/4 crumbled feta, and a dash of balsamic vinegar.

I will try this again but with spinach instead of chard as I found the chard didn't really blend in with the rest - add some tomatoes and some heat - smoked paprika or chili flakes. As I like cheese with most things, I think the feta will stay as well.

Monday, May 10, 2010

more questions

The other night at dinner:

T: Mummy, can I get a bunny?

M: Maybe - what kind of bunny do you want?

T: A black one. Named Max.

D (to me): Mrs Alexis has a bunny named Monty. (Ah - now the Max makes sense. T knows a bunny named Monty so he wants one named Max (the other half of the dump truck twins from Thomas the Tank Engine.)

T: But we need a cage for the bunny. So it can't pee on the carpet.

D: Yes, we don't want bunny pee on the carpet.

T: (very seriously) No. No bunny pee on the carpet. Or bunny poo, either.

D: You also need a cage to keep the bunny from chewing everything in the house. They love to chew things.

T: Like what?

D: Everything. Carpet, chairs, clothes, toys, everything.

T: But bunnies eat carrots and radishes. And lettuce.

D: Yes, but they like to chew everything.

T: Oh. Can I get two bunnies? I'd like a red one too. A red one named Juliep.

The next day D phoned me to say that T's new-to-him fire truck was at the top of the bookcase in the den. Not because he had done anything bad or broken it but because he didn't want it to be chewed by the bunnies. (which we don't have)

Yesterday (Mother's Day) - after I opened my card from T (via D) and flowers (again from T via D) - T had made me a card and soap at preschool which he gave me on Friday as he couldn't wait until yesterday, we went off on some Sunday adventures - the market, the fish hatchery and the playground on the way home. T loved climbing the rocks at the fish hatchery - he wanted to see the fish being made but we couldn't see that - we saw all the salmon fry (babies) in the nursery tanks as well as the fishway (fish ladder). As I pulled into the driveway:

T: Mummy - do ducks pee and poo?

M: Yes.

T: What about lions? And tigers?

M: Yes

T: What about snakes?

M: I don't know - I've never really thought about it. Presumably they must.

T: Lions must have the biggest poos.

M: Well, I think elephants probably have bigger poos than lions.

T: Yeah. Elephants would have really big poos. Bigger than my firetruck.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

betime conversations with a 4 year old

T: Mummy – when were you made?

M: Oh – a long time ago honey.

T: Back in the time of dinosaurs?

M: Oh – not that long ago.

T: But when Mummy?

M: Well, my mummy and daddy went on a holiday after they got married and that’s when I was made.

T: and then what happened?

M: Well, then I grew in my mummy’s tummy until I was ready to be born.

T: Like me – I grew in your tummy?

M: Yes

T: How come I didn’t grow in Daddy’s tummy? Can I grow a baby in my tummy?

M: No honey. Babies don’t grow in daddy’s tummies. Only Mummy’s have the right parts to grow babies in their tummies.

T: Oh. (Big sigh) So what do the daddies do? Do they do anything?

M: Yes, it takes a mummy and a daddy to make a baby.

T: But how?

M: Well, Daddy has a seed and Mummy has an egg

T: (T has a big snort here) An egg?

M: not like a chicken egg. People eggs are so small you can’t see them. You know, how when we plant a seed in the soil, and water it, it grows into a plant? That’s what happens with a baby – it grows inside mummy.

(At some point I talked about mummy and daddy having a magic hug to create people – a term I found while reading something about talking to kids about procreation. Now D is worried about T wanting to give his little girlfriend a “magic hug”. Hopefully he’ll remember that the magic hug is only between mummies and daddies. )

The magic part lead to this exchange:

T: Magic, like in the bathroom magic. That was so funny!

M: What was so funny?

T: that the toilet flushed all by itself and the water came out when my hands were there. How did it know to do that? That’s magic.

M: And the hand dryer was magic too!

T: Yeah – it was cewel!

(The bathroom was at Whole Foods, with automatic toilet flush, faucet activation and hand dryer activation – fascinating to a 4 year old. But as D said, not as cool as the bathroom in a creperie in Marseille, with a rotating/cleaning toilet seat activated by the light switch!)

M: Night muffin. We love you. Go to sleep now.
T: I’m not a muffin, I’m T. M. (pause) And I have another name, don’t I? A middle name. I don’t remember what it is.

M: Kingsley

T: That’s funny. Like Uncle Kingsley?

M: that’s right. He and you are named after mummy’s grandfather Kingsley.

T: What about Auntie Clare?

M: She’s married to Uncle Kingsley. She and Kingsley are Freddie and Harry’s mummy and daddy. They are your cousins. Uncle Kingsley is mummy’s brother. Like Uncle Mike is daddy’s brother. And Auntie Kerry is daddy’s sister.

T: um (confused)

M: Like C’s big sister R. They have the same mummy and daddy (this is going to lead to trouble soon with brothers and sisters with different mums and dads but we’ll go with this for now!)

T: So Daddy and Kerry and Mike?

M: Yes – they have the same mummy and daddy. Kerry, Mike and Daddy all lived together when they were little.

T: With Uncle Tom? (Tom is Kerry’s husband)

M: No, honey. Kerry didn’t know Tom until she was grown-up.

T: Well, where did Tom live?

M: He lived with his mummy and daddy and his brothers and sister.

T: Oh. What were there names?

M: I don’t know – maybe you can ask Uncle Tom the next time you see him.

A few seconds later:

T: Mummy, what day is it today?

M: Sunday

T: starts singing the days of the week

M: time for sleeping, honey.

T: Mummy, when is swimming?

M: On Wednesday.

T: (still singing days of the week). Mummy, I was scared during the fire alarm during swimming the other day.

M: I know you were. It was very loud, wasn’t it? But you were safe with your teacher. And you found mummy outside. And then you got to see the fire pumper truck and then you had the rest of your swimming lesson.

T: Some bad person pulled the bell. That was bad, wasn’t it?

M: Yes, we don’t want to pull the alarm unless there is a fire. Hopefully there won’t be an alarm this week during swimming. So you can practice your swimming.

T: Yeah – like this (demonstrates holding a float board) and I put my face in the water.

M: Yes, like that. Now, it’s sleep time.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

bread and lilacs

So I tried out my new stand mixer yesterday with a loaf of bread using a recipe from America's Test Kitchen cookbook. Oatmeal sandwich bread. It was fabulous to read the recipe directions which say "knead bread for 10 minutes" and to set the mixer on and let it do all the work while I sipped my tea and admired my lilacs.

The bread rose when it was supposed to

and although it may not be the prettiest loaf in the world, it sure tastes good.

Here's a picture of this weeks batch of banana chocolate chip muffins.

Last week I made them pumpkin muffins as I was missing bananas (subbed in 1 cup of pumpkin puree for the mashed bananas) and they turned out well. They are already gone so they must have been good.