Thursday, May 31, 2012

Coffee Cake Muffins

Today my mother made some coffee cake muffins. I have made them a few times before myself, and I think I even used the recipe she used today, but I cannot remember for sure. This recipe is from Company's Coming "Muffins and More". Coffee cake muffins are just as they sound - muffins that are like coffee cake. It is just a basic, plain muffin batter with a brown sugar and cinnamon filling in the middle. There are numerous different recipes for coffee cake muffins, but they are all basically the same. Although some recipes sprinkle the filling just on top, or in the middle and on top (much like a coffee cake itself), this recipe just calls for the filling in the middle of the muffin. This recipe states to ensure the filling is completely covered. While doing this, somehow my mother managed to have leftover filling, so she did end up sprinkling it on top of some of the muffins. That's why some muffins look different than others in the picture. The filling did not burn or anything, and was actually quite nice on top of the muffins. Most coffee cake fillings are mostly made up of brown sugar, some butter, a hint of cinnamon, and sometimes flour and/or chopped nuts. This recipe does not have any butter in it, which I think would be a very welcome addition. Coffee cake muffins are nice, but a bit plain and dry. In order to have really good coffee cake muffins, sour cream our yogurt should be used in the batter for additional moistness, and the addition of raisins, chopped apples, or nuts adds some more flavor.

Coffee Cake Muffins
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter or hard margarine
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
STREUSEL
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
STREUSEL Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
Preheat oven to 400F. Line a muffin pan with paper liners or grease them. 
In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center.
In a separate medium bowl, beat the butter, sugar, and egg. Add the milk and vanilla. Pour into well and stir until just moistened.
Fill each muffin cup 1/3 full. Sprinkle each with some of the streusel, then top with remaining batter (fill the cups 2/3 full). Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
The recipe yields 12 muffins, which we barely got - they are quite small. Also, be careful not to overbake the muffins.

Paré, Jean. "Coffee Cake Muffins." Recipe. Muffins & More, Edmonton Alberta: Company's Coming Publishing Limited, 1983. 15.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fudge Brownie Pie

Here is a very simple and quick but excellent dessert. It can easily be whipped up in a flash with ingredients on hand, and can be served as is, or dressed up in a number of ways for a fancier dessert. It is also delicious, and a popular dessert for chocolate lovers.
Try serving it with ice cream and a cherry, whipped cream and chocolate swirls, or hot fudge sauce. Even if you serve it plain, it will be divine!
Fudge Brownie Pie
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter or hard margarine, melted
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease an 8-inch pie plate.
Beat eggs in medium bowl; blend in sugar and butter. Stir together flour, cocoa and salt; add to butter mixture. Stir in vanilla and nuts, if desired. Pour into prepared pie plate.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until almost set. (Pie will not test done in center.) Cool; cut into wedges. 

West Side Publishing. "Fudge Brownie Pie." Recipe. Hershey's Classic Recipes, Lincolnwood Illinois: Publications International, Limited, 2009. 331.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Classic Culinary Combinations

Some foods just go together so well. I am sure you have heard the expressions: it's like peanut butter without jelly,  you are the milk to my cereal, or they go together like milk and cookies. Here is a list of some of the most popular and tasty food pairings.

  • peanut butter and jelly
  • cereal and milk
  • chocolate and peanut butter
  • apples and cinnamon
  • caramel and chocolate
  • caramel and apple
  • bread and butter
  • biscuits and jam
  • milk and cookies
  • soup and crackers
  • ham and pineapple
  • cherries and chocolate
  • peanut butter and apple
  • pork and beans
  • stir-fry and rice
  • pasta and sauce
  • pizza and garlic fingers
  • cheese and crackers
  • fruit and nuts
  • pie and ice cream
  • honey and yogurt
  • fish and chips
  • burger and fries
  • mushrooms and onions
  • soup and sandwich
  • coffee and donuts
  • tea and scones
  • cinnamon and sugar
  • ginger and orange
  • chocolate and mint
  • nachos and cheese
  • chips and dip
  • veggies and hummus
  • yogurt, granola and fruit
  • bacon and eggs
  • ketchup and fries
  • cake and icing
  • bangers and mash,
  • marshmallows, chocolate,
    and graham crackers
There are probably hundreds more of them, but these are the first ones that came to mind.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Parmesan Cheese Shortage

A magnitude six earthquake hit northern Italy last week. I know what you're thinking: isn't this a food blog? Well, the earthquake hit the area of Italy famous for producing the special Parmesan cheese Italians are so fond of. Some of the worst damage was done to Italy's agricultural areas where Parmesan cheese is produced. Many huge wheels of the special cheese were damaged and ruined in the shake. What does this mean? It means there is now a shortage of Parmesan cheese in Italy. Cheese that has been produced within the past little while is now ruined, and it may take a while for repairs to be made to the production sites before they are up and running again. Meanwhile, Parmesan cheese, a gourmet treat to begin with, will become even more pricey. It may even become a rare find in stores now. I am talking about the authentic Parmesan cheese imported from Italy. Imitation Parmesan just will not do (once you've had the real thing, anyway). I am not a huge fan of Parmesan cheese myself, but I do agree that it makes a nice addition to pasta dishes, soups, sauces, and pizzas. Many Italian families use Parmesan cheese as an addition to their pastas, pizzas, and salads everyday. My grandmother buys real good Parmesan cheese in bulk, and always gives a portion of it to our family. We keep it in the freezer and take it out as needed. It comes in a huge block, and we cut off pieces and finely grate it. Mostly we use it on pasta. I remember when I was younger, my grandmother always made sure we were extremely cautious around the bowl of Parmesan cheese because it was so expensive, and she did not want us to waste any of it. Because it was ingrained into our heads from a young age that the stuff was a real treat, we still use it quite gingerly. In fact, today she actually encourages us to use more. That might change now with the current situation.
PHOTO CREDIT:"Parmesan-Cheese1.jpg"  http://howisitmade.org/how-is-parmesan-cheese-made/ . How Is It Made?, n.d. Monday, May 28, 2012.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Black Bottom Slice

I had a yearning to make chocolate squares, so I looked in the Company's Coming "150 Delicious Squares" cookbook, which was sure to have something. I have already made the majority of the squares in that book, especially the chocolate ones, but I managed to find one recipe I had never made before. It is called Black Bottom Slice. It begins with a chocolate shortbread crust, a coconut filling, and a chocolate icing. Sounded simple and quick enough, so I whipped up a batch. The squares do not take long to cool, and I was able to frost them within an hour after they came out of the oven. I put them in the refrigerator overnight to set, and easily cut them the next morning. I do not recommend storing them in the fridge though, they get a little hard, and are better at room temperature. They have a nice chocolate flavor, and a lovely layer of coconut. Even if you are not a coconut fan, you will probably enjoy these squares.

Black Bottom Slice
CRUST
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup cold butter or hard margarine, cut into small pieces
FILLING
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup shredded coconut
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
ICING
1 1/4 cups icing (confectioner's) sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 Tablespoons butter or hard margarine, melted
5 teaspoons hot coffee

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8x8 or 9x9 inch pan with parchment paper, if desired, but do not grease the pan.
CRUST: In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and crumble together. Press firmly into prepared pan. Bake for 15 minutes.
FILLING: In a medium bowl, beat the eggs until frothy. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour over hot crust. Bake 30 minutes. Cool.
ICING: In a small bowl, beat all ingredients together. Spread over cooled squares.

Paré, Jean. "Black Bottom Slice." Recipe. 150 Delicious Squares, Edmonton Alberta: Company's Coming Publishing Limited, 1981. 51.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Dad's Waffles

Just like we sometimes have pancakes for supper, we occasionally have waffles for supper (or lunch) as well. My mother seems to hold the title of pancake master while my father owns the title of waffle master. My father doesn't make waffles too often, maybe once or twice a month if we are lucky, but when he does, he really seems to take a lot of pride in making them. He carefully measures out the ingredients and gently mixes up the batter. Then he cooks the waffles - two at a time - in our standard waffle maker. It's just a simple one that makes two square waffles at once - not a fancy shape or Belgian waffle maker or anything. He also tailors the waffles to suit our own personal tastes - whether we like them extra crispy, or slightly soft, or fresh from the maker, or from the oven. And we all put whatever topping we like on our waffles - butter, syrup, yogurt, applesauce, peanut butter, honey, fresh fruit, cinnamon, etc. We like to enjoy these waffles with pan-fried ham and scrambled eggs, or sometimes a bowl of cereal, or sometimes just waffles alone!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Irish Soda Loaf Bread

I made a quick whole wheat Irish Soda Loaf Bread in order to replenish my continuous stash of homemade whole wheat bread I keep on hand in the freezer. Generally, Irish Soda Bread is thought of as a round loaf bread, almost like a scone. It is usually a quick-rise bread (which means no yeast is used and no rising or proofing times are needed), with the signature "X" cut in the middle. Often this bread is hearty, so it contains whole wheat flour, and/or oats, bran, and wheat germ. Often raisins or currants are added for more flavor and texture. The real thing that makes it a signature Irish soda bread is the buttermilk in it. Because the bread uses buttermilk, baking soda must be used instead of baking powder in order to react with the acidity of the buttermilk. That is where Irish Soda Bread gets its name. This bread I made is not a traditional Irish Soda bread, because of its shape and preparation method. This bread did not need to be kneaded or shaped, just mixed up and placed in a loaf pan. It is incredibly quick and easy.
Irish Soda Loaf Bread
4 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/3 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup cooking oil

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan.In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients and make a well in the center. Pour the milk and oil into the well, stir until just moistened. Spread into prepared pan and bake for about an hour. Remove from pan and cool.

I used all whole wheat flour and no all-purpose, but I replaced a small portion of the flour with ground flax seed. I also added some pumpkin seeds to the batter for crunch. I made my own buttermilk by placing a little more than two tablespoons of white vinegar in a liquid measuring cup and adding enough milk to make 2 1/3 cups. I let it sit for 5-10 minutes until slightly thickened. This recipe comes from Company's Coming "Holiday Entertaining".

Paré, Jean. "Irish Soda Brown Bread." Recipe. Holiday Entertaining, Edmonton Alberta: Company's Coming Publishing Limited, 1989. 43.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

F is for Food

Here is another one of my alphabet posts, where I list as many different foods as I can think of that start with a certain letter. Today I will do the letter F. Again, these are coming strictly from my head, I won't include any brand names, and I won't list every individual type. For example, a cookie is a cookie, I will not then proceed to list chocolate chip cookie, coconut cookie, cream-filled cookie, etc. F will probably be a fairly short list, just like E was, but we will see.
  • Fish, Flax, French fries, French Toast, French Onion Soup, Fruit, Figs, Fava beans
  • Fiddleheads, Fudge, Fondue, Fricasse, Flambee, Farfelle, Fettuccini, Fusili 
  • Farina, Flan, Frittata, Fajitas,Five Spice, Frosting, Frozen Yogurt, Filberts
  • French Vanilla Ice Cream, Finger Food, Fillets, Fritters, Fruitcake, Filling
  • Fudgeicles, Fried Rice, Flounder, Filet Mignon, Flapjacks, Fruit Salad, 
  • Frankfurters, Falafel, Fontina, Feta Fennel, Frogs Legs, Flatbread, Flour Tortilla
Surprisingly there are a lot of foods that begin with the letter F!
PHOTO CREDIT:"Letter-F-.jpeg" http://sharonhamiltonauthor.blogspot.ca/2012/04/f-is-for-falling-in-love.html. Sharon Hamilton, n.d. Thursday, May 24, 2012.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Lobster

It is now officially lobster season, with fresh lobster being brought in everyday from the nearby ocean! We enjoyed some fresh lobster for supper tonight. I am nowhere near a lobster expert, in fact, I only recently began liking lobster (I used to not like any fish at all, now I absolutely love most kinds of fish!) I guess there aren't too many different ways to enjoy fresh, cooked lobster - plain and simple is best. Lobster meat is so tasty (and expensive) it really only needs a little adornment for flavor. Of course, lobster meat can also be used in a variety of dishes. It makes a delicious addition to hors d'oeuvres sandwiches, and chowders if you can afford it, but it is also nice to enjoy lobster just as is. We usually eat our lobster cold, as my father will cook them in a large pot of boiling water, cool them, painstakingly shell them, then put the meat in the fridge for later. Shelling lobster is by far the most difficult, time-consuming, and annoying part of all, and I am glad I never have to end up doing it. Lobster is definitely worth all the trouble though. I find that this one small crustacean has several different flavors. The big claw meat is my favorite part, I find the tails taste good but are a bit too chewy for my liking. The little claws are also fairly good, but a bit of a hassle to open for the amount of meat you get from them. I am not really a fan of the tomalley, which many people consider the best part. Lobster is a flavorful and filling fish, and is best enjoyed with just a few light side dishes. Coleslaw, potato salad, macaroni salad, garden salad, mashed potatoes, and rolls are all good choices. Lobster meat doesn't really need any seasoning at all, but a touch of salt, ground black pepper, lemon juice, or tarter sauce can all add a little flavor.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Giant Cookie On A Skillet

Yesterday I went to one of my favorite restaurants for lunch. Since that is the restaurant I visit the most often, I am quite familiar with the menu, and have already tried many of the items on the menu. I had a delicious panzerotti for lunch, which is basically an enclosed pizza. This is a pizza restaurant, and actually it is my favorite pizza aside from homemade. I wanted a little something different, so I opted for the panzerotti. Of course the panzerotti was delicious, with a perfect sauce, a nice crust, and an excellent filling (you can choose your filling ingredients).  However, the restaurant recently introduced a new dessert, and that is what I was looking forward to the most. For awhile now, this restaurant has always had a dessert called the "Brownie Skillet", which I thought was one of the best dessert inventions ever. Basically, you take a chocolate brownie, cook it on a skillet, then top it with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce. It gets delivered to the table, right on the skillet, piping hot. Sounds simple, but it is so genius. Now they have come up with a new creation: a cookie skillet. It is a giant (and I mean GIANT) chocolate chip and chunk cookie, the biggest I have ever seen, cooked on a skillet, then topped with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce. It is absolute heaven. And totally worth it (it's actually very reasonably priced in my opinion). The only complaint I have, is I would have preferred no whipped cream (not a huge fan), and double (or triple) the chocolate sauce (a huge chocolate fan). Other than that though, it was absolutely delicious, and I would definitely get it again. The menu states it as being "Delightfully Craveable" and the caption sums it all up very nicely, "Where have you been all my life?" Who knows, I might even try making it at home myself some day, and experiment with different kinds of cookies! Also: this divine dessert is waaaayy better than it looks. I don't think any picture could ever do it enough justice. You will just have to experience it for yourself!
PHOTO CREDIT:"PD2012_Web Dessert Menu (1)" http://www.pizzadelight.com/5-desserts-menu.html.Pizza Delight, n.d. Tuesday, May 22, 2012.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Nonna's Tea Biscuits

These are the absolute delicious and irreplaceable tea biscuits my grandmother is famous for making. I don't know how she can make them so perfect each time, but she does. I have tried making them myself using her recipe, and they were good, just not the same (maybe she held back on a secret ingredient). Every time I visit her or she visits me, my grandmother always has a stash of these tea biscuits. She also seems to have an endless supply of them stored in her freezer for when she doesn't have time to make them fresh. Typically, everyone in the family loves to have them for breakfast. Most of us heat them up in the microwave and enjoy them warm with a little butter, but they are also good with jam, honey, and peanut butter. They are also good as a snack, as a side to a meal (like soup), or even as dessert. I have enjoyed them with chocolate pudding and strawberries, or yogurt and fruit, or even whipped cream and fruit.  They are pretty much good any way. They are light, tender, fluffy, soft, and buttery. I don't think I will ever get tired of these tea biscuits. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Signature Chocolate Chip Cookies

I don't know anyone who doesn't love a good chocolate chip cookie! There are so many different versions of this one popular treat out there. Everyone has their one favorite (or six favorite) kind; the ideal chocolate chip cookie. Some insist on oatmeal chocolate chip, some double chocolate chip, some people like nuts in their cookies, and some people like jumbo chocolate chip cookies. There are thousands upon thousands of different chocolate chip cookie recipes out there. It is difficult to believe that one simple treat could have so many variations, but it does. The size, texture, shape, taste, and ingredients can vary greatly.
These are the chocolate chip cookies my grandmother makes. They are one of my favorites, along with my mother's oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, my jumbo chocolate chip cookies, and the chocolate chip cookies at a nearby restaurant. I like them all for different reasons. I like my grandmother's because they have a unique texture - they contain just a touch of rolled oats which makes them nice and crisp and chewy at the same time. I like my mother's because they are chock full of oats, and have a nice balance of oats and chocolate chip all rolled together in a small, crunchy cookie. I like my jumbo chocolate chip cookies because they are soft and chewy with a hint of a secret flavor. The key is, if someone else tries to make my grandmother's or my mother's or my chocolate chip cookies, they won't taste the same. If I crave my grandmother's chocolate chip cookies, my mother's chocolate chip cookies just won't do, and vice versa.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Sharing Recipes

My grandmother and I love to exchange recipes. She gives me some of her recipes - traditional recipes that my great-grandmother used to make, and classic recipes she makes time and time again; recipes that I love and really miss when I don't get to visit her for awhile. Of course, I can never make them as well as she can, but I can make a reasonable substitute. Her recipes are always much less specific and descriptive then the ones I give her, partly because they are a bit old, and partly because I like to be descriptive when I copy recipes. I also share recipes with my grandmother. Usually I will share the recipes for any treat I make especially for my grandmother and she ends up  really liking it. She is like me, and often does not end up making the baked goods for herself, but may ask me to make it again for her. I also share any recipes with her that she asks me for. My cookbook collection and the number of online recipe sites I have bookmarked is much greater than my grandmother's. Sometimes I can find unique or specialized recipes very quickly for her. Also, if she wants a simple master recipe for something, I can often provide her with direction as to a good source of where to find a recipe or which ones are particularly good.
These cookies are chocolate brownie cookies called chocolate nuggets, and I gave my grandmother the recipe for them a few years ago. This is the first time she has made them (actually, I haven't made them since either, but that's just because I like to try new recipes). I gave her the recipe because I made these really delicious chocolate squares, that she loved, but the squares called for only half of a can of sweetened condensed milk. Because my grandmother and I both hate to waste food, I also gave her the recipe for the cookies I made, which used up the other half of the can of milk. She finally decided to make the cookies for my visit. Tasting her cookies reminded me of how different the same recipe can taste depending on who makes it. She made her cookies a lot smaller than mine, and she also cooked them a bit longer. They were still excellent, just different. My mother has also shared her infamous cookie recipe with several different people, and each version has turned out slightly different. They are all good, some are softer, some are bigger, and some are more chocolatey. Of course my mother's cookies always taste the best to me. Sharing recipes is fun and rewarding, but typically whoever made the recipe first makes it the best.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Grandma's Spaghetti

I am visiting my grandparents for the weekend, which means lots of great company, and of course, lots of great food. At my grandmother's house, Friday night is always spaghetti night. This tradition has been going on for years and years, as long as I can remember. Normally someone in our extended family visits on Fridays for spaghetti night, usually someone closer in proximity to my grandparent's house. Tonight she also had to host my family, and made an extra big batch of spaghetti. On spaghetti nights, there is always spaghetti with my grandmother's simple but tasty spaghetti sauce. There is also plain pasta for those who prefer it. We also have my grandmother's meatballs, and some sausage. Of course, being Italian, there is always a nice crusty loaf of fresh bread, garlic butter, and Parmesan cheese to go around. My grandmother also makes up a plate with ham and cheese, and often there are some vegetables around too. A simple meal, but a tasty tried-and-true tradition. And no  one can forget about dessert. There is always something around, and usually more than one option available. Whether it`s her classic chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cake, squares, or fancy pizelle cookies. Although often we don`t have room for dessert until later on. Since my grandmother always makes a great big batch, we usually have some leftover spaghetti. Some lucky person will get to enjoy this tomorrow!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Molasses Raisin Spice Bars

These molasses bars are a nice change from typical bars and squares. Instead of being quite sweet, often chocolatey, with many layers and fun additions, these bars are more like a spice cake. They are soft, moist, spicy, and not too sweet, with just a hint of coffee flavor. They are also very quick and easy to make. Although the icing makes the squares a bit fancier and more decadent, this step may be skipped. The squares would probably be pretty good without the icing, they would be slightly less sweet and probably neater and easier to store. The recipe came from Company's Coming "150 Delicious Squares" cookbook, but I tweaked it a bit. I added raisins even though they were not called for in the original recipe. Adding some chopped walnuts would make a nice addition as well. Also the original recipe called for the use of orange juice in the icing instead of additional coffee. I used coffee simply because I didn't have any orange juice, and I have used coffee in icings before and found it works very well. The coffee in this icing pairs well with the coffee in the squares, and I don't know if the extra flavor addition of orange would have been as good. 
Molasses Raisin Spice Bars
BARS
1/2 cup butter or hard margarine
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour (save a little for coating the raisins)
1/2 cup hot coffee
1/2 - 1 cup raisins, optional (toss them with a bit of the flour to prevent them from sinking in the batter)
ICING
3 Tablespoons butter or hard margarine, melted
1 1/2 cups icing (confectioner's) sugar
5 teaspoons cold coffee

BARS: Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line an 8x8 inch or 9x9 inch square pan.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg and molasses. Stir in the baking soda, salt, spices, and half of the flour. Mix in half of the coffee, followed by the remaining flour and then the remaining coffee along with the raisins, if using. Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the batter comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.
ICING: Beat all ingredients together until smooth, adding more icing sugar or coffee as necessary to achieve a desired consistency. Spread over cooled bars. Refrigerate before cutting.

Paré, Jean. "Molasses Bars." Recipe. 150 Delicious Squares, Edmonton Alberta: Company's Coming Publishing Limited, 1981. 91.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ramekins

Ramekins, also referred to as custard cups, or mini ovenproof dishes, are small, round dishes that are able to withstand high oven temperatures. They are used for individual, fancy baked desserts. I own a set of eight ramekins, and they are such a useful investment! They stack and store well, are perfect for individual portion sizes, make preparing desserts in advance simple, and are easy to clean. They are inexpensive, easy to find, and come in a wide array of colours and sizes.

You can use ramekins to make molten lava cakes, crème brulee, crème caramel, soufflés, mini bread puddings, individual cheesecakes, mini fruit crisps, and even savoury foods such as little chicken pot pies and individual shepherd’s pies. I have used my ramekins for many of the above foods, and they work incredibly well! You would not believe how often mini dishes that are ovenproof come in handy in the kitchen!
PHOTO CREDIT:"creme_caramel_ramekins-set"   http://www.pastrypal.com/2009/07/creme-caramel-so-saucy/  .Pastry Pal, n.d. Sunday, March 18, 2012.  

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Grilled Chicken

Here is the tender and juicy grilled chicken my father recently grilled on the barbecue. He baked the boneless skinless chicken breasts in the oven for about 30 minutes at 350F before finishing them off on the grill. All he did was brush them with a little barbecue sauce, and that was all they needed! They turned out quite moist and tender and had a great flavor, I like them done this way more so than when we simply bake them, but of course that isn't really practical in the wintertime. Chicken is such a versatile dish that goes with just about anything, and it is often a popular choice that many people enjoy. I am looking forward to more barbecues this season!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Chocolate Potato Fudge

The title of this post may be strange or misleading, but mashed potato chocolate fudge is actually the best fudge I have ever made; it is delicious! The recipe originates from potato candy, which was invented during war time when ingredients like sugar were scarce and expensive, and foods like potatoes were greatly abundant. Potato fudge was originally invented as a way to stretch foods and save money, but is now made because it works, and it is a bit healthier than regular chocolate fudge and candies. I came across the recipe about a year ago while I was doing some research on what ingredients to use for healthier baking. I found this recipe and it certainly intrigued me, so I just had to try it. And I am sure glad that I did!
The addition of mashed potatoes to fudge can make the fudge a bit healthier, not to mention it is a great way to use up some leftovers in the fridge. The mashed potatoes replace some of the butter in the fudge. Also, this fudge is quite a bit different from traditional fudge recipes. It is not boiled on the stove top, in fact, this fudge is more similar to making chocolate truffles. The mashed potatoes are creamed with the butter and cocoa and vanilla, and icing sugar is gradually creamed in until the fudge reaches the desired consistency. Therefore, this fudge is a lot softer and has a different texture then boiled fudge, but it still holds up well and is very smooth, satiny, and yummy. There is no milk used in the fudge, no liquid at all actually, due to the preparation technique, which also cuts back on the fat amount. Just a warning though, this fudge is still far from being a healthy treat. It may be a bit better than regular fudge due to the addition of mashed potatoes, but it still contains as much, if not more, sugar. Fudge is a sweet treat to be enjoyed in moderation.
Here is the recipe for mashed potato fudge. It becomes quite soft when left out at room temperature, so it should be kept cool, but it will keep for a while in the fridge.
Mashed Potato Fudge
6 Tablespoons butter or hard margarine
½ cup plus 1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup mashed potatoes
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound (3 1/2 - 4 cups) icing sugar

Line a 8 or 9-inch square pan with foil and lightly butter the foil.
In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter in the microwave. Stir in the cocoa until smooth. Add the potatoes, salt, and vanilla, mix well until mixture is very smooth. Gradually blend in the icing sugar, in 1/2 cup increments, until it is completely mixed in. Mixture will become very stiff, knead if necessary. Press into prepared pan and refrigerate before cutting.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day Cake

Happy Mother's Day to all of the mothers out there! I hope you are having a great day! Here is the cake I made for my mom. Luckily, we are actually having some nice weather for Mother's Day, which unfortunately means it is not great conditions for decorating with buttercream icing. Oh well, I think most of my piping still turned out ok. This cake idea came from my Cake Boss book "Baking With The Cake Boss" which shows step-by-step instructions of how to replicate some of his amazing signature cakes. I chose the design for a girl's birthday cake, but instead of writing Happy Birthday, I wrote Happy Mother's Day of course. I started with my white cake layers from yesterday, and sandwiched them together with my usual chocolate fudge filling. Then I iced them with my signature vanilla buttercream. I put a simple double-shell border around the bottom, and a reverse shell border on the top, both with white buttercream. I added some pink dots to the top border. Then I piped a ruffle swag around the side of the cake, with small white stars at the tops. I piped a small pink squiggle border around the inside top of the cake, and wrote Happy Mother's Day! I added some buttercream roses (I still need practice on those), and completed them with some green leaves (although they aren't really leaves, since I don't have a proper leaf tip). It certainly doesn't look quite as polished and professional as the Cake Boss version, but my mother said it was beautiful!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

One Bowl White Cake

Using a simple white cake recipe I found in Company's Coming "Cakes" cookbook, I made two cake layers for a cake I will decorate for Mother's Day tomorrow. The cake recipe was super quick and easy - and only required placing all of the ingredients together in one bowl and mixing them up. I hope the cake is as great tasting as it is easy to make. I also hope it is moist, as no one likes a dry cake. It's basically a simple butter cake with a subtle vanilla flavor. It could be used for celebration cakes, shortcakes, Boston cream cakes, and more.

One Bowl White Cake
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter or hard margarine, softened
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans. Put all ingredients into a large mixing bowl (order of ingredients doesn't really matter). Using an electric mixer, beat on slow speed until ingredients are moistened, then beat at medium speed for about two minutes or until batter is smooth. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean. Cool in pans on a wire rack for ten minutes, then remove from pans to cool completely.

Paré, Jean. "One Bowl White Cake." Recipe. Cakes, Edmonton Alberta: Company's Coming Publishing Limited, 1990. 111. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Flower Cake

Today I decorated yet another cake. I made it for a cake walk. It is a simple white cake baked in two 8-inch round layers. Unfortunately, both cakes cracked during the process of removing them from the pan. I'm not sure what happened, as the pans were greased and floured, and the cakes were allowed to cool for ten minutes before they were removed from the pans (as suggested in the recipe). Oh well, it won't affect the taste. At first I only realized one of the cakes was cracked, in fact that piece had several thin pieces fall off of the bottom. So I thought it would be fine if I just placed that cake bottom-side down on the plate. When I went to put the other cake on top, I noticed a large crack through the middle of that cake. I patched it up with the icing as best as I could and carefully placed it on top. 

To decorate the cake, I made the usual vanilla buttercream, although this time I made the ratio of butter to icing sugar slightly lower (and unfortunately, I emptied the bag of icing sugar in the process). I iced the cake, then tinted some buttercream blue and some pink. I did a ruffled swag drop-line around the cake in blue, and added some small pink stars to it. Then I made my simple star swirl flowers in pink, filled the centers in with blue, and added some blue swirls all around. Pretty simple, but quite nice-looking and a fitting cake for springtime. In fact, I managed to decorate this entire cake completely using only one hand. It may have taken a little longer than usual, but it was completely doable. Multitasking at its finest!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Milk Biscuits & Yogurt Muffins

It is always a bit of a challenge to cook in a kitchen you aren't totally familiar with. I was faced with that challenge today. A lot of milk and yogurt needed to be used up so it would not go to waste, so a group of us were given two recipes, biscuits which use milk, and muffins which use yogurt, and we were set to bake. The final products of both the biscuits and the muffins were very good, considering the instructions were not very specific and we didn't know where anything was. That's how I discovered a potato masher works almost as well as a pastry blender to cut margarine into biscuit dough. Both recipes are very simple, quick, and tasty. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of these delicious creations.

Biscuits
5 cups flour 
1/3 cup sugar (granulated/white)
2 Tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup margarine (soft tub works just fine, but hard margarine or butter will work too)
2 cups milk (or use 1 cup milk and 1 cup water)

Preheat oven to 400F (personally, I think 425F would have made for better browning of the biscuits). In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the margarine using a pastry blender, two butter knives, or a fork (a potato masher works as well). Stir in the milk until dough begins to come together. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about five minutes, adding a little more flour if necessary. Roll out dough about 1/2 inch thick, and cut with cookie cutters or just cut into squares or rectangles with a knife. Arrange them on an ungreased baking sheet, touching if you want softer sides, or far apart if you want them crispy. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until light golden. Makes about 20 biscuits, depending on size. It seems to be a lot of flour for only 20 biscuits, but it's not. It also seem to be a lot of baking powder, but the muffins rise beautifully.

Yogurt Muffins
I managed to memorize the biscuit recipe, but I cannot remember the muffin recipe, nor can I find it online. All I remember was flavored yogurt (we used strawberry and banana, but feel free to experiment) was used in place of oil and milk. I believe the muffins also contained sugar, egg, melted butter, flour, baking powder, salt, and chocolate chip. Chocolate chip and strawberry yogurt may sound a little strange, but the muffins were very moist and delicious!

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Homemade Chocolates

A little while ago I had made squares that called for an icing of melted semi-sweet chocolate chips. I used the amount called for in the recipe, but I found it to be slightly too much chocolate. As I absolutely hate to waste anything, I decided to use the leftover melted chocolate to make my own little homemade chocolates. All I did was take a small piece of parchment paper and spoon the chocolate on into several little round dollops. Then I put them in the fridge to set. So easy, but so good! They were a quick and tasty candy recipe, and they were gobbled up quite quickly. And no chocolate went to waste!

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Maple Pancake Cookies

These are the delicious cookies I made today. They are plenty sweet, and have a nice real maple flavor. They are sort of like pancakes - not quite the same texture, but a good substitute for dessert or a snack. They are also incredibly quick and easy to make, the dough can even be made ahead of time and refrigerated until you are ready to bake. If you don't need to transport the cookies anywhere and don't mind a little stickiness, they would be even better brushed with a little maple syrup when they come out of the oven. Or better yet, sandwich two cookies together with a spoonful of maple syrup. A simple maple glaze made with icing sugar and maple syrup would be nice too. although they are perfectly good plain as well. I found the recipe nestled into a chapter book I read.

Maple Pancake Cookies
3/4 cup hard margarine, melted
1 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1/4 cup additional granulated (white) sugar, for rolling

In a large bowl, add the sugar to the melted butter. Mix in the egg, syrup, vanilla, baking soda, and salt. Add the flour and stir until thoroughly incorporated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill dough for at least an hour or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare cookie sheets (lining them with parchment paper works well). Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and roll them in the additional sugar. Place them about 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Gently flatten with your hand or a spatula. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from cookie sheet immediately to cool. Makes about three dozen cookies.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Cheesy Turkey Pasta Casserole

This is a casserole my mother invented. I believe she just sort of got a bit of inspiration and threw all of the ingredients together one night. It turned into a delicious supper that she turns to when she needs something easy and foolproof, or needs leftovers for the next day. It is simply a mixture of chopped, cooked chicken or turkey, pasta (usually rotini, but penne also works well), mozzarella cheese, and pasta sauce.  It is a pasta sauce that reminds me a bit of lasagna, but it is quicker to make. My mom used turkey this time, because we had some leftover pieces that were already cooked on hand in the freezer. Normally though, my mom would use chicken breast. If we don't have any leftovers, she will pre-bake the chicken breasts before cutting them up and adding them to the casserole. The pasta is also pre-cooked, then drained, and the chicken, cheese, and sauce are added to the pot. The mixture is then placed into a casserole dish and sprinkled with more cheese. It is then covered with foil and baked until piping hot. This recipe has no real amounts, and it is easy to make as much as you need. If you need a lot, just cook a lot of pasta, use more chicken breasts, add some more cheese, and use two bottles of sauce. We have baked two casserole dishes full at once. You could also add something else to spice up the casserole a bit, the addition of chopped onion or peppers, a different kind of cheese, extra spices, or anything else you can think of would all be good. This dish is also very good as leftovers, it will keep in the refrigerator for a few days and it reheats well. The dish is a huge crowd-pleaser at our house. It would be nice served with a simple side salad and garlic bread, but it is even satisfying enough to be eaten as a meal alone.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Quick Oatmeal Whole Wheat Loaf

No matter how many different kinds of whole wheat bread I make, I can never seem to find quite the perfect one. Or maybe I just keep making different recipes because I like to try out a so many different recipes as possible and I like variety. Why make the same thing twice when you can make something new? Unless of course, the first one was really good in the first place. I didn't have a lot of time today, so I made another quick bread. This was probably the quickest one yet. Mix all of the dry ingredients, add the wet, and put in an eight inch round cake pan. I found the idea for the recipe online and modified it to suit my taste of course. It is quite tasty, especially for something so quick and easy to make!

Quick Oatmeal Whole Wheat Loaf
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup ground flax seed
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1/4 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
3 Tablespoons oil
Preheat oven to 350◦F.In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients. In a separate smaller bowl, mix the wet ingredients then add to the dry. Stir gently until combined. Turn into a lightly greased eight inch round cake pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Egg-cellent E

Here is another one of my alphabet posts, where I list as many different foods as I can think of that start with a certain letter. Today I will do the letter E. Again, these are coming strictly from my head, I won't include any brand names, and I won't list every individual type. For example, a cookie is a cookie, I will not then proceed to list chocolate chip cookie, coconut cookie, cream-filled cookie, etc. I am thinking that E will be a fairly short list, but we will see.

  • Egg, Eggplant, Egg Nog, Egg Rolls, Egg Salad, Egg Salad Sandwiches
  • Egg Bread (ok, enough egg now), Easter Bread, Endive, Escarole, Edamame
  • Escargots, Empanadas, Enchiladas, Emmental Cheese, Elbow Macaroni
  • Extra Lean Ground Beef, Eclairs, English Muffins
Actually I thought of more than I thought I would.
PHOTO CREDIT:"vitamin-e.gif"  http://going-well.com/2011/11/03/11-wonderful-benefits-of-vitamin-e/ . Going-Well, n.d. Saturday, May 5, 2012.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Dreamy Chocolate Squares

These are Dreamy Chocolate Squares, probably one of the richest, most chocolatey, and most delicious squares I have ever tasted. They really live up to their name! I found the recipe handwritten on an index card in my mother's recipe box a little over a year ago. My mom told me she used to make the squares quite a bit, and that the recipe had come from my great aunt. I couldn't remember these squares, and my mother said she didn't know why she ever stopped making them. So I made them for myself for the first time about a year ago. They were soooo good! "Why did you ever stop making these?" I asked my mom. She isn't sure why, but it's probably the same reason this is the first time I have made them since then. These squares are very rich, decadent, special, and probably quite bad for you. They are also somewhat expensive to make, considering they require 3 cups of brown sugar, 3 cups of icing sugar, almost 2 cups of butter, and four eggs. But that is what makes them soooo delicious. It is difficult to describe these squares in words, a piece of heaven, death by chocolate, and scrumdilliumptious all work well, as does a simple mmmmmmmmm! 
My photography skills certainly don't give these squares the justice they deserve!
Unfortunately, I cannot share this family secret recipe with you. However, I will describe these squares. They start with basically a brown sugar, rich buttery shortbread base, that doesn't even require a pre-baking. They are topped with a cakey, brownie, fudgey chocolate layer and are baked.  Once cooled, they are frosted with a thick layer of chocolate butter icing that contains just a hint of coffee for a flavor boost. They are quite simple to make, and they certainly don't stick around for long!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Store-bought versus Homemade

On supermarket shelves today, there is an extremely wide variety of food products to choose from. Food items now come in every size, shape and flavor we could ever imagine. But it is still difficult to beat the taste of homemade baked goods. One of the reasons I have so many things to post on this blog is because I make many of the foods I eat. I am not completely opposed to store-bought goods, but there are some things that I do refuse to eat store-bought versions of, just because I think homemade tastes so much better! However, there are some store-bought items that have perfectly acceptable quality, in fact, there are even a few specific items where I think store-bought actually taste better than homemade. Of course, everyone has their own opinions, but here are some of mine.

  • BREAD There is nothing like homemade bread, and there are so many different kinds to choose from. Some breads are very easy and quick to make at home, and they taste amazing still hot from the oven. I do prefer commercial bread for most sandwiches though, because it is sturdier, uniformly shaped, hold up well, and has a mellow flavor and texture. It is also more convenient to use store-bought bread for sandwiches, as we would have to make bread every day at this house to keep up. I also have yet to master the art of even bread slicing.
  • COOKIES Usually I prefer homemade cookies, especially fresh and hot from the oven. There are some pretty good brand-name cookies out there that you just can't duplicate at home. 
  • CAKE You've got to go homemade with cakes. Stores can make good cakes, but I find homemade cakes just taste less artificial and more realistic. I don't even really like to use boxed mixes for cakes - it has to be from scratch. And I definitely do not like store-made or ready-made canned frostings.
  • MUFFINS Although you can get some pretty delicious-looking, giant muffins at the grocery store, I much prefer homemade. Homemade muffins are often fresher, moister, and more tender than commercial muffins. Besides, who can eat a muffin that big anyway?
  • SQUARES I find that stores don't tend to carry a wide variety of choices in bars and squares. Homemade are usually tastier and are so easy to make.
  • PIZZA I like to make homemade pizzas and panzerottis with dough from scratch, but there are also some frozen pizzas, store-made pizzas, and restaurant pizzas I enjoy. There are also some that I absolutely hate. Pizza, which seems to be such a basic food, can differ in so many ways from place to place.  Overall, I am not very picky when it comes to pizza, and I will eat pizza from most places, although I do prefer some kinds over others.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Spices

A little bit of spice can go along way to adding flavor to any dish. Breakfast, lunch, supper, and snacks could all use a little spice in them. A dash of cinnamon on your oatmeal in the morning, a little pepper on your chicken sandwich at lunch, and lots of chili powder in your tacos at supper! Spices are quite beneficial to health, many contain large amounts of antioxidants and other good nutrients. And there certainly is no shortage of variety on spices. Don't be afraid to experiment with some new and exotic spices. Most spices come in a fine powder form in either small jars or resealable bags, but some come in larger forms, which may need to be crushed before using to reduce the intensity of the spice. Spices never really go bad, and can last for years, but they lose their flavor after a year or so. It is best to buy spices in small quantities more often for a fresher flavor. It is always nice to have a variety of spices on hand. Some spices are much stronger than others, so always add a little at first and then taste to see how strong your dish is. You don't want the spice to overpower your dish. When paired with complementary foods, spices do wonders! Ginger and orange, cinnamon and chocolate, and honey and mustard are three perfect examples. Here is a list of all of the spices I can think of!

  • Ginger, Allspice, Cinnamon, Cardamom, Cloves, Nutmeg, Black Pepper
  • Red Pepper, Chili Powder, Garlic Powder, Five Spice, Turmeric
  • Mustard Powder, Thyme, Saffron, Tarragon, Poultry Seasoning
  • Chinese Spice Mix, Paprika, Basil, Oregano, Rosemary, Anise, Cayenne Pepper
  • Cilantro, Dill, Mace, Marjoram
PHOTO CREDIT:"spices1.jpg"   http://rakhealthmatters.wordpress.com/2010/03/14/check-your-spice-rack/  . Health Matters, n.d. Wednesday, May 2, 2012.