Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cajun Salmon (Restaurant Food)

Here is another restaurant food review post from a recent trip. This is Grilled Cajun Salmon with tropical fruit salsa, with corn on the cob and a side of roasted red pepper and tomato soup. If I could sum up this meal in just one word it would be spicy. The meal was very tasty and flavorful, but quite spicy; luckily I like a good amount of spice, though I certainly can't handle extreme spice. The main feature here is the salmon, which was rubbed generously on both sides with a dry Cajun spice rub, and grilled to perfection, with the bottom being close to blackened, but not quite as charred as most blackened fish usually is. The salmon was topped with a tropical fruit salsa that also contributed a fair amount of heat. Like most salsas, the vegetables (or fruits, in this case) are chopped and blended together with many spices and seasonings. It was difficult to determine the exact fruits used in the salsa, but I definitely did detect strawberries and a few different types of melon. I believe there was also some pineapple, some papaya, and maybe even some tomato, but I can't be sure. Whatever was in it, it was certainly tasty. The salmon came with your choice of side, including fries, salad, rice, or soup of the day. The soup of the day was roasted red pepper and tomato, which sounded pretty good to me, even if it was a fairly warm day outside. The soup was quite spicy, and the taste of roasted red pepper certainly came through. The soup wasn't extremely soupy, but not too thick either, just the right consistency. This was the only part of the meal I did not finish, not because it wasn't good, but because my tongue was already on fire from the Cajun salmon and fruit salsa, and I was already warm enough. The vegetable side that accompanies many meals is often overlooked, but considering I wasn't expecting anything with my salmon (nothing else was listed on the menu), I was pleasantly pleased. Maybe the vegetable that comes with the salmon differs depending on what is in season, but I was quite glad I got corn on the cob with mine. I'm not sure exactly how the corn was cooked, definitely not grilled, probably just boiled. It was spread with just the right amount of butter, and sprinkled with salt, pepper, and a hint of garlic. The entire meal arrived piping hot, and I could not wait to dive in!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Multigrain Focaccia

Focaccia is an Italian bread that is baked as a round, and then often served in triangular wedges. It often contains the flavors of rosemary or garlic, or Parmesan. It is meant as a side with a meal, to soak up any leftover juices, or as a fancier sandwich base. I made a plain multigrain version to serve for breakfast. This is my variation on a recipe I found for white focaccia with toppings.
Multigrain Foccacia 
1/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon granulated (white) sugar
1 package (8 grams) active dry yeast
1/2 cup natural bran
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm water
2 teaspoons olive oil

In a small bowl, dissolve the sugar in the water. Sprinkle the yeast over top and let stand undisturbed for ten minutes until bubbly. 
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix the next four dry ingredients. Make a well in the center.
Stir the yeast mixture and add to the well, mix well. Make another well and add the water and oil, mix well. Knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth and elastic.
Allow to rise for 1 - 1 1/2 hours until doubled in bulk.
Punch dough down. Pat into a 12 inch circle. At this point, it may be topped with your favorite topping or left plain. Toppings usually consist of olive oil, salt, herbs, spices, and sometimes onions or tomatoes. Let stand for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400F. Bake for about 25 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve warm or cold.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Ice Cream Sundaes

Since summer seems to have come to an end, and fall is in full swing, I thought I would feature a few homemade, spur-of-the-moment, ice cream sundaes that were made in this house this summer. They all start with a few scoops of classic vanilla ice cream. From there, you may see a banana split, or a chocolate chip eruption, with some candy-coated chocolates, and toffee chocolates galore! They are nothing special or fancy, just a quick ice cream and chocolate fix. There weren't even any sauces or sprinkles or anything added. Just whatever was found in the cupboard. 
Here is #1: Vanilla ice cream with some semisweet chocolate chips on the side (it's beginning to melt).
Voila #2: A very basic banana split.
#3: Chocolate galore with chocolate chips and candy-coated chocolates:
A little taste of summer for you!! It's getting a bit too chilly to enjoy ice cream now!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Impossible I

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 I. 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.  Well, actually I'm pretty strict on those rules for common letters that have a lot of foods beginning with them, I'm a little less strict on the less often used letters, such as e, f, and g. I don't think there will be a lot of foods beginning with I either.

  • Ice Cream
  • Icing
  • Icing Sugar
  • Ice Cream Cones
  • Ice Cone
  • Iceberg Lettuce
  • Icicle Pickles
  • Iced Tea
  • Iced Coffee
  • Iced Cappucino
  • Irish Cream
  • Irish Mashed Potatoes 
  • Italian dressing, bread, sausage, etc.
  • Indian curry
  • Instant mashed potatoes, cake mix, coffee, etc.
PHOTO CREDIT:"Letter-I.jpg"    http://she-says.com/2012/04/10/i-is-for-inception-atozchallenge/ .She Says, n.d. Sunday, August 5, 2012.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Back To School Meal Times

Well school has been back in for a few weeks now, and routines have started to become well established by this time. Meals can be a bit difficult to plan at this time of year. Schedules  can make it difficult to enjoy many family meals together, between school, jobs, sports, extra-curricular activities, homework, and sleep, it isn't easy to find a time where the entire family can sit down and eat together. And that is just supper, which tends to be the primary meal families enjoy together, where one dish is cooked for everyone to sit down and savor. Too often breakfast ends up being a hurried event, because family members need to be out the door at different times to make it to school and work, depending on what time they are expected to be there and how far the journey is. Oversleeping, long showers, and mini morning crisis sometimes leave minimal time for a good, nutritious, sit-down breakfast. Often a grab-and-go breakfast style is preferred. It is also entirely possible that there are no family members at home at lunchtime. Lunch is usually eaten at school or at work either alone or with a group of friends, and usually consists of something quick and easy to pack, or a quick take-out.

What is the best way to manage these busy schedules and still manage to find some time for a family meal? Try to arrange schedules so there is a time everyone has, even if it is just half an hour, for a family meal. Even if you can only manage this for a few nights a week, it is much better than none. This meal should have a homemade cooked dish everyone enjoys, even if it consists of leftovers or food from the freezer. There isn't much you can do about lunches, but try to make the breakfast table a common meeting place for at least five minutes or so, just so everyone is on the same page. And nothing brings the family together like a batch of homemade cookies fresh from the oven, whether it is after school, before bed, or 9:00 am on a Saturday morning. Family and nutritious food should always be high priorities.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Popovers

Tonight we had popovers with our omelettes for supper. Popovers have been on my list of things I want to make for quite a while now, and apparently my mother also wanted to try them. She decided tonight would be a good night to try them. We compared a few different popover recipes to find the best technique, ingredient amount, and cooking method. The recipe we used follows. Popovers are difficult to describe. They are a simple mixture of eggs, milk, flour, and salt. They are baked at a high temperature, and rise very high without a leavening agent. They are crispy on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside. They are a nice side dish served with breakfast or brunch, or even with soup. They are good plain, or with butter, jam, or honey. 

Popovers
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 450F. Generously spray eight muffin cups (or a popover pan if you have it) with cooking spray, or grease with butter or shortening.
In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs for about a minute, just until they are a uniform color and not yet fluffy. Whisk in the milk. Dump in the flour and salt all at once, and stir with a wooden spoon until incorporated. Batter will be lumpy.
Pour the batter into the muffin cups, filling them almost to the top. Fill the extra cups with water. Bake for exactly 30 minutes. Do not open the oven during baking!
Place pan on a wire rack, and gently pierce the top of each popover with a sharp knife to let steam escape. Cool for a minute or two, and gently turn the popovers on to a serving dish. Serve immediately, while they are warm and before they deflate.
A few notes: 450F for exactly 30 minutes is the perfect oven temperature to achieve a crisp exterior and fluffy interior texture. Ensure the pans are greased well so your popovers will pop right out. This recipe made eight.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Oatmeal Cereal Squares

Recently I have been trying homemade cereal recipes. This is my third one, not including granolas and oatmeals I have made. Although it is very convenient to buy a box of cereal at the store, I like to make everything I can at home, and I think homemade cereals taste better as well. You can suit them to your tastes, and add what you want to them. They are heartier and more nutritiousness, and although they won't last a year like commercial cereals do, most will last two weeks and also freeze very well. Finally, making your own cereal is probably mush easier than you think, and it is quite fun! Here is another great cereal recipe I found online.

Oatmeal Cereal Squares
1 1/4 cups oats
3/4 cup water
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 Talespoons oil
2 Tablespoons ground flaxseed
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a 9x13 inch pan with  parchment paper.
Grind the oats in a blender until they resemble flour.
In a large bowl, whisk together all other ingredients. Whisk in the oats. Pour into preapred pan. Bake for 17 minutes. Remove from pan and cool for five minutes or so.
Preheat oven to 400F. Cut/break the dough into cereal-sized pieces or squares. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown and crunchy.

"Crunchy Homemade Oatmeal Cereal Squares.”  http://chefmom.sheknows.com/articles/963177/crunchy-homemade-oatmeal-cereal-squares . Chef Mom, n.d. Friday, September 21, 2012.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Apple Jack

This is a nice fall apple recipe to make when you are looking for something a bit different than the typical apple crisp. This topping is more cake-like. This recipe is quick and easy, always a hit, and can easily be doubled. I bet it would  be good with other fruits too. It comes from Company's Coming "Desserts".
Apple Jack
6 large apples, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
ground cinnamon, to sprinkle
1 large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons butter or hard margarine, melted
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly butter an 8x8 inch casserole dish.
Arrange apples in bottom of dish. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.
In a large bowl, mix the egg, butter, and sugar. Stir in milk. Add flour, baking powder, and salt, mix well. Spoon over apples. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Serve warm. Good with cream or ice cream.
Because I used a glass pan, I baked it at 325F. It took a bit longer to cook thoroughly.

Paré, Jean. "Apple Jack." Recipe. The Potato Book, Edmonton Alberta: Company's Coming Publishing Limited, 1989. 28.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Easy Grain Bread

Easy Grain Bread
1/2 cup warm water
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 package (8 grams) active dry yeast
2 cups milk
2 Tablespoons butter or hard margarine
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup natural bran
1 cup ground flaxseed
4 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar in the water. Sprinkle the yeast over top. Let stand undisturbed for ten minutes until bubbly.
Meanwhile, scald the milk, and allow to cool to lukewarm.
Stir the yeast mixture and add remaining ingredients except for flour. Mix well. Gradually stir in the flour. Knead for 8 to 10 minutes. Let dough rise for an hour, until doubled in bulk.
Punch dough down, divide evenly between two 9x5 inch loaf pans. Let rise for 30-50 minutes, until doubled in bulk. Bake at 400F for about 30 minutes.

This is a recipe I adapted from a basic white bread recipe. It is very easy and quick to prepare, although the risings do take some time. Try experimenting with the types of grains and flours used, and add some nuts or seeds if you wish.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Zucchini Mini Chip Muffins

I found a cup of leftover zucchini in the fridge - already washed, grated, and ready to go. My mother had recently made more of her famous chocolate zucchini loaves, and there was a little bit of zucchini leftover, but not enough for another batch of loaves. I did a quick search online and found this muffin recipe, which looked good. It turned out good too - nice and moist with a nice hint of cinnamon, a good dose of chocolate, and a little added texture from the oats and coconut.

Zucchini Mini Chip Muffins
1 1/4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 large eggs
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt or buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup grated zucchini
2/3 cup oats
2/3 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line muffin cups with paper liners.
In a large bowl, mix the first seven dry ingredients. Make a well in the center. 
Add the next four dry ingredients, mix well. Stir in remaining ingredients.
Divide batter evenly among muffin cups and bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Makes 12-15 muffins.

"Zucchini Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins.” http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/zucchini-chocolate-chip-mini-muffins/9a76a5e6-061c-4be7-80de-55215a792869 .Betty Crocker, n.d. Tuesday, September 18, 2012. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Nonna's Waffles

Here is another one of my grandmother's delicious treats: waffles. These waffles are quite a bit different from typical breakfast, dinner, or even dessert waffles. These waffles are miniature- bite-sized, almost as small as a cookie. They are not meant to be crispy waffles, instead they are soft and fluffy. They are perfect for snacks, easy to transport and hold. They are good plain, or with butter, jam, peanut butter, yogurt, honey, or sliced fruit. My grandmother usually makes a few heart shaped waffles too. I really like these waffles for snacks, but I like my father's big crispy waffles with ham and eggs for supper or breakfast.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Peperonata

My grandparents were recently here for a visit, and as usual, we did an exchange of home baked goods. Usually I make desserts and she makes more dishes for dinner, but I have made savory dishes and she makes sweets too. When travelling, the items you can bring are a bit restricted, but we manage. This time, I had some cookies for her, and made apple pie bars. She brought her usual tea biscuits (even cinnamon raisin ones this time) and waffles, as well as bean soup, coleslaw, tighe (a bean dish), and peperonata. These are all dishes she makes all the time, but we never tire of them because we love them. Usually she makes the same things, and I like to experiment and try a new recipe each time. Both of these methods work. My grandmother's recipes are tried and true ones she has been using for ages. The recipes I try can turn out to be new favorites, or it may just teach a good lesson.
Here is my grandmother's peperonata. It is similar to a ratatouille. It is a mixture of green pepper, eggplant, zucchini, and tomatoes in some sort of tomato sauce. It is cooked until very tender. It is a good vegetable dish for a side, or because it is so saucy, it is good to serve over chicken, steak, pork, or polenta. A piece of bread will soak any extra sauce at the end.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Last Barbecue Of The Season?

The other day we had a big barbecue. I am beginning to think this could possibly be our last barbecue of the season. As the sun sets earlier, and the days get colder, and life gets busier, it may be time to pack up the barbecue for the season. I am certainly hoping we will have another one, and knowing my family, we probably will. My mother will kindly ask my father to barbecue a quick batch of hamburgers, and my father will definitely agree. Or maybe steak or salmon will go on sale for an amazing price, and we will have to send my father out to barbecue, even if it pours rain (or so help me, snows). My father is the grill master here, and we certainly appreciate every time he ventures out to barbecue for us. We may help prepare foods, or suggest foods, but he is always the one who cooks them, and does a great job. Pictured here, clockwise, are salmon fillets (back right), steak, pork chops, and sausages. My favorite is the salmon, followed by the pork. I don't really like steak or sausage, but others in the house certainly do. This selection is a bit different from our usual barbecue choice, often we do burgers and/or chicken. Sometimes  ribs too. We usually stick to meat and fish on the barbecue, although we could easily through some vegetable on there too. I have made a cake and a few other odd things on the barbecue too. I guess we like to have plenty of room for our meat on the barbecue, and we prepare the vegetables separately. We rarely barbecue just for one night, we almost always purposely cook extras for leftovers. Sometimes we freeze barbecue too, that way, when barbecue season really is over, we will have some for the dead of winter.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Apple Pie Bars

I have always loved the idea of apple pie. Rolling out the pastry dough, using fresh in-season local apples, the enticing aroma of apples and cinnamon baking. However, I have encountered a few issues with pies before, not particularly apple, but others as well. The first problem is the crust. As good as they seem, I'm actually not a big fan of pie crusts. They don't tend to have a lot of flavor, and they are only nice and flaky if they are made perfectly. They aren't meant to be the star of any pie, and for something that really only holds the filling, it sure packs in a lot of fat and calories. This is because they are usually made with a large amount of shortening or old-fashioned lard. The rest of it is simply white flour, and a touch of salt, sugar, and water. In our house, we prefer shortbread or graham cracker or chocolate crusts. But none of those seem to fit that well with an apple pie.
I came across this recipe for apple pie bars in a cooking magazine I recently received. These bars seemed easier and more convenient than a full apple pie, and the crust seemed better too. It is a crust made with butter and cream cheese. I have made these pastry crusts before, and they always turn out nice and tender and tasty. I also find them easier to make and work with. Once the crust is ready, and the prep work of peeling and slicing the apples is done, these bars are pretty easy. The dough is a bit tedious to roll out, but it will give you a bit of a workout. Add some cinnamon, and sugar, and put them together. Bake em up, and dig in.  
These bars are very good. Reminiscent of apple pie, but even better. The recipe calls for a simple icing of icing sugar and water, but I didn't bother with that, because they really don't need it. You could serve them with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream if you like, but they really don't need anything. This recipe also makes a nice big batch - a 10x15 inch jelly-roll pan full. It could easily be halved, but why would you want to?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Browned Onion With Potatoes

This is a quick and easy recipe I found in a cookbook dedicated to potatoes, Company's Coming "The Potato Book". I have made a caramelized onion and potato flan, and a fried potato with caramelized onion dish, and they were both big hits. So I decided to try this recipe too, which is a bit different because the potatoes are mashed. Essentially, this is just a dish of mashed potatoes to which caramelized onions are added. The onions are caramelized in a frying pan, and then stirred into the mashed potatoes. This would be extra good if you added some mushrooms along with the onions, and if you really want to make it special, stir in a little cream cheese or sour cream with the potatoes. 

Browned Onion With Potatoes
4 medium white potatoes, peeled
water
2 small onions, sliced into thin rings
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Tablespoons margarine or butter
1/3 cup milk
salt, pepper, and any other seasonings, to taste
Boil the potatoes in water in a medium saucepan until tender. 
Meanwhile, heat the oil and one of the tablespoons of margarine in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions and sautee, stirring occasionally, until nicely browned and caramelized, about 15-20 minutes. The heat may be turned down if onion becomes too brown. 
Once tender, drain and mash the potatoes with the remaining margarine, milk, and seasonings. Stir in the onions. This can be kept warm in the pot for up to 20 minutes until diner is ready.

Paré, Jean. "Browned Onion With Potatoes." Recipe. The Potato Book, Edmonton Alberta: Company's Coming Publishing Limited, 2004. 106.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Krispie Oatmeal Chip Cookies

Krispie Oatmeal Chip Cookies
1/2 cup butter or hard margarine, softened
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup crisp rice cereal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease or line cookie sheets.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and both sugars. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Add remaining ingredients, mix well. Drop dough by tablespoons onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden. You can bake these shorter for soft oatmeal cookies or longer for crispy cookies. Since "krispie" is right in the title, I recommend baking crispy cookies. 
Recipe yields 30 cookies. I got 42 good-sized cookies. I baked most of mine for exactly 12 minutes, but I baked one batch for 15 minutes to get crispier cookies. Both are good. Recipe comes from RobinHood.ca. 

 "Krispie Oatmeal Cookies.”  http://www.robinhood.ca/recipe-details.aspx?rid=3278&lid=1 . RobinHood, n.d. Sunday, September 9, 2012. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Dark Rolls

These are some rolls I made to have with my breakfast. They should be tasty spread with peanut butter and enjoyed with some fruit and a glass of milk, or dressed up with cheese and veggies for a quick lunch. They contain a hearty mixture of oats, bran, and whole wheat flour. They have a nice soft texture. They are also surprisingly quick and easy to make for rolls. The recipe is from the Company's Coming "Breads" book.
Dark Rolls
1/2 cup warm water
2 teaspoons granulated (white) sugar
2 packages (8 grams each) active dry yeast
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup natural bran
1 cup whole wheat flour 
6 Tablespoons butter or hard margarine
3 Tablespoons molasses
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups boiling water
4 1/2 cups all-purpose (white) or whole wheat flour

In a small bowl, dissolve the granulated sugar in the warm water. Sprinkle the yeast over top and let stand undisturbed for ten minutes until it bubbles.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the next seven ingredients. Add the boiling water and mix well. Cool to lukewarm.
Stir the yeast mixture and add to the other mixture. Gradually add in remaining flour. Knead for 3 to 4 minutes. Allow to rise for an hour, until dough is doubled in bulk.
Punch dough down, divide into 24 pieces and shape into buns. Place on greased baking sheets, an inch apart. Allow to rise for 45 minutes, until doubled in bulk. Bake at 375F for 15 minutes.

Paré, Jean. "Dark Rolls." Recipe. Breads, Edmonton Alberta: Company's Coming Publishing Limited, 1996. 60.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Doubled Cinnamon Rolls

This is the usual cinnamon roll recipe I make, the one that my family absolutely loves, and one I think cannot be beat. It is a rich biscuit dough with a cinnamon and brown sugar filling with plenty of melted butter brushed on the rolls. The standard recipe makes only nine cinnamon rolls, and they are all baked together in an 8x8 inch square pan, which keeps them soft and fluffy. Nine cinnamon rolls is not very many, and they certainly do not last long in this house. I have made two consecutive batches of these cinnamon rolls before. I whipped up one batch, put them in the oven, and made up the other batch while they were baking. When the first batch came out, I baked the second batch. However, I found this to be quite time consuming, a lot of work, and a little bit confusing. I decided to try doubling this cinnamon roll recipe, and simply make one double batch of these cinnamon rolls. I figured this would make eighteen cinnamon rolls, and I could bake them all together in a 9x13 inch rectangular pan. Unfortunately, this seemed to pose a few problems. This is a picture of all of the cinnamon rolls together.
I mixed up the dough as I usually do, double checking each ingredient carefully to ensure I had correctly doubled the amount. When I went to knead the dough though, the dough was quite liquidy. I mixed in an additional half cup of flour, and the dough was still quite sticky. I ended up adding quite a bit of extra flour, which I hoped would not affect the texture too much. I was able to knead the dough and roll it out. I decided to divide the dough in half, and roll each half out separately, spread each with half of the filling, roll it up, and cut it. Then repeat with the second half of the dough. The first half went smoothly, but the second half stuck a little bit, which made for some not quite as nicely formed rolls. I also cut each half into more than nine pieces, because I found that cutting it into nine would make the rolls way too large. After this though, the rest went fairly smoothly. All of the rolls fit nicely into a 9x13 inch pan, and they baked perfectly, just as usual. They also came out tasting great - just like they usually do. The only drawback was the look - some of the rolls are not very nicely formed, but they still taste great. This incident proves as a little reminder that not all recipes may be doubled successfully. The same goes with halving a recipe, as I once discovered with my chocolate cake recipe. In particular, candy recipes should never be halved or doubled, only made as is. They do not set properly when each ingredient is just doubled, there is more science to it than that. Like in this cinnamon roll recipe, either more than double the flour was needed, or less than double the liquid was needed. Luckily, this case worked out in the end. This is a picture of the best looking cinnamon rolls of the batch.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Krunchy Krisps

These cookies live up to their name, they are crispy and crunchy.  They are a nice oatmeal cookie with a little added coconut for texture, and the little addition of cinnamon  really adds a nice flavor. these are quick and easy cookies to make, and are great for packing in lunchboxes. The recipe is from Company's Coming "Cookies" book.

Krunchy Krisps
1 cup butter or hard margarine, softened
3/4 cup granulated (white) sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 375F. Lightly grease or line cookie sheets.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars together. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Add remaining ingredients. Drop by spoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake for about ten minutes until browned. Cool for a few minutes before removing from cookie sheets.
Makes about five dozen (60 cookies), but recipe may easily be halved or doubled.

Paré, Jean. "Krunchy Krisps." Recipe. Cookies, Edmonton Alberta: Company's Coming Publishing Limited, 1989. 16.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Chicken Pizza

Homemade pizza at our house is a popular choice for supper. We usually make two large pizzas, and often make one white and one whole wheat. We have an awesome recipe for pizza crust, that is easy and seems to never fail. It makes a nice, thick rising crust. Our toppings are often the same, we use tomato sauce, diced onion, sliced mushrooms, pizza meats such as pepperoni, salami, and ham, mozzarella cheese, and whatever other vegetables we have on hand. This time we also had some leftover cooked sliced chicken on hand. I really like chicken on pizza. Roasted chicken pieces, especially chicken breast, has a nice taste and texture that pairs really well with the tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese on the pizza soft crust. It is a great way to use up leftovers, and sliced chicken is a healthier alternative to the usual salty, fatty, processed pizza meats that are often found on pizzas. Other meats can work well too, such as pulled pork, ground beef, and even fish. You can basically use whatever toppings you like on a pizza and make it personally yours. Pictured here are three slices of the whole wheat chicken pizza we had with diced onion, sliced mushrooms, and chopped green pepper as well. The two corner pieces show off the lovely risen crust, but the middle piece gets you extra toppings. Both are great!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Brown Bread

Another great bread recipe from Company's Comings "Breads". Of course I halved the recipe to make two loaves, and added ground flax seed to replace some of the flour. I also used all whole wheat flour. This makes a good, sturdy sandwich bread or bread for toast.

Brown Bread
1/2 cup warm water
2 teaspoons granulated (white) sugar
2 packages (8 grams each) active dry yeast
4 3/4 cups hot water
3 Tablespoons butter or hard margarine
1/2 cup molasses
1 1/2 cups natural bran
1/3 cup granulated (white) sugar
2 teaspoons salt
14 cups all-purpose (white) or whole wheat flour

In a small bowl, dissolve the granulated sugar in the warm water. Sprinkle the yeast over top and let stand undisturbed for ten minutes until it bubbles.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the next six ingredients. Add the boiling water and mix well. Cool to lukewarm.
Stir the yeast mixture and add to the other mixture. Gradually add in remaining flour. Knead for 8 to 10 minutes. Allow to rise for an hour, until dough is doubled in bulk.
Punch dough down, divide into 4 pieces and shape into loaves. Place each in a greased 9x5 inch loaf pan. Allow to rise for an hour, until doubled in bulk. Bake at 375F for 35 minutes.

Paré, Jean. "Brown Bread." Recipe. Breads, Edmonton Alberta: Company's Coming Publishing Limited, 1996. 141.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Creamy White Frosting

Here is a new frosting recipe I decided to try. I don't often use different types of icings or frostings, and when I do, I usually do not follow a recipe. However, as I was planning my father's birthday cake, I figured I might need a less stiff icing that could easily be spread over a delicate cake. I also only needed a little icing for piping, so I knew I could always whip up a little buttercream if I did indeed need something stiffer for the borders and pipings. I came across this recipe in the Company's Coming "Cakes" book I was looking through. It is a creamy white frosting described as similar in appearance, texture, and procedure to whipped cream. It requires a boiling on the stovetop and a whipping by hand, but it does make a nice icing that is creamy and tasty but not too sweet. It is good to cover delicate cakes or to use as a whipped cream substitute, but it is not so good for piping, it does have a slightly grainy appearance, and it doesn't taste as good as buttercream (in my opinion anyway).

Creamy White Frosting
1 cup milk
2 Tablespoons all-purpose (white) flour
1 cup butter or hard margarine, softened
1 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small saucepan, whisk the milk and flour together until smooth. Heat and stir until it boils and thickens. Cool thoroughly. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the thickened milk and beat in until mixture resembles whipped cream. Makes about 3 1/2 cups, enough to fill and frost a two layer cake.
Paré, Jean. "Creamy Frosting." Recipe. Cakes, Edmonton Alberta: Company's Coming Publishing Limited, 1990. 140.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Coca Cola Cake

My father asked for a Coca Cola themed cake for his birthday this year. Although he is not a huge Cocoa Cola drinker, he does have quite the collection of Coca Cola paraphernalia. I asked him well in advance to give me an exact picture or model of what he would like his cake to look like. He first asked me to make a model of a Coca Cola truck, but soon told me he was just joking about that, because it would be quite difficult to shape a cake like that. Next, he asked me for a Coca Cola cooler cake, but then decided against it. Coca Cola coolers are mostly red, and he did not want a cake with mostly red icing, nor did I want to make a cake like that because this is a lot of food coloring to consume. He could not find a good-looking Coca Cola cake design that was mostly a white background with red, so he left it up to me. The last I heard was, "Surprise me." I decided to stick with the Coca Cola theme, because I knew that was what he wanted. After finding a good recipe for a Coca Cola Chocolate Cake, I looked up ideas for a Coca Cola design that would be mostly white with some red trim. Here is what I decided on. 
I made two eight inch round layers of Coca Cola Chocolate Cake. I iced them completely with Creamy White Frosting, a change from my usual buttercream, because I figured this icing would be easier to spread on a delicate cake, and whiter in color than my signature buttercream icing (since I use real butter).  Then I used red icing. I added a top border of big and small balls, and a bottom border of simple stars. I wrote Happy Birthday Dad and then "Open Happiness" Coca Cola's slogan in America for 2012. I added a coke bottle shape on top, and on the side, the Coca Cola logo in my own font, which hopefully looks close to the handwriting on Coca Cola's logo. 
I did have some slight issues with this cake however. The whipped cream icing did spread very nicely over the cake, although the cake did not turn out to be as delicate as I had anticipated, so buttercream probably would have been fine anyway. I had just the right amount of icing left over to pipe on the cake, and because I hate to waste, I decided to use this instead of mixing up a little buttercream. Unfortunately, the addition of red food coloring to the icing did not seem to yield very good results. The icing still seemed stiff enough to pipe, but when I began to pipe it out of my pastry bag, the red food coloring did not seem to be completely mixed in with the icing, and some of it ran or bled. This would be a good technique to keep in mind for a Halloween zombie cake, but it did not look the greatest here. Oh well, I'll know for future reference not to use this icing for piping.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Cola Chocolate Cake

It is my father's birthday tomorrow. I am going to decorate his cake in a Coca Cola theme, because my father has a Coca Cola collection of tins, lamps, etc. Although he is not a huge fan of the drink, he does like it. I decided since the cake is going to be decorated as a Coca Cola theme, I might as well make a Coca Cola flavored cake too. Actually, Cola Chocolate Cake is not unusual at all. From searching cookbooks and the internet, I have discovered there are two basic recipes for cola chocolate cake. One for a plain cola chocolate cake, and the other for a cola chocolate crater cake. The latter option contains miniature marshmallows that rise to the top of the batter and make little craters in the cake. I opted for the first option, since I plan to ice and decorate the cake, and we aren't huge marshmallow fans here, especially in our cakes.

Cola Chocolate Cake
1 cup butter
1/4 unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup coca cola carbonated beverage
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
2 cups granulated (white) sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9x13 inch rectangular cake pan, or two 8 or 9 inch round cake pans.
In a medium saucepan, bring the first four ingredients to a boil. Add the eggs and vanilla.
In a large bowl, combine the remaining dry ingredients. Add the liquid to the dry and mix (I used a handheld electric mixer to better combine all of the ingredients). Bake for about 30 minutes (mine took about 35 minutes), until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. This recipe is quicker and easier than my usual chocolate cake recipe. Hopefully it is tasty too.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Pulled Pork

Earlier in the summer, we visited some family friends who used to live next door to us. While we were at their house, they were kind enough to prepare a delicious supper for us. There was certainly a nice variety of dishes, but the one that stood out for me the most (besides the wonderful strawberry shortcake for dessert of course), was the pulled pork. Even though I am usually not a huge fan of pork, the moment I walked in the house I could smell the enticing aroma of the pulled pork in sauce warming up in the oven. I knew I had to try it, and I was sure glad I did. The pork was extremely tender, moist, and flavorful. You didn't even need a bun or roll to eat it with, I just ate it by the forkful it was so good. So soon after we arrived home, I asked my mom to ask for the recipe. I knew we probably could not exactly duplicate the pulled pork we had there, because it would be extremely difficult to top, but we had to try.
Our friend promptly e-mailed us the recipe, although she said there was no real recipe for it, and you could vary pretty much all of the ingredients and adjust the cooking times/methods a bit and the recipe would still work out. I suppose as long as it is thoroughly cooked and has a good sauce, you can't really mess up on pulled pork, however, it just won't be as good as this pulled pork. We just got around to trying this recipe yesterday. We used a pork loin instead of the typical shoulder, because that is what we found at the grocery store. The night before we roasted it with some vegetables and apple juice (cooking liquid was one of the main ingredients that could easily be varied). The house smelled very good at this point, but I knew I had to wait until the next day to try the pork. The next day, we baked the shredded pork with some barbecue sauce and served it on buns. The result? The pork was certainly very tender. The only problem was, we had not used the same barbecue sauce as our friend had, which was basically what made the dish so good. The pork is smothered in sauce, so you really have to have a good tasting barbecue sauce. The barbecue sauce we used was a bit strong and overwhelming. I had thought we would use the same sauce, but it turns out we did not have it on hand, and we didn't want to make a trip to the grocery store just for that. This pulled pork was good, but next time we will use the same sauce, and it will be even better, though I'm not sure it will ever be as good as our friend's was.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Flax Cereal Flakes

Here is another homemade cereal flakes recipe, that is surprisingly easy to do, and well worth the effort. If you plan on making these, you should read my Nutty Bran Flakes post from July 20th, as the technique used here is very similar. These cereal flakes are crunchy and hearty, good with fruit and with or without milk for a nutritious breakfast or snack.

Flax Cereal Flakes
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup ground oats (see note)
1/4 cup ground flax seed
2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup water
In a medium bowl, mix the first five dry ingredients. Drizzle in the oil and water and mix with a fork. Add more water if necessary, one tablespoon at a time, until dough holds together. Gather dough together and roll out on a piece of parchment paper as thin as possible, 1/4 to 1/8 inch thick. Place on a cookie sheet. Bake at 300F for 30 minutes, until cereal is dry, crisp, and cracked. Once cool enough to handle, break the cereal mass into bite-sized flakes, however you prefer them.
If you rolled out your dough fairly thick, or if the edges got crisp but the middle did not, part or all of the cereal may need to be baked again.  If the cereal mass, or parts of it, are still soft when you break them, place these pieces back on the cookie sheet. Any pieces that feel dry enough can be placed in a container or bowl to cool thoroughly. Bake the remaining pieces at 350F for an additional 5-10 minutes or so. Watch carefully, and stir the pieces around every 2-5 minutes. Bake to the desired crispness. 

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Creamy Vegetable Rotini

This is what I made for supper today. It is quick and simple, but quite tasty. The recipe came from a little booklet I had. You can easily vary this recipe in many ways to suit your tastes. Here are the basic options, choose what you would like from each of the following items listed. You will also need 1 Tablespoon cooking oil and 2 1/4 cups water.

2 cups mixed fresh or frozen vegetables (any kind)
2 cups uncooked pasta (rotini recommended, or anything similar in size)
1 can (10 ounces or 284mL) cream soup (I used cream of celery)
four portions of protein (meat, fish, beans), if desired
spices and seasonings, as desired

Now all you do is heat the oil in a large pot or skillet. Cook the protein as needed, and precook the vegetables as well if you think they need it (especially when using fresh). Once they are fairly soft, and the meat is cooked, add the water and soup and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, add the pasta and cook until tender, stirring often. This takes about 15-20 minutes. All of the water should be absorbed, and the dish should be somewhat creamy from the soup. It's that simple!
Here was my combination: meatless with fresh green beans, mushrooms, and carrots, with rotini and cream of celery soup. This is a quick dinner you can have on the table in half an hour with just a little prep work.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Two Hour Whole Wheat Buns

I found the idea for this recipe in my favorite breads cookbook, but I completely adapted it to suit my tastes. Basically, that means I made it chock full of healthy grains and made it completely whole wheat and tasty enough for breakfast. These buns are tasty, hearty, and have a nice soft texture because they are baked side by side together in one pan. They are easy to pull apart, and are good as a side for dinner, or for breakfast spread with a little peanut butter, jam, or honey. And as the name suggests, they can be made completely from start to finish in less than two hours. Just like the bread recipe I featured on Saturday, the yeast in these buns is added directly into the dry ingredients. What really surprised me though, was that there is no sugar at all in the recipe to provide food for the yeast. I was afraid this wouldn't work, but the buns still rose, and since they are meant for dinner or you add your own sweet topping, you won't taste the missing sugar either. Here is my recipe version:
Two Hour Whole Wheat Buns
1 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup natural bran
2/3 cup ground flax seed
1 package (8 grams) instant quick-rise yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/4 cup oil
1 1/2 cups water
2 - 2 1/2 cups additional whole wheat flour

In a large bowl, mix the first five dry ingredients. Mix the egg, oil, and water and add it to the dry mixture. Add another cup of flour and mix well. Add enough additional flour until a dough forms, kneading if necessary. Allow to rise for 15 minutes. 
Punch dough down, form into 24 egg-sized rolls. Place in a greased 9x13 inch rectangular baking pan and let rise for 45 minutes.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes at 350F.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Ooey Gooey Chewy Cookie Bars

Ooey Gooey Chewy Cookie Bars
CRUST
3/4 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup melted butter or hard margarine (1/2 stick)
TOPPING
2 cups milk chocolate chips
3 cups miniature marshmallows
1 1/2 cups flaked or shredded coconut (I used unsweetened)
1 cup chopped nuts (I left them out)
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
(I used a 300mL can, although 14 ounces is actually equivalent to 414 mL)

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray or line a 9x13 inch rectangular baking pan.
CRUST: In a medium bowl, mix the flour, sugar, cocoa, and salt. Drizzle the melted butter over, mixing with a fork until mixture forms small beads. Press into prepared pan.
TOPPING: Sprinkle ingredients in order given over crust, ending with the milk being poured over as evenly as possible. Bake for about 25 minutes. These cut well warm or room temperature, but do not refrigerate them before cutting, they will be too solid (actually, just don't refrigerate them at all).

This recipe came from another one of my funny cooking novels. These bars certainly are ooey, gooey, and chewy. They have a little bit of everything for everyone. Even if you aren't a fan of one of these ingredients, they all tie together very nicely to make a sweet and delicious square, with plenty of chocolate. The crust is also very nice, and holds all of the toppings nicely. These are also so quick to make and require very little prep work.

Fluke, Joanne. "Ooey Gooey Chewy Cookie Bars." Recipe. Cherry Cheesecake Murder, New York: Kensington, 2006. 364-366.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Whole Wheat Yogurt Bread

I had some leftover plain yogurt in the fridge again. Plain yogurt is excellent for baking, but too plain to eat on its own in my opinion. I did not have any recipes in mind that use plain yogurt, so I looked for a whole wheat bread recipe, since I kneaded (haha) to make whole wheat bread anyway. I found this recipe online, but I was a little skeptical about trying it. The yeast is not proofed in this recipe. I am used to bread recipes that call for dissolving a small amount of sugar in warm water, sprinkling the yeast over top, and allowing it to stand for ten minutes to activate. In this recipe, the yeast is added to water alone, and just stirred right in, followed immediately by the other ingredients. Since the recipe had good reviews, I decided to go ahead and try this method, although I did change quite a few other things in this recipe. It worked great, this bread even rose better than some of my others that used proofed yeast. This is a very foolproof bread recipe that can be tweaked as you like - add nuts, seeds, other grains, or whatever you wish! Another plus to this recipe - it slices very nicely and had a great, sturdy texture and relatively mellow flavor, making it perfect for sandwiches!
Whole Wheat Yogurt Bread
1 cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast (quick-rise)
1 Tablespoon granulated (white) sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt, at room temperature (let it sit out for 15 minutes)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup natural bran
1/3 cup ground flax seed
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 2/3 - 2 cups additional whole wheat flour 

In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast then the sugar over the water and dissolve. Add remaining ingredients except for the second amount of flour and beat well. Gradually stir in enough remaining flour to form a dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl. 
Knead for 6 to 8 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic.
Place dough in a bowl sprayed with cooking spray, turn dough once to coat. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap lightly sprayed with cooking spray, and a tea towel. Let rise for an hour, or until doubled in bulk.
Spray a 9x5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Punch dough down, form into a loaf and place in prepared loaf pan. Cover with a new piece of plastic wrap lightly sprayed with cooking spray, and a tea towel. Let rise for about half an hour, or until doubled in bulk. 
Bake at 375F for 35-40 minutes.