Friday, November 30, 2012

Evaporated Milk In A Pinch

The other day when I went to make my Pain Patate, I ran into a little problem. I realized I did not have any evaporated milk to use in the recipe that was not expired. I made sure to check that we had evaporated milk on hand before the errands were run, but I did not check the expiration date on it. Well, obviously I could not use that, and I really did not want to make a last minute trip to the store. I had already began preparing the pudding, so what to do next? The internet saves the day. I knew evaporated milk is used in recipes for creaminess, and that usually using fresh milk instead will result in a poor texture. I knew sweetened condensed milk is not the same thing at all, and is much too sweet, especially since I had already added the sugar in the recipe. I also knew cream, half-and-half, and powdered milk are reasonable substitutes, but I did not have any of those on hand either. I managed to find a short recipe that can be used in place of evaporated milk. Basically, you heat some milk with a little sugar and some cornstarch until it thickens and reduces by half. It is easy to scorch the milk this way, but it does make a great substitute. It can be used right away if the temperature of the milk does not matter. In my case, there were other hot ingredients in the dish already, so this made no difference. Otherwise, it can be prepared ahead and refrigerated. 

For every one cup of fresh milk, add one teaspoon of sugar and one and a half teaspoons of corn starch.  Heat in a saucepan over low heat until thickened and reduced by half. I thought since the mixture reduced, I would need to double the amount of milk to end up with the right amount. I ended up with a little extra, but this can keep in the fridge for a few days. 

Bottom line: check to make sure you have all ingredients you need before you go out, and again before you begin assembling the dish. I know we don't always have time to do this, and usually we have everything anyway, but some ingredients just do not have quick substitutes like this one. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

La Nourriture Française

Today I had the pleasure of sampling several dishes representing national plates of different French nations. There are a lot of French-speaking countries around the worlds, and all of them have their own variations on language, customs, values, music, and most importantly, food. In these cases, the food is mostly influenced by the climate and surrounding cultures of the country. However, these nations also had many things in common. Here are the dishes I sampled and a little background on the country they came from. I cannot remember which country each dish came from, and I do not know the exact names of all of the dishes, but here is what I can remember.
  • Pain Patate, Haiti. This was featured yesterday. It is made with Créole and island flavors including coconut and banana.
  • Chocolate Fondue, Switzerland. The Swiss are famous for their chocolate and cheese, and both chocolate and cheese fondues are traditional in Switzerland.
  • Luxembourgish Cheesecake, Luxembourg. Luxembourg also has a strong German influence, and German cheesecakes made with quark, a different type of cheese are common. This cheesecake was not made with quark, but it was certainly rich and delicious!
  • Coconut Cream Mousse, Sheychelles. A tropical dish from these French islands.
  • Banana Poe, French Polynesia. A dish made with cooked banana and served with coconut milk. It has a very spongy texture.
  • Spiced Tea, Chad. A popular drink for a relatively poor country.
  • Gourmet Chocolates, Belgium. What could be better than Belgian chocolate?
  • Phyllo Quiche, mini quiches baked in a phyllo crust with bacon.
  • Cake with Yogurt Filling, This was quite good, though I don't remember where it came from.
  • Rice, This is a possibility for many countries, really.
I know some of the countries mentioned were also Senegal, Niger, Morocco, and France, but I don't know if all of these dishes are listed here. Surprisingly, there were no stereotypical French foods, like French fries, croissants, escargots, crème brulee, or éclairs. This just goes to show there are a wide variety of French foods and cultures.
PHOTO CREDIT:"bon-appetit .Unborn Mind Zen, n.d. Thursday, November 29, 2012.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pain Patate

I recently did some research on Haiti, and in particular national dishes of Haiti. I found four national plates, but I decided to make this one because it sounded the tastiest. This is called Pain Patate, which literally means potato bread, but it is more like a pudding, and in some cases is even more cake-like. It is made with sweet potatoes, which work well in baked goods just like pumpkin or zucchini would. It also contains banana and coconut milk, typical flavors of Haiti. In addition, it contains a nice blend of spices. I left out the cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon. It tasted pretty good warm from the oven, if you like sweet potato that is. Coconut is also a prevalent flavor. The texture was a bit softer than I expected, but it is pudding, so I guess that makes sense. Nonetheless, it was interesting to try a dish from a different country and appreciate new flavors, as well as what we have here. This dish would be more like a vegetable side dish for me, but it is sweet enough to be a dessert too! I bet it would even work as a breakfast dish.
Pain Patate
2 pounds sweet potatoes, cooked and grated
1 large banana, mashed
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
grated rind of 1 lemon
1 Tablespoon butter, melted
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
1 1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Add all ingredients to a large bowl, one at a time, in order given, stirring well after each addition. Pour into a 9x13 inch baking pan. Bake at 375F for 90 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Irish Bran Bread

Irish Bran Bread
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour* 
*(I used 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup ground flaxseed)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup natural bran
1/4 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups buttermilk or sour milk
1/4 cup cooking oil
1 cup raisins, optional

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan.
In a large bowl, stir together all dry ingredients. Make a well in the center. Add milk and oil, stir to moisten. Scrape into prepared pan. Bake for about one hour.
This is a really easy and quick bread recipe.I made it recently because I was running out of my stash of whole wheat bread, but I did not have enough time to make a traditional loaf of bread that requires kneading and rising. While many quick loaf breads can be softer, crumbly, and not good sandwich material, this one is quite sturdy and easy to cut. It is also very tasty, a bit sweeter and richer than traditional bread, so it is better for lighter sandwiches. It is from Company's Coming "Muffins & More". 

Paré, Jean. "Irish Brown Bread." Recipe. Muffins & More, Edmonton Alberta: Company's Coming Publishing Limited, 1983. 114-115.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Company Dinners

The other day, our family was invited to a friend's house for dinner. I like to have dinner at other peoples' houses from time to time, because there is always something different and new to try, there is never a lack of food, and it is always interesting and usually informative as well. It is especially good when the host is an excellent cook who has even published cookbooks. The other day our family enjoyed some new foods, the majority of which were German. As an appetizer, we had a sort of buckwheat pancake with some delicious smoked salmon, a slice of hard boiled egg for garnish, and some potent horseradish cream for taste. For the main course, I tried venison for the first time, which I wasn't even exactly sure what it was until the other day. I was a little bit skeptical, as I am not a big meat fan to begin with. This roast was bacon wrapped, and I am happy to report that I actually liked it more than I like roast beef! Accompanying the venison was gravy, delicious homemade cranberry sauce, red cabbage, and a homemade German egg noodle dish called "Spaetzle", which was quite good. Of course because I have such a sweet tooth, I always look forward to dessert the most. We had a German cheesecake, which was not as rich and creamy as the typical American cheesecakes I am used to, but still very good (this way you can eat a bigger piece). German cheesecakes are traditionally made with quark cheese, so that may be why. This cheesecake had a fruit in the batter, and a light dusting of icing sugar. It is pictured below. There was also two types of homemade beer, which I heard were also good, but I did not taste them myself. Overall, it was a very enjoyable meal with excellent company. I am looking forward to another company dinner. I enjoy being a host of company dinners as well, as then I am able to showcase my own culinary skills and go all out!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Risotto Dinner

I think I have featured risotto here once before only briefly, but it is worth another mention. Risotto is one of my signature dishes, one I can now make without the recipe, and using my own senses to judge cooking times and ingredient amounts. It is also always a hit with my family. We like to enjoy it as a main course sometimes, but it also goes well with a variety of dishes including salmon, chicken, and stir-fry. I usually just make plain risotto, but it can be varied in an endless number of ways from this simple recipe. I know I have added fresh peas, caramelized onion, lobster, and Parmesan cheese to my risotto before, but there are many more common recipes out there that I would like to try, such as butternut squash risotto. Risotto has a reputation of a time-consuming, difficult dish, but it really isn't, especially once you have made it as many times as I have. It does require a lot of stirring and constant attention, but this allows you to get other things in the kitchen done as well. This time, I made risotto to go with our salmon. Our salmon was smoked on the barbecue, just the way we like it, despite the fact it is nearly December! (Remember my September 18th post entitled "Last Barbecue Of The Season?", it definitely wasn't true). We also had a nice stir-fry with our meal as well. This is one of my favorite meal combinations; salmon, stir-fry, and either risotto or homemade hashbrowns. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Cookie Caps

These cookies are easy to make, and quite tasty. They have a soft, sweet bottom, and a crisp, chocolatey meringue topping. The idea of putting meringue on cookies is a little different, but it certainly works well. I have heard of meringue on pies, and meringue cookies, but never meringue on cookies. I found this recipe in my favorite cookie cookbook.
1/2 cup butter or hard margarine, softened
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 large egg
2 Tablespoons milk
1 large egg white, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tarter
2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips

COOKIES: Preheat oven to 325F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and milk. Stir in the flour and baking powder. Shape into small balls, place on baking sheet, and flatten slightly with palm.
MERINGUE: Beat the egg white and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Add sugar, one tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff. Stir in the vanilla and chocolate chips. Place about a tablespoon on each cookies. Bake for 15 minutes. Makes three dozen (36) cookies.

Paré, Jean. "Cookie Caps." Recipe. Cookies, Edmonton Alberta: Company's Coming Publishing Limited, 1989. 137.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Warmths of Fall

Last night I came home to the delicious aroma of apple crisp baking in the oven. My mother had decided to make apple crisp, a heavenly fall dessert. The smells of apples, brown sugar, and cinnamon filled the house, and the crisp itself, piping hot from the oven, certainly warmed me up. Apple crisp is one of those special Fall dishes that just speaks of home. I really appreciated the apple crisp yesterday, as I know it can be quite tedious. All of the apples have to be washed, peeled, cored, and sliced, which is a monotonous task. The rest of the assembly is quite quick and easy. The problem is, in this family, one apple crisp really only lasts two days at most, and a whole dish of it only yields about six moderate servings. I know I have featured mom's apple crisp on here before, but it deserves another mention. I don't know if it was because we hadn't had it in a while or what, but it seemed to be extra tasty last night. This post wasn't only to boast about the apple crisp though, but really about Fall delights like this in general. Fall will be coming to an end soon, and then winter dishes will take its place. For now however, we will enjoy warm, fruit desserts, using apples and pears and cranberries rather than summer fruits and berries. Warm puddings and pies and bread puddings are also welcome. Roasted Fall squash and pork tenderloin and turkey dinners also pop into mind. As much as summer is my favorite season of the year, the dishes of Fall tend to be my favorite, as they are often warm, rich, and hearty.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Customized Cupcakes

Remember the owl cupcakes I made yesterday? Well, I also made a few special cupcakes to go along with them. Firstly, I knew that there would be at least one person around who does not like chocolate  Therefore, I made sure to decorate one cupcake without using chocolate. Since my friend had baked three different types of cupcakes anyway (chocolate, marble, and vanilla), I simply took three vanilla cupcakes and a little bit of buttercream and iced them, then added some sprinkles. It is always good to have a few extra vanilla cupcakes, since surprisingly chocolate is not everyone's thing. These three cupcakes really did not take any extra time to whip up, and they really pleased someone who otherwise would not have gotten a cupcakes. I considered somehow making owl cupcakes without chocolate, sort of like snowy owls, but I could not think of a substitute for the chocolate biscuit cookie for the eyes. So I just went with a traditional iced cupcake, but it was certainly appreciated. The cupcake seen in front is actually a "spherical cow in a vacuum". Well, it was in a 'vacuum' when I put it in its container, but it is a bit difficult to see the cupcake that way. In case you were wondering, this is a physics joke, and this cupcake was specially decorated for a physicist. I just used a marble cupcake for the cow appearance, and piped a chocolate collar around the edge. I attached candy eyes and a nose with chocolate icing, and added a mouth and ears. Simple and certainly not overly elaborate, but the owls were meant to take center stage here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Owl Cupcakes

Yesterday I decorated some cupcakes for a friend's birthday today. I actually did not make the cupcakes, as another friend and I decided to share the work in making the cupcakes - she would do the baking and I would do the decorating. She really went all out with the cupcakes and made three different flavors: some chocolate, some vanilla, and some marble. We decided that I should attempt at decorating at least some of the cupcakes as owls, since our friend really likes owls. Owl cupcakes actually were not difficult to pull off at all. I found the idea for them in my cupcake wall calendar (yes, I have a cupcake wall calendar). They looked so adorable, so I followed that template. You can search "owl cupcakes" online, and get instructions very similar to those in the calendar I have. To make the owl, first you will need to split a lot of cream filled chocolate wafer cookies. You will need to split twice as many cookies as you have owls, as you need two halves with filling for each cupcake. Keep the filling intact on one side - this can be a bit tricky, so make sure you have a few extra cookies. You will need the half with no filling for the ears or feathers of the owls. Cut each half without filling into thirds, discarding (or eating) the middle part, so you have two round ends. Again, make sure you have extras, as these break very easily when they are being cut. You will also need some candy coated chocolate pieces, I used all brown for the eyes and all yellow for the beaks, but any colors are fine. Other candies, such as jelly beans or banana runts will also work for the beaks. Ice the cupcakes (chocolate will look the best) with chocolate icing. I just used my standard fudge frosting. If you need to, use a knife to level off any cupcakes with peaks before frosting. Cupcakes that rise are good, but the eyes will not stay on peaked cupcakes. Immediately press two cookie halves with filling in the middle of the cupcakes for the eyes. Press two cookie thirds into the top of the owl, and a yellow candy piece on its side between the two eyes for the beak. Try to do all of this quickly before the icing dries. Pipe two small dots of icing onto the eyes and press brown candies on for the pupils. The calendar featured big and small owls, the small owls featured miniature cupcakes and miniature cookies. And that is it! The owls are finished. I think these are quite adorable myself, and they were quite fun to make! 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Jolly J

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 J. 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. J seems like another tough one.

  • Jam
  • Jelly
  • Juniper berries
  • Jalapeno pepper
  • Juice
  • Jellybeans
  • Jube Jubes
  • Jam Jams
  • Jellyroll
  • Jellyfish
  • Jerky
  • Johnnycakes
  • Jumbo Shrimp
  • Jambalaya
  • Jerk Chicken
PHOTO CREDIT: "J-11.jpg" .Daily Drop Cap, n.d. Sunday, August 5, 2012.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Christmas Checkerboard Cookies

These are some cookies I made several years ago that I thought I would share today to get into the Christmas mood. They are simple Christmas checkerboard cookies. They use a basic cookie dough that is a cross between shortbread cookies and sugar cookies. The recipe then shows how to make pinwheel (swirls), checkerboard (like these), or cloverleaf (three different color rounds) designs with the cookies. Of course you can always just roll the cookies in a log or in shapes and slice and bake them, but these cookies are meant more for show (they taste good, but they are nothing special). Most recipes for pinwheels/checkerboards call for a chocolate and a vanilla dough, so cocoa or melted chocolate is usually added to half of the dough. Because it was close to Christmas, I decided to tint half of the dough red and half of the dough green. This can be done with a variety of colors, and can be varied to match the season. The recipe featured some pastel colors, which looked quite nice. Now, I am usually not a huge fan of adding food coloring to food unnecessarily but I think these cookies look pretty nice and match the Christmas mood. As you can see, my checkerboards are not perfectly even. This is difficult to achieve  and you must ensure the doughs are completely even, lined up, and rolled out uniformly. Some checkerboard cookies don't just have four squares, they feature eight or even more squares, which would be even trickier! There are even checkerboard cake recipes, which look pretty neat. The key to success with checkerboard cookies is to prepare in advance so the dough can be chilled. Often the dough will need to be chilled after mixing, and again later after it is set in the checkerboard design before baking. This helps the dough cut more uniformly. One last word of caution: the color needs to be kneaded into the dough, which can get a bit messy. A pair of plastic gloves might be a good idea!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Mom's Chocolate Fruitcake

Every year for the past few years now, my mother has been making chocolate fruit cake. She used to make a light fruit cake years ago, but we always seemed to have leftovers, since unfortunately fruitcake usually has a bad reputation. Not this fruitcake though.  Add some chocolate, and this fruitcake is delicious! My mother discovered the recipe in a cooking novel a few years ago, and we were intrigued by it. So much so, we decided to try it that year, and we have been making it ever since. This fruitcake contains a large proportion of cocoa powder to make the batter very chocolatey. Instead of the usual chopped mixed peel and overabundance of raisins and other unidentifiable fruit, this fruitcake simply contains chopped glace red cherries, which really adds some nice color, along with just a touch of other fruit. It also contains shredded coconut and miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips for some more chocolatey flavor. And of course it contains the usual spices, molasses, butter, eggs, flour, and all that jazz. I believe the recipe also calls for chopped nuts, and maybe some other fruit too, but we leave those out. And of course there is some liquor in the recipe, we use rum. This fruitcake can be wrapped in liquor soaked cheesecloth and allowed to age or store, but we usually don't bother with that, as we find the recipe itself has enough alcohol. If you try to eat a fresh piece of this fruitcake, it will seem more like you are drinking a glass or rum. We let it age at room temperature for a few days, try some to make sure it is good, and then usually freeze it in pieces for closer to Christmastime. The recipe also makes a big batch - four 9x5 inch loaves, but we always have the recipe. This fruitcake is quite rich and delicious, and can be cut into fairly small pieces so a little goes a long way. Although it can become quite addictive. Mom is making a batch of this fruitcake today, and I cannot wait to try it! It is certainly much better than any fruitcake you could ever buy in a store. Here is the fruitcake already packaged up for later, plus two small pieces saved for sampling.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Garden Season Closes

It is hard to believe, but the last cucumbers were just picked from our garden last week. We have had a few frosty nights, but these cucumbers were able to survive. Any beans, tomatoes, and other vegetables we had are long gone, but the cucumbers, who grew the best all summer long, still held on. In fact, we had an overabundance of cucumbers throughout the summer. We recently picked three more good sized ones, and I am pretty sure that is it for this year. They still taste pretty good too. They aren't quite as sweet as cucumbers from midsummer, but they are crisp and fresh nonetheless. They also last pretty well in the cooler weather and do not get soggy as fast. It is pretty good that we have had cucumbers from July all the way through to November. Some people tend to plant their gardens earlier and reap harvests earlier, but our plants never seem to do as well that early. That is, if we actually manage to plant them early. This way though, we still get vegetables later in the season. I think it is wonderful, however I am a little disappointed that this is the end now. I'll have to wait until next year to enjoy some fresh cucumber unless I want to try some imported. Here is a picture of some of our cucumbers (and a green pepper) at the peak of the season.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Indoor Cooking Season

Tonight we had hamburgers for supper. these hamburgers were baked indoors in the oven, and not on the barbecue. I guess this is a sign that barbecue season has officially come to an end, and all cooking will be done indoors now until next spring. I suppose the burgers could have been cooked on the barbecue, as we do not have any snow yet, but it was cold, and rainy at times today, and not very nice weather for barbecuing. I do like barbecued hamburgers a bit better than baked. I find they have a bit more flavor and texture and seem a bit moister. And they just have that "grilled" taste, you know? Oh well, I will just have to put up with indoor cooking methods such as baking, broiling, frying, and steaming for the next few months. That isn't a terrible thing, as it's not like we have barbecue everyday in the summer, and now we can enjoy many warm comfort foods that cannot be cooked on the barbecue anyway and are too hot and heavy to enjoy in the summer months. We did bake some salmon the other week, and although we usually grill it on maple planks on the barbecue, it tasted very well just coming from the oven as well.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Making Room For Christmas

There may be less baked items than usual featured on my blog in the upcoming weeks. This is because we are trying to use up all of the baked items we have stored in the freezer to make room for all of the goodies we will be making for Christmas. Right now we have the usual meats, leftovers, breads and fruits in the freezer, which we aren't too worried about. We are more concerned about eating the excess baked goods we have in there. We have some muffins, loaves, cookies, squares and other desserts. So instead of baking new things, we have been trying to eat what we already have to make room and avoid spoilage. We also want to get all of our treats eaten up before the Christmas goodies begin to pile on. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, as all of these items freeze very well and you can hardly tell the difference. We also tend to freeze items we like a lot, because we bake a lot of them. The problem is, I also keep adding to the freezer, as the stuff I am baking isn't being eaten as fast because we are also eating from the freezer. Also, I won't get to bake as much between now and the time before Christmas baking starts, and I will have less to write about. Oh well, it will get emptied out, at least for the majority, before we start our Christmas baking, which isn't too far off! At least we do not have a huge tub of ice cream taking up room in the freezer like we did the past two years. Once the summer ends, no one seems very interested in eating ice cream anymore, and what wasn't eaten in the summer takes up a lot of room. Here's to the start of the Christmas baking season!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Chocolate PB Polka Dot Bars

This is another chocolate peanut butter dessert I recently made. These squares look nice, and are also quite rich and tasty. They consist of a peanut butter oatmeal base, which contains a large proportion of peanut butter, along with the addition of oats and plenty of brown sugar. Next there is a chocolate filling. This filling consists of sugar, cocoa, vanilla, and sweetened condensed milk. It is rich, chocolatey, and really brings the two layers together. On top of the chocolate layer is a sprinkle of candy coated peanut butter chocolates, otherwise known as Reese's Pieces. The original recipe called for miniature Reese's Pieces, but I could not find any of these so I just used the regular sized. I think the miniature ones did distribute better and look a little cuter to give that polka dot effect, but the regular sized ones work just as well and taste the same. The recipe also called to sprinkle all of the candies over the chocolate filling, and then crumble the reserved base over top. However in the picture, at least some of the candies seemed to be sprinkled on the very top. If they are not on top, the polka dot effect is not seen. So I sprinkled the majority of the candies over the chocolate filling, but I did save some for the top to go over the peanut butter crumble. 
This recipe makes a big batch - a 9x13 inch pan - and the squares are also quite high. They are very rich too, so they have to be cut small. Therefore, you can get quite a few squares out of one pan, unless you have some real chocolate and peanut butter fans around. The peanut butter base, the crumble, the rich chocolate filling, and the chocolate peanut butter pieces all marry quite well together to make one delicious square. They cut fairly well, although they are a bit crumbly, and because I put some candies on top, they tend to fall off a bit. At least the chocolate filling doesn't ooze out at all. Overall, this is a really good square recipe and also one that is fun to make too!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Whole Wheat Breakfast Rolls

I am always looking for new whole wheat buns/rolls/biscuits to make for breakfast, and lately I have been looking for more basic recipes so I hope that they rise well! Of course most biscuits are quick breads and do not require yeast, so they always seem to rise well. I wanted to try another yeast recipe though. I found this one for whole wheat rolls in my favorite "Breads" book by Company's Coming, and of course I varied the recipe slightly to suit my personal tastes. The recipe seemed easy enough, and even made use of an electric mixer to cut down on the kneading time. Again, I took extra care to ensure they would rise.I am happy to report that these rolls rose quite well, and turned out moist, hearty, and delicious!

Here is how I made them:
Whole Wheat Breakfast Rolls
1 1/3 cups warm water
2 teaspoons granulated (white) sugar
2 package (8 grams) instant yeast
2 large eggs
2 Tablespoons soft butter or hard margarine
3 Tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup natural wheat bran
1/2 cup ground flax seed
3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (approximately)
In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar in the water. Sprinkle the yeast over top and let stand undisturbed for ten minutes. Stir to dissolve yeast.
Beat in remaining ingredients, but only 3/4 cup of the flour. Beat on medium speed for two minutes.
Gradually add some remaining flour, beating after each addition until incorporated. Once a dough forms, work in remaining flour and knead until smooth, about 6-8 minutes.
Allow to rise for 1 1/4 hours, until doubled in bulk.
Punch dough down and shape into rolls. I got somewhere close to 30, but it depends on how big you want them to be. Egg-sized pieces are a good start. Place rolls on greased or lined baking sheets and allow to rise for 45 minutes until doubled in bulk.
Preheat oven to 400F. Bake rolls (one batch at a time) for about 10-15 minutes,, depending on size.

Paré, Jean. "Whole Wheat Rolls." Recipe. Breads, Edmonton Alberta: Company's Coming Publishing Limited, 1996. 57.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Peanut Butter Chip Brownie Cups

I was asked to make a dessert with peanut butter and chocolate, and this is one I ended up making. Basically it is a rich chocolate brownie batter with peanut butter chips stirred into it baked in muffin tins. These are sweet, rich, and delicious. The only problem was I baked them a tad too long. If I had taken them out two minutes earlier, they would have been moister and a bit more like brownies. But they still tasted just great, despite a little overbaking!
Peanut Butter Chip Brownie Cups
1 cup butter or hard margarine, melted
2 cups granulated (white) sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cup peanut butter chips
+ 1/3 cup for topping

Preheat oven to 350F. Line muffin tins with paper liners.
In a large bowl  mix the butter, sugar, and vanilla. Beat in the eggs. Beat in cocoa. Add flour, baking powder, and salt, mix well. Stir in chips. 
Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake for about 25 minutes until firm. Do not overbake!
The original recipe called to press 5-6 of the remaining chips into each brownie, but I did this before baking to ensure they stuck. It does make the topping look a little nicer. Original recipe called for 18, but I got 20 fairly large.These would probably be nice as mini cupcakes too, if you have enough mini muffin tins. Recipe comes from my giant Hershey's binder.

West Side Publishing. "P.B. Chips Brownie Cups." Recipe. Hershey's Classic Recipes, Lincolnwood Illinois: Publications International, Limited, 2009. 140.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lest We Forget

As with every year on November 11th, we should take the time to remember the soldiers who so bravely fought for our freedom. We are so incredibly lucky to live in such a privileged country, and often we forget just how fortunate we are. The things we use every day are too often taken for granted. We are so lucky to have access to shelter, warmth, medical services, extra-curricula activities, and clubs. We are lucky to have freedom of speech and expression, we are lucky to be surrounded by family and friends. We are also incredibly lucky to have access to so much nutritious food here. A wide variety of nutritious food is easily accessible and affordable, and there are resources in place for those who may need them. I can hardly imagine how soldiers during the war were able to sustain themselves, living off of canned and salty food and hard tack, and hardly seeing fresh fruit, vegetables, or meat. I can only be very appreciative of them, as they sacrificed so much to ensure we had peace and freedom. Take time today to remember those who fought so bravely and paid the ultimate sacrifice.
PHOTO CREDIT:"poppy_300" Royal Canadian Legion, n.d. Saturday, November 10, 2012.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Fall Comfort Dishes

The days are becoming much shorter, the the weather is turning colder, and the sun is not as common of a sight as it used to be. This is the perfect time of year for hearty, warm comfort foods that heat up the house and adorn it with wonderful smells as they cook. Then they fill you up and warm you when they are eaten. I am talking about the kinds of dishes that are just too hot and filling to enjoy during the summertime. Such dishes include comfort food such as Shepherd's pie, lasagna, turkey tettrazini, spaghetti and meatballs, pizza, ribs, soups, stews, beef stroganoff, meatloaf, waffles, tacos, ravioli, roast turkey dinners, macaroni and cheese, and more. It also includes comfort desserts, such as molten chocolate cakes, brownies puddings, hot chocolate fondues, and apple crisp. I have already enjoyed several of these dishes, and I am looking forward to enjoying more soon!
PHOTO CREDIT:"comfort-food-recipes" Epicurious, n.d. Saturday, November 10, 2012.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Double Chip Brownies

These are some delicious and extremely chocolatey brownies I whipped up this afternoon with a friend. They are very quick and easy to make. The order of the addition of ingredients is a little unusual, but it certainly works. The original recipe is from my giant Hershey's binder, and called for one cup of milk chocolate chips and one cup of peanut butter chips. I didn't have peanut butter chips, so I just substituted semi-sweet chocolate chips. We inhaled these immediately after they came out of the oven - they are very good warm and cut fairly well under the circumstances. 

Double Chip Brownies
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup melted butter or hard margarine, divided
1/2 cup boiling water
2 cups granulated (white) sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup each of two different kinds of chips
(I used semi-sweet and milk)
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line a 9x13 inch baking pan.
In a large bowl, stir together the cocoa and baking soda. Stir in half of the melted butter, then the water until mixture thickens. Stir in sugar, eggs, and remaining butter until smooth. Add vanilla, flour, and salt, mix thoroughly  Stir in chips.  Spread evenly into prepared pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until set.

West Side Publishing. "Double Chip Brownies." Recipe. Hershey's Classic Recipes, Lincolnwood Illinois: Publications International, Limited, 2009. 161.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Halloween Candy

I really meant to post this just after Halloween, but I guess I have baked enough since then that I forgot about this post. Oh well, I'll post it now, as Halloween is still pretty fresh in our minds. I just wanted to discuss Halloween candy. We tend to buy quite a bit of Halloween candy because we get a lot of trick-or-treaters. Actually, we got less than usual this year, only 196. Last year we hit a record amount at 239. Last year we ran out of candy, something that has never happened before, so this year we had to make sure we had enough! Pictured below is the little table we set up to organize our Halloween treats on Halloween night. We have the treats organized into different types and categories and as you can see we have quite a lot. There are four boxes of fifty bags of chips, along with plenty of miniature chocolate bars and other candies. However, we mostly give out chips and bars. We have never bothered with something special, like candy or caramel apples, because we just get too many trick-or-treaters for that. We don't bother with heavy cans of pop or juice either, because those can get pricey. However, last year when we ran out of treats, we went digging in the cupboards. We came up with some slightly unusual treats, such as hot chocolate packets, granola bars, soft cookie packages, and juice boxes. Not all ideal choices, but we made do.Other popular Halloween choices include candy corn, popcorn, juice bags, chocolates, gummies, licorice, and hard candies. Hopefully you have made a dent in your Halloween stash by now. If we don't get all of ours eaten, I'll probably post some recipes that use candy and chips sometime soon!

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Roasted Fall Squash

The other night we roasted our first squash of the season. In past years, I went on a mission to try every different type of squash I could find. I tried acorn, spaghetti, butternut, buttercup, and pumpkin. I liked them all for different reasons. I bought all of these squashes at the local farmer's market. Squash is a good winter food, as they can keep for a few months in a cool, dark place. There are such things as summer squash as well, such as zucchini, but I usually don't think of those as squash. I have only really tried two methods of preparation for squash: roasting it in the oven and microwaving it. Both work well, but you need to make sure it is roasted for a long enough time to become tender. Usually I eat squash either plain, or with brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, and/or cinnamon. Squash is one of those foods that can be prepared with sweeter ingredients  just like sweet potatoes. You can even make candied squash. Squash is fairly easy to prepare and serve, as it does not require much preparation work. It also goes well with many meals, we ate ours with a roast chicken dinner. It can be added to many different dishes as well, including soups, casseroles, pastas, pizzas, breads, and muffins. This is a picture of a small piece of squash we recently enjoyed sprinkled with brown sugar. Doesn't look like much, but it sure was tasty!

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Peanut Butter Cookies

This is a batch of peanut butter cookies my mother made. Usually she makes one batch of these a year. We like them, but we are not crazy about them. She usually makes a big batch of them, which lasts a while and we freeze the rest, and then we wait until next year. Peanut butter cookies are a simple, classic recipe, just like chocolate chip cookies. There are many different variations out there, but once you find the one that works for you, it is your favorite and you tend to stick to it.
I like peanut butter cookies for a change, but it is difficult to explain why they are so good. They certainly don't taste a whole lot like peanut butter, but they do taste like cookies. I like their crunchy texture, and they are good dunked in a glass of milk too. What really signifies a peanut butter cookie is the classic fork pronged pattern pressed into it before baking. Some people do one press and some do a criss-cross pattern. My mother always did the single press. She has also added chocolate chips to her peanut butter cookies before as well, but I prefer them plain.
There are two basic peanut butter recipes: the three ingredient no flour recipe, and the more complicated classic cookie recipe. My mother always uses the latter, as she finds they have a better taste and texture and turn out more like cookies.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Easy Whole Wheat Bread

Easy Whole Wheat Bread
2 cups milk
1/2 cup liquid honey
1/4 cup vinegar
2 large eggs
1 Tablespoon salt
4 1/2 teaspoons (equivalent to two packages) instant yeast
5 cups whole wheat flour

In a small saucepan, heat the milk, honey, and vinegar (105F to 110F). Pour into a large bowl and add the eggs and salt. Add the yeast and 2 cups of flour. Beat on low speed for one minute. Beat on medium speed for three minutes. Slowly blend in the remaining flour. Knead for four minutes, or until smooth and elastic. 
Let rise for 70-80 minutes, or until dough is doubled in bulk. Punch dough down. Divide in two. Place in two greased 9x5 inch loaf pans. Let rise for one hour, or until doubled in bulk. Preheat oven to 350F. Bake bread for 40-50 minutes.
This bread recipe is a fairly easy recipe for beginners  Using an electric mixture helps cut down on the kneading time. I found the dough a little sticky at the end, so I did need to add a little extra flour. I used two packages of yeast, since that is the equivalent amount in teaspoons, because I really wanted my bread to rise this time. However, you could likely just use one package with excellent results. I found vinegar was an unusual ingredient, but it worked. This bread is a bit richer since it contains honey, two eggs, and lots of milk. The bread rose extremely well! The two actually rose over their pans and attached together, but they were easy to break apart and get out of the pans. You can see the outline of the pan handle on part of the breads. Here is a picture of them right after they came out of the oven. They are upside down, but they are very high! This bread recipe came from an excellent bread website, The Knead For Bread. I will likely use this site again.

"Easy Whple Wheat Bread.” The Knead For Bread, n.d. Sunday, November 4, 2012. 

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Bread: Back To The Basics

The breads I have been making recently haven't been rising very well. They taste fine, their texture is good, but they are rather flat. Usually the yeast bubbles and activates, they rise pretty well in the first rise, they even rise in the second rise. But when they bake, they do not rise. This has become a bit frustrating and disappointing. I have been trying different things, but they still were not rising well. I can partly blame the weather, as I tend to end up with humid or rainy bread-making days, but obviously there is more to it than this. Bread can still be successfully made on poor weather days. This time, I decided to go back to the basics of bread making.
I chose a basic, easy, whole wheat bread recipe. I decided even though I usually change up bread recipes and add some more grains such as flax seed and bran, I did not want to change this recipe around too much. So I simply replaced half a cup of the flour with a quarter cup each of natural wheat bran and ground flax seed. Other than that I stuck to the recipe. To ensure I had the best rise, I made sure all of the ingredients were at room temperature, except for the liquid. I used an instant-read thermometer to ensure it was not too hot as to kill the yeast, but not to cold as to not activate the yeast. I gently heated the oven to make it warm for proofing. And I made sure I kneaded the dough enough, but didn't add too much extra flour to the bread. Hopefully all of this extra time and care will pay off. I will let you know tomorrow how my bread turns out!

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Date Squares

Yesterday I made a pan of date squares for the first time. I have actually only eaten date squares a few times as well, but I knew from those few tastes that I really liked them. I have been meaning to make date squares for a while now, but only got around to it now. I am certainly glad I did, as they were very tasty, and others agreed. I love dates to begin with, and the rich, sticky date filling really appealed to me. I also really like the crust, with is an oat crust, with plenty of butter and brown sugar that makes it delicious. The combination of the crust and filling is really good. There are quite a few recipes for date squares around, but all of them are pretty similar, so just choose the one that sounds the best/easiest/uses ingredients you have on hand, and you probably can't go wrong! These squares smell very good while baking. They also cut very well. I can definitely see why they are popular at parties and gatherings. The only problem is they disappear too fast. Since I only needed half a package of dates to make this recipe, I will probably be making another batch soon! Maybe I will try making a double sized pan sometime.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Halloween Sugar Cookies

I was whipping up a batch of sugar cookies the other day, and I thought I would cut them into Halloween shapes since it was the day before Halloween. I chose this sugar cookies recipe because I had some leftover egg yolks in the fridge. This is why they are called rich sugar cookies and they look a little more yellow in color. Other than that, they are just like a standard sugar cookie recipe. I didn't bother decorating them in any way, though I could have used icing, melted chocolate, sprinkles, or candies. I cut the cookies into five different shapes: pumpkins, skulls, bats, cats, and witches.
Rich Sugar Cookies
2 1/2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 cup icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold butter, cut into small cubes
1 large whole egg
3 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, and salt together. Cut in the butter using a pastry blender or your fingers. 
In a separate small bowl, beat the eggs and vanilla. Add to flour mixture and mix it up until  a dough forms (use your hands). Divide the dough in two, flatten each half into a disc, wrap in wax paper, and refrigerate for at least two hours.
Remove dough from the refrigerator 10-15 minutes before rolling.
Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Roll each dough half out to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut out with cookie cutters. Bake for 15 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Ice Cream Pumpkin

Here is the jack-o-lantern I carved for Halloween this year. Last year, I made a cupcake jack-o-lantern. It is a bit difficult to carve food into pumpkins, because it is tricky to think of a food that is easy to carve and will actually look like that food on a pumpkin. I have been thinking about what I could carve this year since last Halloween I finally settled on an ice cream cone. I have a triangular waffle cone at the bottom, two scoops of ice cream, and a cherry on top. I think I liked last year's cupcake better, but this doesn't look too bad. It is kind of neat all lit up. It isn't really scary, but not all jack-o-lanterns have to be. Let's just say that if I made an actual ice cream sundae, it would look much better than this one (and it would taste better too)!