Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Lemon Chick Cookies

It's easy to make cookies look like chicks, even without a cookie cutter! The lemon cake mix also makes the cookies yellow like chicks without any additional ingredients, and provides a nice flavor as well.
Lemon Chick Cookies
2 packages (two layer size) instant lemon cake mix
2/3 cup oil
4 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
sprinkles, dried fruit, chocolate chips, coconut, or candies to decorate

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line baking sheets.
Mix together the cake mix, oil, and eggs until well blended. Mixture will seem quite dry at first but will come together and will be quite stiff.
Roll the dough into balls - large balls for the bottom of the chick and smaller balls for the head. Stick the two together, just touching each other, and place cookies a few inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Decorate as desired to resemble chicks. I used small round red sprinkles for the eyes, an orange sprinkle for the beak, and toasted coconut for the feathers on top of the head.
Bake for about ten minutes until just beginning to brown. Allow to stand on the cookie sheet for a few minutes to firm up. Makes about 30 chicks.
Alternately, the cookies may be decorated as chicks with icing once cool. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Easter Biscuits

It's hard to believe it is nearly Easter time again already! I am beginning to get into the Easter spirit by baking some Easter treats, as yesterday's post also featured. Biscuits are a versatile baked good, great with dinner, breakfast, as a snack, or even for dessert. Biscuits are easy to make, easy to flavor in different ways, and always seem to be a hit. But one of the best things about biscuits is that they can be shaped in many different ways. Biscuits can be dropped from a spoon, cut into rounds, or cut into squares, rectangles, or triangles so there are no scraps. They can be pull-apart or baked in a pan. They can be baked on top of casseroles or cooked on top of soups and stews. But they can also be cut into any shape imaginable - as there are cookie (or biscuit) cutters in pretty much every shape imaginable as well. Here I have cut biscuits into the shapes of Easter bunnies and eggs. 

Everyone seems to have their own favorite biscuit recipe. Some like butter, some prefer shortening or margarine; some have egg; some use milk instead of water; some have add-ins such as herbs or cheese; some require a lot of kneading, and some are no-knead. I have a few great biscuit recipes in my head, and choose which one to use depending on exactly what I plan to do with them. For these biscuits, I used my best cut-out biscuit recipe, a dough that is really easy to work with and very tasty to eat. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Easter Nest Macaroons

Coconut Macaroons
4 large egg whites
pinch salt
1 1/2 cups granulated (white) sugar
2 cups shredded coconut
candy Easter eggs, jelly beans, etc.

Preheat oven to 325F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, beat the egg whites and salt until soft peaks form.
Gradually add the sugar, beating to stiff peaks.
Fold in the coconut. 
Spoon tablespoons a few inches apart on prepared cookies sheets.
Bake for 15 minutes until just firm and golden.
Immediately press candies in the center as desired, then allow to cool before removing from cookie sheet.

This is a cute and really easy cookie recipe that resembles little Easter nests, depending on the type of candy you use. You could leave the centers plain, or press any type of candy, chocolate, fruit, or nut in the center to suit every occasion. Macaroons have a pleasantly crisp and chewy light texture. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Easy Peasy Dinner Rolls

This is quite an easy dinner roll recipe that is rich from the oil, sugar, and all white flour. The recipe can also be made in stages to accommodate your schedule. These have a bit of a different look to them, as instead of one smooth roll they are individual pull-apart rolls with three or four pieces. Baking them in muffin tins makes the recipe even easier and helps give the rolls an even appearance.

Easy Peasy Dinner Rolls
 2 cups milk
½ cup oil
½ cup granulated (white) sugar
4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 package instant rise yeast
½ cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ Tablespoon salt

In a medium saucepan, scald the milk, oil, and sugar. Cool to 90-110F.
Stir together the 4 cups of flour and the yeast. Stir in the milk mixture. Cover and let rise for one hour. (Alternately you can place the bowl of dough in the fridge and let rise for a few hours if you would like to prep the dough ahead of time).
Punch dough down and stir in the remaining ingredients, working it in with your hands until mixed in.
Grease or oil two 12-hole muffin tins. Pinch off walnut-sized pieces of dough and roll into smooth balls. Place three or four in each muffin cup (depending on size, how many rolls you would like, and whether you want a strict cloverleaf design). Cover and allow to rise for about an hour. If dough was cold, it may require a bit of additional time to rise. (Alternately you could put dough in the fridge to rise again, if you want to bake the rolls later and enjoy them warm).

Once doubled in size, bake the rolls at 375F for 10-15 minutes until golden. Loosen from their trays and serve hot.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Emerald Mint Truffles

These are secretly healthy truffles – but you won’t even notice. Mint is the prevalent flavor in the truffles, and chocolate in the coating. Most people assume the green color is due to the mint, but these truffles have no food dye in them, they get their color and creamy texture from avocado. Coconut oil and maple syrup are both better-for-you alternatives than butter and refined sugars, but they don’t impart strong flavors of coconut or maple here.

Emerald Mint Truffles
¼ cup avocado, well mashed or puréed until smooth
3 Tablespoons coconut oil
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
¼ teaspoon mint (peppermint) extract
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
2 Tablespoons maple syrup

TRUFFLES: Blend all ingredients together until smooth. Place mixture in the freezer for a few hours until firm. Roll into balls or portion with a small ice cream scoop. Chill until firm. Makes about eight truffles, depending on size.

COATING: Whisk all together well. Use to coat truffles. This makes enough coating for all the truffles, but if you want to show off the green color, make half a batch and leave half the truffles uncoated. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Mint Nanaimo Bars

I have always been a pretty big fan of the classic nanaimo bar. I am not sure why the combination of a nutty, chewy base, a sweet, creamy filling, and a rich chocolaty topping is so good, but it always seems to be a hit! This is one of those cases where you hesitate to mess with a good thing, but there are several yummy variations, usually involving a different flavoring in the filling such as mint, cherry, or pineapple. I also made a ‘reverse’ nanaimo bar once, where the filling was chocolate and the base and topping were vanilla. The filling can be died green to identify it as mint, if desired, but I didn’t bother with the added dye. This version is extra minty because the use of mint chocolate chips ensures a hint of mint in each layer.

Mint Nanaimo Bars
1 cup mint chocolate chips
½ cup butter or hard margarine
1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup flakes coconut
2 cups icing (confectioners’) sugar
¼ cup butter or hard margarine, softened
2 Tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon mint (peppermint) extract
green food coloring, optional
¾ cup mint chocolate chips
2 teaspoons oil

BASE: In a medium saucepan, melt the chocolate chips and butter over medium heat. Stir in the crumbs and coconut. Press firmly into a greased or lined 9x9 inch square pan. Chill.
FILLING: Beat all ingredients together until smooth. Spread evenly over base. Chill.
TOPPING: Melt chips and oil together. Spread evenly over filling. Chill until set but not too hard, then cut into bars.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Pistachio-Crusted Mint Chocolate Cream Pie

This pie is a triple Saint Patrick’s Day treat with the green pistachio crust, minty chocolate filling, and green clover on top. It is also a healthy option because it contains no refined sugars and no added fats. It is still creamy and tasty. The avocado clover on top is optional, but it does add a nice presentation and you don’t really taste the avocado too much.

Pistachio-Crusted Mint Chocolate Cream Pie
1 cup unsalted pistachios
½ cup golden raisins
1-2 Tablespoons water
3 cups milk (non-dairy will work)
¼ cup cornstarch
¼ cup maple syrup
3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon mint (peppermint) extract
½ ripe avocado
2 Tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon lemon juice

CRUST: Pulse the nuts and raisins until well grounded. Dribble in the water, a little at a time, until mixture just begins to come together. Press into a nine inch pie plate.
FILLING: In a medium saucepan, whisk together one cup of milk and the cornstarch. Whisk in the remaining milk, then the maple syrup and cocoa. Bring mixture to a boil, then boil lightly for about eight minutes until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the mint extract. Pour into prepared crust and place a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap directly on the filling to prevent a skin from forming. Cool, then chill for a few hours until firm.
TOPPING: Mash together the avocado, honey, and juice until smooth. Spread in a clover pattern on top of the filling. Garnish with additional pistachios.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Irish Raisin Soda Bread

I have made a few different Irish soda bread recipes before. There are several variations – plain white, whole wheat, multigrain, with raisins, flavored with molasses, etc. Usually I make healthy wheat versions, but this time I decided to make a white version with raisins. Soda bread doesn’t rise much and tends to be a bit heavy, so it is a good bread to have with a meal or as a hearty snack. It is especially nice toasted, with butter and honey or cheese.

Irish Raisin Soda Bread
2 ½ cups all-purpose (plain) flour
½ cup large-flake oats
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup cold butter or hard margarine, cubed
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
1 large egg
1 large lemon, zested
¾ cup raisins
additional milk and oats, as needed

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, oats, sugar, soda, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse meal.
Whisk together the milk, egg, and zest. Stir into the flour mixture along with the raisins. Knead dough until it just comes together. Shape into a nine inch round, place on prepared baking sheet.

Score the top of the dough with a large X. Brush with a little milk and sprinkle with some additional oats. Bake for about an hour until bread is golden and sounds hollow when tapped. 

Monday, March 23, 2015


Champ are Irish mashed potatoes. They are speckled with green, which comes from the addition of thinly sliced green onions, but sometimes scallions, chives, or chopped parsley or cilantro are used instead or in addition to the onions. I also find champ are usually flavored heavily with garlic, and enhanced with lots of butter and milk or cream, as well as some salt and pepper. They are normally presented nicely in huge mounds, sometimes piped for a different look. Here is my champ recipe:

  1.   Boil the desired amount of peeled mealy potatoes until tender. Drain.
  2.   Mash well. The potatoes in champ should be quite smooth, with the texture coming from the greens only. It may help to whip or purée the potatoes.
  3.  Mash in some butter and cream or milk, as well as garlic paste or finely minced garlic.
  4.  Stir in the greens of choice, finely chopped.
  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. The potatoes may now be spooned into a serving dish or piped. If piped, ensure your greens are finely chopped so they do not get stuck in the piping tip.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Bread Bowls

Here is the recipe I used to make bread bowls for my Irish lamb stew. Bread bowls are a fun way to serve thicker soups and stews without having to bother with dishes. Then you have an edible bowl at the end. This bowl already has a lot of flavor from the honey, molasses, and whole wheat flour. However, the bread will also absorb some of the flavor of the broth of the stew, which moistens it and makes it especially tasty – no need for butter. These bread bowls are fairly sturdy, and small but definitely filling enough. They can be made bigger, or just refilled with soup twice!
Bread Bowls
1 1/2 cups bread flour
2 packages quick-rise yeast
1 Tablespoon granulated (white) sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup milk
1 cup water
¼ cup honey
2 Tablespoons molasses
2 Tablespoons butter or hard margarine
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour

In a large bowl, stir together the bread flour, yeast, sugar, and salt.
In a medium saucepan, heat the milk, water, honey, molasses, and butter until approximately 120-130F (50-55C). Stir into flour mixture. Stir in remaining flours.
Knead until smooth and elastic, about ten minutes. Cover and let rest ten minutes.
Divide dough into eight equal portions, form each into a round ball. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and allow to rise for about 45 minutes until doubled in size.
Bake at 350F for 30 minutes until bread is firm, golden, and sounds hollow when tapped.
To make bread bowls: cut a cone shaped piece from the middle of each bowl, or trace a circle with a knife and hollow the bread out with a spoon. If removed in one piece, the insides can be used for garnish, if not they can be eaten as is or used for breadcrumbs or toasted as baguettes. The bread bowls are best served warm, so if baked in advance they can be hollowed out once cooled then reheated in the oven, wrapped in foil, until warmed.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Irish Lamb Stew

There is nothing more satisfying than a hearty, nutritious stew on a cold day. Beef stew is good, but lamb adds a little something special and different. This is an easy stew to make and quite forgiving. If you have a homemade beef or even lamb stock on hand, be sure to use that. The sweet potatoes help to flavor and thicken the stew, but you can add more stock for a thinner stew. I served this stew in bread bowls, and it is pictured below in one of them, surrounded by the delicious, hollowed-out bread pieces. 
Irish Lamb Stew
6 center loin lamb chops, cut into small cubes
all-purpose (plain) flour
2 Tablespoons oil
3 medium carrots, in rondelles
2 medium onions, medium dice
1 large sweet potato, large dice
salt and ground black pepper, to taste
garlic powder and dried rosemary, to taste
lamb stock, beef stock, or water plus beef bouillon seasoning, brought to a boil
1 can peas

Dredge the lamb in the flour. Heat the oil in a large pot, then sear the lamb until browned well on both sides. Stir in the carrots, onion, and sweet potato until well coated in oil. Allow to sweat, without browning, for a few minutes. 
Stir in the spices, then pour the hot stock over top, enough to fully cover the contents of the pot. Bring to a boil.
Simmer for approximately 1 1/2 hours until stew is well thickened. Stir in the peas.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Cream Of Asparagus Soup

Cream of Asparagus Soup
1 Tablespoon oil
1 bunch asparagus, tough ends cut off, cut into 1 inch lengths
1 small white onion, medium dice
water to cover
salt, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste
garlic powder, to taste
ground ginger, to taste
freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
1 can (370mL) evaporated milk (I used 2%)
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and asparagus and sweat over low heat, covered, without browning for about ten minutes until vegetables are slightly softened, but still vibrant. Add enough water to just cover the vegetables and bring to a boil. Stir in some seasonings. Simmer until vegetables are tender, but not mushy. Blend the mixture, use a blender that can hold hot liquids for a really smooth texture or a handheld immersion blender. Gradually stir in the milk while blending. For a really smooth texture, pass the blended soup through a sieve or chinois. You can make this soup as smooth as you'd like or keep some texture in it. You can also reserve a few asparagus tips for garnish. Bring the soup back to a boil, adjust seasonings, and stir in lemon juice. Once reboiled, this thick soup will burn or curdle easily so it is best to serve immediately or keep at a very low simmer. 

If you want a green soup, you have your choice of cream of broccoli or split pea, or this cream of asparagus soup, which is a combination of the two preparation techniques. It is prepared much in the same way as cream of broccoli, but is thicker and a less vibrant green like split pea soup. I just used the skills I learned from my soup course to make up this soup. Adjust the seasonings as you wish, I like the hint of ginger but you could spice things up with some cayenne, fenugreek, or whatever you wish. Use as much or as little as you wish. I used the juice of half a lemon, which adds a little taste but not too much tang. You can substitute whipping cream for the evaporated milk, which will make a heavier, richer soup, but evaporated milk imparts a similar texture with less calories and fat. This recipe makes about half a liter, enough for 4-6 small appetizer servings or 2-4 larger main course servings. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Frothy Malt Grasshopper

Here is the dessert display from yesterday's Irish meal, from left to right: pistachio-crusted mint chocolate cream pie, emerald truffles, mint nanaimo bars, and Irish soda bread. To round out the meal, I made my take on a grasshopper drink. Typically a grasshopper is a sweet, green mint flavored drink using crème de menthe and crème de cacao liquers. This is my version, which is definitely not as sweet and incorporates some different flavors. I had neither required liquer on hand and was not about to venture out in the midst of a storm, so I just made do with what I had on hand.

Frothy Malt Grasshopper
1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon pure mint (or peppermint) extract
1 shot strong espresso
1 shot single malt scotch 
1/2 cup almond milk

Stir together the cocoa and ginger in a mug, then whisk in the espresso and scotch until smooth. Froth the almond milk until doubled in volume. Stir in half of the milk, then spoon the rest on top. Serve immediately.

Some notes and hints: I like the flavor of almond milk in this drink, as I think it is lighter and blends better with the strong flavors already present in the drink. Milk of any kind must be cold in order to be frothed, so I recommend serving this as a cold drink and using cold espresso. This also gives a stronger flavor of the scotch without having to use a lot. However, the drink may be heated after preparation but may lose some of its volume. You can add a touch of sweetener if you wish, I think a liquid sweetener will blend better but you may wish to avoid strong flavors like maple or honey. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

An Irish Feast

Here is the Saint Patrick's Day meal I made, featuring some traditional Irish dishes, some green dishes, and some minty dishes. To decide what to make, I began by listing all Irish dishes I could think of, the ones that were well known. I then listed all the naturally green foods I could think of, then thought about dishes (desserts) that would taste good with mint flavoring. From that list, I chose my final meal, with some input from my diners as well. The recipes and further explanations will follow in the days to come.

Irish Porter Cheese
Green Avocado
Cream of Asparagus Soup

Irish Lamb Stew in a Bread Bowl

Champ Potatoes
Irish Soda Bread

Pistachio-Crusted Mint Chocolate Cream Pie
Mint Nanaimo Bars
Emerald Truffles

Frothy Malt Grasshopper
Ginger Ale
Pictured here from left to right: bread bowls, cream of asparagus soup, Irish lamb stew, champ potatoes, Irish cheese and avocado. Dessert pictures are coming soon!!!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Patrick's Poke Cake

Happy Saint Patrick's Day! Tomorrow, I will feature a full Saint Patrick's Day feast. But for today, here is a simple cake I made in honor of the occasion. It is another one of those moist poke cakes - where you bake a cake, then pierce holes in it all over and pour dissolved gelatin powder (of the desired color/flavor) over the cake, allowing it to soak in the flavor and moisture. This idea works well for all holidays, as you simply need to choose a color to match the occasion (orange for Halloween, red and green for Christmas, raspberry, cherry, or strawberry for Valentine's Day, etc.)
The process is very easy:

  1. Prepare one white cake (it needs to be white otherwise the color will not show). It can be baked in any size or shape pan and it need not be cooled. Pierce the cake all over with a fork.
  2. Dissolve one package of the desired gelatin powder in one cup of boiling water.
  3. Stir in 1/2 cup cold water.
  4. Pour the gelatin over the cake, allowing it to soak into the cake.
  5. Decorate the cake as desired.
I have made a few cakes like this before, my {Orange Poke Cake} and my {Christmas Layer Cake}. The Christmas cake was nice because layering it allows you to use two different colors. I decided to leave this cake plain, but poke cakes may also be frosted, garnished with whipped cream, or drizzled with a glaze, and adorned with sprinkles, chopped nuts, or fruit. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Cinnamon Crack

Cinnamon Crack
1 cup granulated (white) sugar
2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, melted

In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and cinnamon. Drizzle in the butter and mix. Spread mixture onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 425F for 10-15 minutes until hardened and crisp. Cool, and break into pieces. 

If you are a fan of cinnamon rolls, you will love this. If you are like me, and much prefer the filling of the cinnamon roll to the dough, loving the very center piece and hating 'doughy' cinnamon rolls that do not have a satisfying dough to filling ratio, you will particularly love this. It tastes just like cinnamon roll filling. Essentially, it is just cinnamon roll filling. I 'invented' this candy recipe when I made cinnamon scrolls (see yesterday's post) that were overfilled, and the filling oozed out. Don't worry, I revised the cinnamon scroll recipe, so that shouldn't happen again - though it wasn't a bad thing. I just ended up with a small batch of cinnamon candy as well!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Cinnamon Scrolls

This is a variation on the tried and true cinnamon roll. Instead of a round, light and fluffy or yeasty roll, this is a flaky, crescent roll style biscuit with the sweet and buttery cinnamon filling, rolled up into a scroll. I find every cinnamon roll recipe differs in terms of texture - the dough is sometimes cake-like, sometimes muffin-like, sometimes biscuit-like, sometimes bread-like. This recipe is definitely a biscuit-like texture, but the filling, like most cinnamon roll fillings, is the same - sweet and chock full of cinnamon!

Cinnamon Scrolls
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
2 Tablespoons granulated (white) sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt1/2 cup cold cubed butter
1 cup cold milk
2 Tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter until crumbly. Stir in the milk to form a soft dough, knead just until it comes together. Roll to a 1/4 inch thick circle. Brush with the melted butter. Stir together the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over top. Leave a small border all around. Cut the circle into 16 equal triangular-shaped wedges. Roll up each triangle, starting from the long edge.
Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 425F for about 15 minutes until golden.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Pi(e) Day

Mini Pi Pies
Spooky Shepherd's Pie
Unfortunately, I was unable to bake a pie in time for pi day this year. I spent the bulk of my day in transit. It's a shame, because this pi day is extra special since it is March 14th, 2015 (3.14.15). Maybe I will be able to pull some kind of pie off, no matter now small or how simple, by 9:26:53 p.m. (3.141592653), although it would have probably been better in the a.m. Maybe I will at the very least find some pie to eat. For the time being though, I am going to share some pie photos from my collection. 
Apple Pie Pancake
Sneaky Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie
Mock Apple Pie
Lemon Raspberry Whoopie Pies

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes
Blueberry Pie Bars

Turkey Pot Pie

Friday, March 13, 2015

Lemon Raspberry Cake

Lemon Raspberry Cake
1 package (two layer size) lemon cake mix
3 large eggs
1/3 cup oil
1 1/3 cups water
1 can (398mL) raspberry pie filling

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a ten inch rube pan.
In a large bowl, beat together the cake mix, eggs, oil, and water. Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Top with half the raspberry filling in spoonfuls. Repeat layers. Use a knife to gently swirl the layers. Bake for about 75 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
This is a quick and easy cake that combines two great flavor combinations - lemon and raspberry. Due to the heavy raspberry filling, the cake stays really moist and is almost like a pudding cake. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Pasta With Fenugreek Dressing

Here is my finished pasta dish from yesterday: curried pine nut pasta with swiss cheese and fenugreek dressing. 
To finish the pasta: Roll the pasta dough out to approximately 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into rectangles, about one inch by 1/2 inch. Place a small amount of grated cheese (I used swiss) in the center of each, then fold over and press to seal with the tines of a fork. Cook for a few minutes in boiling salted water until tender. Serve with extra cheese, crushed pine nuts, and a sauce. I served mine with the following, not a typical pasta sauce but seriously good!

Fenugreek Emulsified Dressing
1 whole egg
1 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1 teaspoon fenugreek
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1 Tablespoon fresh cilantro, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
125mL rice vinegar
375mL canola oil
fresh lemon, juiced

In a medium bowl, beat the egg with the mustard. Beat in the remaining herbs and spices. Whisk in the vinegar. Slowly whisk in the oil to emulsify. Adjust the seasoning and consistency with lemon juice and additional salt and pepper. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Curried Pine Nut Pasta

Curried Pine Nut Pasta
1 cup semolina flour
3/4 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1/4 cup pine nuts, finely chopped (toast first for more flavor)
2 teaspoons curry powder
pinch salt
1 large egg
1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
2/3 cup cold water

In a small bowl, mix together the flours, nuts, curry, and salt.
In a separate small bowl, beat together the egg, oil, and water until combined.
Mound the dry ingredients on a wooden table or board. Make a hole in the center. (Alternately you can do this in a bowl, but it is not the traditional way of making pasta). Carefully pour the wet ingredients in the center, then gently work the flour in with your hands to form a stiff dough. Knead until smooth. Form into a ball, wrap well in plastic wrap, and let rest for at least an hour or so.

At this point, your pasta may be put through a pasta machine, or rolled out and cut by hand. Then it may be cooked for a few minutes in boiling salted water until tender, or dried for storage. Fill as desired. Fresh filled pasta can be refrigerated or frozen for later use. This pasta can be made into any pasta shape possible.
This isn't a traditional pasta formula - but my own recipe that gets more color from the curry powder. The use of some semolina flour makes the pasta firmer and gives more color as well. I will share the entire pasta dish I created with this pasta dough tomorrow. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Garlic Aioli

Garlic Aioli
2 large cloves garlic
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
freshly squeezed lemon juice
240mL neutral oil or good quality extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Mash the garlic in a mortar and pestle until a smooth paste forms. Add the egg yolk and mustard powder and beat. Add a splash of the lemon juice. Slowly drizzle in the oil, stirring constantly, to form the emulsion. Add lemon juice as needed to flavor and thin out the aioli. When finished season to taste with salt and pepper, and add a pinch of paprika, if desired. 
Aioli, garlic being the most common, is a more traditional mayonnaise. In order to be considered a true aioli, garlic aioli must be made in a mortar and pestle, by first mashing the garlic. Finely mincing the garlic or chopping it in a food chopper is cheating and will by no means impart the same flavor. I have done a side-by-side taste comparison and you can definitely tell the difference! True aiolis are thick, rich, and buttery, heavy mayos. A little certainly goes a long way. It has a pleasing garlic flavor without the 'bite'. Nowadays there are many different types of 'aiolis' out there, but many of them are not true aiolis, they are simply flavored mayos. I wish I had remembered to take a picture of my aioli during the process in the mortar and pestle, but I forgot, so her it is as I served it.

Monday, March 09, 2015


I have never made pierogies before. I have made a few other types of dumplings - gnocchi, soup dumplings. I made them for the first time today. I don't know if these are 'traditional' pierogies, but I know at least the filling is not. These are made from a soft dough made with sour cream. I filled them with tomato concassé and brunoise of swiss cheese, as I was practicing my knife cuts. Then I served them with a garlic aioli. 

1 large egg
5 Tablespoons sour cream
1 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch salt
desired filling

In a small bowl, beat the egg, then beat in the sour cream. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Knead the dough until smooth. The dough will be quite soft and slightly sticky, but should not stick to you. At this point I wrapped the dough in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for about an hour, but this is probably optional unless you find the dough too soft to work with. 

When ready to cook, roll the dough out to approximately 1/4 inch thick. Cut into two inch rounds. Place a small amount of the desired filling in the center of each circle, then fold dough over and press with a fork to seal.

Cook the pierogies in salted simmering (not a full boil, or they may break). They will float to the top pretty quickly, then cook two minutes, flip, then two minutes more until they have some color and are no longer doughy. Drain well. At this point, pierogies are usually pan-fried in a little oil for added color, flavor, and texture. Serve with sour cream or sauce of choice. 

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Baked Fish in Béchamel Sauce

Here is a little something different. I love fish, and most types of fish are fairly versatile in their preparation technique - baked, boiled, grilled, fried, deep-fried, poached, broiled, etc. Each method has it advantages and disadvantages, but when done right, each method will result in moist, tasty fish. I have done some baked fish before, simple baked salmon, salmon en papillote, and breaded baked fish cutlets. This time I was preparing tilipia fillets. Tilipia tend to be fairly mild, so I knew I had to do something to keep it moist while giving it some flavor. I won't give an exact recipe, since amounts will vary greatly depending on how much fish is used. I must have used around 30 small fillets. 
Pat the fillets to ensure they are very dry. Arrange a single layer in a rectangular baking pan. Season with salt and pepper. Slice two onions and two peppers (any color) and scatter over the fish. Prepare a béchamel sauce, but instead of the basic recipe, use white roux, cream, salt, pepper, and garlic and pour over the fish. Cover and bake at your preferred temperature until tender. With the thick, rich sauce this recipe is more forgiving than most fish recipes would be. It can be baked low and slow, or quickly at a higher temperature. It can also be cooked slightly longer than it needs to be, and the fish will not become rubbery. This recipe holds and keeps well too.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Coconut Cream Pie

Coconut Cream Pie
one 9-inch pie crust, baked and cooled
3 cups whipping cream
2 packages instant vanilla pudding mix (four serving size)
2 cups shredded coconut

In a medium bowl, beat together the cream and pudding mix for about two minutes until thickened. Stir in the coconut. Spread evenly in prepared pie crust. Sprinkle with additional coconut for garnish.

This coconut cream pie really couldn't be any easier - it is also so rich, creamy, and coconuty. A small slice goes a long way. 

Friday, March 06, 2015

Nutella Cake Truffles

Well, this post concludes my week's worth of Nutella breakfast posts. This is not a breakfast post, well, I didn't intend it to be one, but who am I to judge what people should and should not eat for breakfast? This was simply a small sweet treat I made which also incorporated nutella. They are nutella cake truffles. Cake truffles are not completely smooth and rich like typical chocolate truffles, usually made from simple mixtures such as chocolate and whipping cream and flavored as desired. Rather cake truffles have a slightly different texture and don't tend to be quite so rich - so you can eat more of them in one sitting. Cake truffles are as simple as they sound - cake rolled into truffles. You can simply use a piece of cake and just roll it up, but alternate methods are to use leftover cake pieces or cake crumbs and combine them with enough icing to stick into round balls. This gives soft, cake-like truffles that taste much like the cake from which they were made.
To make these truffles, I simply took one piece of chocolate cake with a mocha icing. I added a heaping spoonful of nutella, then rolled the mixture into six round truffles. This was pretty messy, as the truffles were softer than most cake truffles because I added lots of nutella instead of just using the frosting. An alternate method to make nutella truffles is to use nutella cake and/or nutella frosting if you have it on hand. Either way, cake truffles are easy, fool-proof, a good way to make use of leftover cake, and delicious - especially nutella-flavored!

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Jumbo Nutella Cupcake

Here is the most chocolaty and decadent of my nutella breakfasts, and perhaps the most filling and satisfying as well.
Easiest Nutella Cupcakes
1/2 cup Nutella
1 large egg
5 Tablespoons whole wheat flour
Nutella for filling

In a small bowl, mix together the nutella, egg, and flour until well combined. Spread half of the batter into a large mug or ramekin, greasing it makes it slightly easier to remove the cupcake, but it may also be eaten directly from the dish. Place a dollop of nutella in the center of the batter. Spread remaining batter over top. At this point you can cook it immediately or place it in the fridge overnight if you want to do advance preparation. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) for 1 1/2 - 2 minutes until firm. Top with more nutella. Best when served warm, but can be cooled and removed from the mug for later. 

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Overnight Nutella Oatmeal

Overnight Nutella Oatmeal
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tablespoon hazelnuts
1 Tablespoon chocolate chips
1 Tablespoon nutella
3/4 cup milk
additional nutella, hazelnuts, and chocolate chips

In a small bowl or mug, stir together the oats, cocoa, nuts, and chips. Stir in the nutella and milk. Cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, enjoy cold or heat in the microwave. Garnish as desired. 
The fourth nutella breakfast. This one ended up making a smaller batch than I had thought, so I would suggest using more oats, using more milk for a thinner, but more filling bowl of oatmeal, or bulking up and enriching the oatmeal with a little ground flax seed or wheat germ. This breakfast can also be prepared the night before, and enjoyed warm or cold. 

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Nutella French Toast Towers

Nutella French Toast Towers
2 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 slices baguette (preferably not fresh)
fruit and hazelnuts, to garnish

In a small, shallow dish, beat the eggs with the milk and vanilla. Place the bread slices in, let sit for 30 seconds, then flip. Ensure bread is well-soaked, then cover and refrigerate overnight. The bread will absorb nearly all the liquid overnight.
In the morning, heat a little oil in a small frying pan. Fry the baguette slices a few minutes per side until crisp and golden. Sandwich two pieces together with nutella, and garnish with fruit and hazelnuts. 

The third nutella, individual-serving warm breakfast idea!

Monday, March 02, 2015

Chocolate Nutella Pancake Stacks

Chocolate Nutella Pancake Stacks
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tablespoon granulated (white) sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch salt
1/3 cup milk
2 Tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat a little oil in a small frying pan over medium heat.
In a small bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center.
Add the milk, oil, and vanilla to the well and mix until smooth. Drop small spoonfuls of batter into the frying pan (in batches if needed) and cook for a minute or two per side until firm.
Assemble the stacks by sandwiching four pancakes together with plenty of nutella between the layers. Garnish with fresh fruit and hazelnuts. Makes two stacks or eight miniature pancakes. Alternately you could make one large pancake and spread it with nutella, fruit, and hazelnuts. 

Here is the second nutella breakfast addition. This makes one serving of pancakes - so you can make a hot breakfast just for yourself or for a loved one. You can make either the batter or the pancakes in advance and cook or reheat them in the morning.