Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Summer Cornbread

A basic cornbread recipe with the addition of hot peppers, spice, peameal bacon, and cheese! Great hot and yummy cold too. Moist and buttery. A great accompaniment to any meal, but especially summer foods such as grilled meats and salads. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Sweet Baked Beans

A few key techniques to some great baked beans? Lots of sugar (molasses ketchup, brown sugar, etc.), a long and slow cooking time to tenderize them, blend flavors, and make the beans piping hot, and a great mix of beans. Here is white navy beans, turtle beans. black beans, and red lentils. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Afghan Biscuits

I had vaguely heard of Afghan biscuits, or cookies, before but wasn't too sure what they were all about. It turns out they are a traditional biscuit from New Zealand that contains chocolate and cornflakes and is topped with a chocolate icing and often a walnut. My brother's girlfriend made them, but made a gluten-free version using brown rice crisp rice cereal instead of cornflakes and they were delicious! Soft and chocolaty, with a crisp texture from the cereal and a not-too-sweet chocolate icing.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Chicken Pot Pie with Two Crusts

Chicken pot pie ... rich, creamy, delicious, and chock-full of vegetables and chicken. This one contains shredded chicken meat, peas, carrots, turnip, and potatoes in a creamy sauce. This pie is extra cook because it contains two different crusts - the bottom in a buttery puff pastry crust that absorbed all the flavor and moisture from the sauce making it merely a vessel for the filling. The top crust is crisp, light phyllo pastry that adds a nice crunch to the dish.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Tofu Big Mac

Who says vegans can't have big macs, or at least burgers that are healthy and tasty? This tasty package consists of a buttered, toasted brioche bun, seared seasoned tofu, lettuce, fire-roasted red pepper, basil pesto, avocado, and mesclun mix.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Fruit Punch

Fruit punch is the classic drink of summertime. There are so many different versions of how to make it and what goes in it out there. You can order it from a restaurant, buy it premade, make it from a drink mix, or thaw it and add water. Or you can make it from scratch. I think this last option has got to be the best one. Use whatever blend of juices is your favorite (apple, orange, cranberry, pineapple), add some pop to the mix (gingerale, sprite, club soda), and throw in some fresh citrus slices and ice cubes. Refreshing, sweet, and tasty!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Tuxedo Strawberries

Strawberries are delicious. Chocolate is delicious. There is something about pairing strawberries and chocolate that not only makes them double delicious but super luxurious as well. Especially when done well. You an charge a great deal of money for a feed of chocolate dipped strawberries. Not only are the great on their own, but they can be used as an elegant decoration for a variety of desserts. Tuxedo strawberries are one of the fancier versions of chocolate covered strawberries and are easier to make than they may look. I made some the other day to decorate a flourless chocolate torte.

Begin with strawberries that are well washed and dried. You can use any size you wish, just choose firm, blemish-free berries. I like it when stems are still attached, which also makes them easier to dip. If they don't have stems you can stick a toothpick in them for dipping. Begin with white chocolate and dip the entire strawberry (save a little bit at the top) in it. Then allow the chocolate to set - you can set them on a sheet tray, but the chocolate will pool around the bottom of the strawberry so keep that in mind. A wire rack is better to allow the excess chocolate to run off. Properly tempered chocolate will set quickly, but the strawberries can be chilled to speed up the process. Once the white chocolate is set, dip the sides of the berries at an angle into dark, milk, or semisweet chocolate to create a suit appearance. Use a toothpick or plastic bag to add three buttons. Allow to set again before using.
Some tips for the chocolate: use the best quality you can find, melt it properly, place it in a narrow, deep bowl for easier dipping and stir in a small amount of oil if needed to thin it out slightly,

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Chocolate Ganache In A Pinch

The other day I wanted to make a chocolate ganache to decorate a cake. Basically, as far as I am concerned, there are two ways/two types of chocolate ganache. One is the simple melted chocolate and cream, varying the ratio of chocolate to cream  based on the desired use and using whatever type of chocolate desired. The second way is a mock ganache made from cocoa powder, icing sugar, liquid, fat, and flavoring (cocoa, icing sugar, milk, butter, vanilla, for example) and is more like a chocolate glaze.
I didn't want a ganache as thick and temperamental as the mock ganache, and we had lots of chocolate on hand but no cream. So I invented a new ganache that was beautifully shiny, smooth, sinfully rich, and super easy to make. It is just chocolate and butter melted together over a double broiler. Then remove from heat and temper in a bit more chocolate. I wish I could give a ratio, but I didn't measure, just eyeballed. I can say I used 70% cocoa dark chocolate squares and tempered it carefully to retain the shine, then used it to glaze the top of a cake while it was still warm. It also worked for dipping strawberries to make tuxedo (or chocolate-covered) strawberries.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Flourless Chocolate Torte #2

Since the flourless chocolate torte was delicious and disappeared so quickly, but didn't seem to be correct in consistency, I decided to use the same recipe to make another one the next day. Here are the changes I made:

  • I used dark chocolate pieces instead of semisweet chocolate chips
  • I measured the ingredients by weight for more accuracy; which turned out to be 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons of butter, and 1 cup + 1 Tablespoon of sugar, and 300 grams of chocolate.
  • I melted the chocolate over a double broiler with the butter and cooled it slightly before using.
  • I separated the eggs and whipped the whites to soft peaks, then gradually added the sugar and whipped to stiff peaks, then whipped in the yolks one at a time.
  • I folded the chocolate and butter into the eggs.
  • I omitted the vanilla extract.
  • I lined the pan with parchment paper.
  • I baked the cake at 355F.
  • I baked the cake for 50 minutes.
  • I removed the side of the cake tin immediately afer baking.
  • I chilled the cake before serving.
  • I served it plain without any ganache or other garnishes.
Considering all the alterations I chagned and how promising the cake looked, basically the same thing happened. It cracked and collapsed and had a very fidgey texture. The cake batter looked very light and airy before putting it in the oven, and rose very high, but collapsed and slanted upon cooling. Oh well, this cake is still pretty easy to make, is gluten-free, and tastes so darn delicious.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Flourless Chocolate Torte #1

This is a flourless chocolate torte my mother made from one of my recipe books. I finished it off with a dark chocolate ganache, tuxedo strawberries, and some chocolate kisses. The cake was delicious, rich, dense, and chocolaty; but it didn't hold up well. Maybe it should have been refrigerated, or baked longer, I don't know; but bowls and spoons worked better for this cake than plates and forks.

1 cup butter
2 cups chocolate
5 large eggs
1 1/3 cups granulated (white) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease a 9-inch round springform pan.
Melt together the butter and chocolate.
Beat the eggs and sugar until meringue-like consistency.
Fold all together.
Bake for 30 minutes until top is dry and puffed and cake is set.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Dining Out Nachoes

For my mother's birthday yesterday the whole family went to our favorite pizza restaurant where my mother got a free meal for the special day. My father ordered a seafood panzerotti and fries. My mother ordered a personal pizza and fries. My brother and his girlfriend shared garlic cheese fingers and a pizza. And I got a new menu item: Greek vegetable nachoes. They were something different and something very delicious. They were topped with mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, peppers, spinach, and black olives and oven baked on a skillet and not one nacho was soggy - they were all incredibly crisp!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Mom's Lemon Birthday Cake

Because I was not sure whether I would make it home for Mom's birthday or not and didn't have a lot of time once I did arrive, Mom's birthday cake was made by my brother and his girlfriend this year. They made a lovely gluten-free lemon bundt cake with a lemon icing. They were however, happy to have me pipe on the cake. I had forgotten to take home any cake decorating tools as I wasn't sure how much cake decorating I would be doing, so I just used a plastic bag. But I managed to pipe 'Happy 50th Birthday Mom' and some flowers and a border. I used a little melted strawberry jam to color the icing a very light pink naturally.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Surprising Mom

Last night I worked another all night shift. I worked from 7am - 2pm, and then again from 7pm - 7:30am. Then I rushed to catch the 8:15 bus home. My plan was to surprise my mother for her birthday, which is tomorrow. I knew she was having a barbecue tonight with several of our family friends, and I wanted to be there for that too and make the most of my short weekend home. I knew in advance she had told everyone 'the chef would not be home' and I had to laugh at that. I did tell my brother, who is home for a few weeks visitng with his girlfriend, that I would be coming but told him to keep it a secret from Mom and Dad.

Well, they were very much surprised as were most of our guests. They were also quite happy. I didn't have much of a chance to make anything before the barbecue and knew Mom and Dad would already have a lot of food planned, but I did decorate the chocolate cake.

All together we had barbecue ribs, beer can chicken, rice pilaf, bean salad, tomato baked zucchini, fresh garden cucumber, bread rolls, flourless chocolate torte, rum cake, and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Pumpkin Pie

Mmmm... no Christmas feast is complete without a pumpkin pie or two for dessert. This pumpkin pie has the signature flaky crust, and creamy rich pumpkin filling made from canned pumpkin puree and a rich custard or condensed milk, eggs, sugar, and flavorings. To make it even more special, we topped it off with homemade, soft-serve vanilla ice cream which was as fluffy as a marshmallow. Who says pumpkin pie has to be a fall dessert?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Chritmas Dinner In August

Not too long ago at work we had an entire Christmas dinner in August. We had a feast with all the fixings and afterwards felt happy and stuffed. Our Christmas dinner consisted of Challah bread and butter, different pickles, chutneys, and preserves, honey thyme carrots, peas, creamy mashed potatoes, stuffing, a brined turkey breast with gravy, pumpkin pie, and homemade vanilla ice cream.
fresh Challah bread

mustard pickles, cranberry sauce, red pepper jelly, and pickled peppers

brined turkey breast


honey and thyme glazed carrots

creamy mashed potatoes

the entire feast


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Fall Pot Pie

Flaky puff pastry dough + sweet squash lentil apple filling + sliced apples seasoned with cinnamon and salt, arranged in a bowl and baked until crust is golden, apples are soft, and filling is hot and bubbly. This is a super delicious dish that is sweet enough to be served for a healthier dessert but also great for lunch as well. These pies can be made as big or as small as you wish. Nuts or other fruits can easily be added.

Monday, August 15, 2016

More Chocolate Chips Than Cookie

How do you make the most perfect chocolate chip cookie? The key is to add lots and lots of chocolate you have almost more chocolate chips than you do cookie. This is a great recipe for vegan chocolate chip oat cookies, and using mini chocolate chips, you can stir a big bunch of chocolate chips into the batter and have a really chocolaty cookie that is best enjoyed hot from the oven!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Deep Sea Fishing

Yesterday I went deep sea fishing for the first time. It was a beautiful, calm, sunny morning. The ride out on the small boat was smooth and relaxing. Then we stopped to fish some mackerel to use as bait for the cod we would fish when we went deeper. I caught two mackerel. Then I began fishing for cod. I did not catch any though, as soon after the rocking of the boat became too much for me, and I was very seasick. I spent the rest of the three four experience huddled on the bench on the deck, trying to fixate my eyes on one point on the horizon, when I wasn't leaning into a bag. It would have been a nice experience if I had a stronger stomach. But I don't think I will be doing it again anytime soon.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Cheater Vegan 'Cheese'

Anyone familiar with vegan cooking, particularly substitutes, if familiar with making vegan 'cheeses' from a base of nuts, most often cashews or macadamia nuts. There is also the pecan and nutritional yeast crumble to mimic Parmesan. Nuts are a great base, because once they are soaked, they can be blended into a delicious creamy texture, flavored, and set with a thickener such as cornstarch or agar agar. Well, I wanted a vegan cheesy spread substitute and I was in a hurry so I discovered a cheater version. It isn't the same as many of the vegan cheeses, but something different in itself. I used an already prepared nut butter in place of the nut cream base. I added seasoning, nutritional yeast, and used ground flaxseed as the thickener. Because I had almond butter on hand, this cheese is very dark in color and has a bit of a stronger flavor. But cashew or macadamia nut butter would provide a lighter color and more neutral flavor.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Creamy Soft Polenta

Using the basic polenta recipe from Polenta Three Ways. You can either proceed with the hot polenta mixture, or do as I did and chill the entire batch, then use the scraps from cutting out the fried polenta to make this soft polenta. If so, then just chop the scraps up and put them in a pot.

I added a good smudge of butter, a little bit of mozzarella cheese, and some milk to thin it out. I heated this up slowly until everything melted together and polenta was smooth. I used skim milk because that's all I had on hand, but for a really decadent version, use cream. You can also use any cheese you wish or a combination. And feel free to stir in some herbs as well!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Spicy Polenta Fries

Cut firm polenta into thin rectangles. Arrange on a baking sheet. Drizzle with oil. Sprinkle with spicy seasoning mix (I used garlic powder, paprika, black pepper, and chili powder. If you seasoned the polenta, you do not need extra salt). Bake at 425F for at least 30 minutes or until crisp.

These have a great, crispy texture without the need for deep-frying. Use whatever seasoning you wish and use it liberally. You can also stir the seasoning directly into the warm polenta mixture if you prefer. These would be great dunked into an aioli.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Fried Polenta

Chill polenta until firm. Cut into desired shapes - this can simply be squares or rectangles or triangles, or using cookie cutters to cut different shapes. If you have cookie cutters you will have scrap pieces - these can also be fried, deep-fried, or reheated into creamed polenta (I will share that recipes as well), or snacked on as is.

To fry polenta, use a frying pan over medium-high heat. Too high and the polenta will burn and the oil will sputter, but too low and it does not become crisp. I tend to use a neutral oil, as it will not burn, but butter will add more flavor. You can also start with oil and finish with butter. You only need a thin layer, but you can also use more oil to 'shallow-fry' the polenta. Just be sure to drain them on paper towel before serving. Fry until desired crispness, then flip and fry the other side and serve! A griddle also works very well for this and you barely need to use any fat at all.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Polenta Three Ways

The other night I made a big batch of polenta for dinner for something different and decided to do it three different ways. I made a basic pot of polenta using one cup of yellow cornmeal and five cups of water and salt to taste. I brought the water to a boil, then whisked in the salt and cornmeal. Then I cooked it over low heat until it was tender, poured it into a 9x9-inch pan lined with parchment paper, and cooled it until it firmed up.

From the basic batch I made three different types:
1. Fried polenta shapes (golden stars in the center)
2. Crispy spicy polenta fries (rectangles to the left)
3. Creamy soft polenta (base of plate)

I will share the techniques and recipes for the three variations within the next few days.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Chocolate Sand/Dirt

Chocolate sand or chocolate dirt is a great alternative to chocolate cookie crumbs for desserts, especially the popular "worms in mud dessert" (chocolate pudding, chocolate wafer crumbs, and gummy worms) and other similar-type desserts. Chocolate sand is extremely easy to make, it is simply just melted chocolate and enough sugar to make a sand/dirt/crumb consistency. There are many ways to vary it as well. You can use milk, bittersweet, or dark chocolate. You can use granulated sugar, brown sugar for a more caramel flavor, turbinado sugar for a more coarse texture, or coconut sugar. You can also add a little instant coffee, vanilla, spice such as cinnamon or black pepper, brown butter, balsamic vinegar, or other ingredients for flavor.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Chocolate Banana Soft Serve

Chocolate Banana Soft Serve
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups icing sugar
1 teaspoon instant coffee
1+ Tablespoons hot water
2 frozen overripe bananas

Mix together the butter and cocoa. Stir in the vanilla, icing sugar, and coffee mixed with hot water. Stir in enough hot water to make a thick icing consistency. Blend together with the bananas until smooth. Cover and freeze until firm.

This is a super easy ice-cream like dessert. Simply chilled or semi-frozen it makes a good mousse dessert. It is by no means a real ice cream, but it is smooth, creamy, and refreshing. The trick is to begin with a base that is similar to a fudge frosting. It does not require an ice cream maker nor does it need to be stirred at all during the freezing process.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Deconstructed Banoffee Pie

This random dessert creation is the result of me being given four ingredients: chocolate, sugar, bananas, and sweetened condensed milk. My first thought was - banoffee pie! But to make it quicker, easier, and more interesting I made a deconstructed version. 

Chocolate banana mousse
Dark chocolate sand
Dulce de leche ganache
Coconut cream
Chocolate caramel salted pretzels
Chocolate caramel candies
I chose to plate it in a shallow bowl, with a base of chocolate banana mousse, dulce de leche ganache swirled in a circle, dark chocolate sand sprinkled in the center of the bowl, coconut cream on top, and chocolate caramel salted pretzels and candies randomly around.

Friday, August 05, 2016


The other day I went foraging in my own backyard. I was surprised at how many edible things I found. In the food garden, we currently have cucumbers, tomatoes, cilantro, rhubarb, strawberries, marigolds, and garlic scapes growing.
In the flower garden we have pansies and roses.
In the wild we have dandelions, pineapple weed, pinecones, spuce tips, thyme flowers, and clovers.
Close to the house but not actually in the yard there is also wild carrot and purple clovers.

Top: dandelion greens (left), pineapple weed (right).
Middle: pinecones (left), pansies, green tomato, dandelion flowers (right).
Bottom: cucumber (left), garlic scapes, spruce tips (top), rose petals (bottom),  thyme flowers (top), cilantro (bottom), clovers (right).

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Easy Blueberry Jelly

Easy Blueberry Jelly
3 cups frozen blueberries
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
2 Tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup water

Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil constantly until reduced and thickened to a jelly consistency. Allow to cool. Store in the refrigerator. Makes about 3/4 cup.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Lemon Blueberry Jelly Roll

This is a not-too-sweet, not-too-difficult summer fresh cake to make. Cut the jelly roll in half width-wise immediately after baking to make two smaller jelly rolls.
Lemon Jelly Roll
4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
zest of one large lemon
1/4 cup lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a 10x15 inch jelly roll with parchment paper.
Beat the egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually beat in the sugar until mixture is glossy and holds stiff peaks. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time. Fold in remaining ingredients.
Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake ten minutes. Cook five minutes.

Flip cake onto a clean tea towel lined with parchment paper that is sprinkled with sifted icing sugar. Sift more icing sugar on top. Tightly roll the cake with the paper and tea towel. Allow to cool completely. Gently unroll cake, spread with blueberry jam, and reroll cake. Chill until firm, then slice with a serrated knife.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Chocolate Caramel Oat Cookies

These are some cookies I came uo with on the spot when I had some leftover ingredients kicking around. This is what I came up with. They are quite tasty - plenty of chocolate and caramel with some texture from the oats, but they stay soft too. You can also detect a hint of coffee and cinnamon flavor.

Chocolate Caramel Oat Cookies
100 grams dark chocolate
1 cup light brown sugar
1 can (300mL) caramel flavored sweetened condensed milk
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon instant coffee powder
1 large egg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 cup rolled oats
Preheat oven to 350F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Melt chocolate. Stir in brown sugar. Stir in milk, then vanilla, cinnamon, coffee, and egg. Stir in remaining ingredients. Drop by tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets, spaced a few inches apart. Bake for ten minutes. Let cookies stand for two minutes to set before removing from baking sheet.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Date Cookies

Date Cookies
1/2 cup butter or hard margarine, softened
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 extra large egg or 2 medium eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chopped dates

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line cookie sheets.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in egg and vanilla.
Stir in remaining ingredients. Drop by teaspoons onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Makes about 36 cookies.