Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wear Your Poppy

Today marks the beginning of Veteran's Week, and if you haven't bought your poppy please get one now. It's not about being pro- or anti-war; it's not about being politically correct. It's not about glorifying war or whitewashing history. It's not about politics.

It's about Remembering. Remembering the horrors war has wrought on the world, and the sacrifices made by all who lived through them. Remembering the soldiers who died for each other, for a cause, for King and country, and for you, regardless of whether you agree with the war or not. Remembering the innocents who died in the millions. And remembering humanity and how close we are to losing it entirely through war.

So please, wear a poppy on your left hand side, close to your heart.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

TWD - Sugar Topped Molasses Spice Cookies

This week's TWD is a bit different. Because this month's recipes are so damn good and American Thanksgiving is soon, TWD decided to let people bake out of order. And since I always like messing around with order, that's exactly what I did!

The recipes really ARE good this month, but I wasn't in the mood for something really heavy or time consuming, so I chose these gorgeous molasses cookies. Pamela of Cookies with Boys choose these cookies, and very timely - perfect for these cold, November days. Tia of Buttercream Barbie (love that name!) was kind enough to post the recipe, since it's not technically their week. Good on her! I'm glad to see not everyone is as lazy as I am.

Another reason I went with these cookies is to see how they compare with my mom's. All in all, Dorie's are a standard molasses cookie, which is not an invective, believe me! One thing I do like is her inclusion of black pepper, and if anything I'd use more next time. Taste for taste, they are very close to Mom's, but if I had to choose I'd go with Mom's cookies. Because, you know, she's my MOM. That's the rules.

These cookies are very straightforward. As some people have noted, they do spread out pretty good - definitely don't crowd the pan. And go heavy with the black pepper, it's awesome!

Unfortunately, I had an accident while making them. This one fell into some french vanilla icing, and then it accidentally fell into my mouth, thereby forcing me to eat it (them, let's be honest). Mmmmmmmmmm, happy lies! Can't wait to see what everyone chose. :)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Pumpkin Spice Loaf Cake

I love this time of year. Clear and sunny, cold and crisp air, and the sunlight is just golden everywhere it shines. And the flavours of Fall are my favourite, too; creamy soups, steamy cups of tea, and lovely spicy cakes and cookies.

I wanted to make a nice, easy cake that would suit the weather, and when I stumbled on this recipe I knew it fit the bill. It looks like a quickbread, but trust me - this puppy is a cake. I'm afraid you can't fool yourself into thinking this is anything but dessert. The pumpkin makes it moist without adding any additional flavouring, because the real stars of this show are cinnamon and allspice. And oh lordy, you should smell the place when this cake is's like living in a gingerbread house! Mmmmmm, edible housing.

It couldn't be simpler to make, either. The whole assembly probably took me about 10 minutes from start to finish. All you do is cream together some butter and sugar, throw in an egg, spicy flour, and pumpkin puree. I was feeling lazy when I made this, so the loaf cake part of it really appealed to me - no arseing around with icing cakes, because it looks just fine without it. I had it with Betty Crocker's French Vanilla icing (I was lazy, I told you), but it would be great with cream cheese icing or even chocolate. Any way you slice it, this cake is just tangible coziness, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.


1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup chopped pecans (optional - I hate nuts)
2 1/2 cups cake flour, sifted
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1 cup pumpkin purée, canned or homemade

1. Cream butter and sugar together. Add egg and vanilla, and beat until light and fluffy.

2. In a separate bowl, sift together the cake flour, spices, salt, and baking soda. You really need to sift the cake flour, or it will be lumpy.

3. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in milk. Add remaining dry ingredients alternately with the pumpkin puree.

4. Pour batter into pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 50 - 60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool before icing.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Jesus, is it really November already? Time really speeds by when you're sitting at home with a bum foot. Naturally, it's been the best weather of the season. Ah look Melissa, look at how beautiful it is outside. How about we go for a nice walk through the lovely Fall foliage? HA HA PSYCH!

Stupid foot. Anyway, in an effort to post more consistently I've joined the NaBloPoMo, where you are required to post every day for a month. We'll see how that goes....but for now, let's be optimistic! Today I'm simply sitting in a candy-induced semi-coma and periodically eating Pumpkin Spice Cake (recipe tomorrow!). Mmmmmmm. Cake. Cake is always good.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Homemade Pumpkin Puree

My last post involved pumpkin puree and so does tomorrow's, so I thought it was time to show you how I make the damn stuff. (Isn't that a gorgeous picture? Don't mind the clutter in the background; I thought I hid it well enough, but obviously not. Keeping it real, people.)

But why make your own puree when you can buy it, you might ask? Or at least I imagine you ask, otherwise I'm talking to myself. Well readers, I find over the last few years I prefer to make my own stuff rather than buy it canned; that way, I can control all the preservatives in it. And usually, it tastes better, too. For instance, did you know that canned pumpkin often doesn't even have much pumpkin in it? A lot of times it's more squash than anything. At least when I make my own, I know what's in it, I support my local farmers, and I save money. My wee pumpkin cost 60 cents a pound, and I got 5 cups of puree out of it, which is about 2-3 cans worth. $2 vs $6-$7? Even I can do that math.

Also, it is easy peasy to make. Seriously. First, and this is important - you need to buy the right pumpkin. Ask for a pie pumpkin (also known as sugar pumpkins, I think). They are smaller, sweeter, and are more suited for baking than your big jack-o-lantern pumpkins. Once that's done, prepare to roast it. Why roast? Well, there's less prep involved, and it results in much less wet puree (that's good, trust me). So throw that bugger in the oven, cook it til it's soft, and blend the hell out of it in the trusty food processor. C'est tout!


1. Get a pie pumpkin. Cut it in half and then scoop the guts out (save the seeds for roasting later if you like).

2. Cut your pieces in half again, and then place them on a baking sheet - there's very little mess, so you don't need to line your pan.

3. Place the pumpkin in a 350 degree oven, and roast 45 minutes or more until the pumpkin is good and soft.

4. Let it cool to where you can handle the pieces. Peel the skin off (it will come fairly easy), and then cut it into chunks. Throw it in the food processor. Blend until smooth, adding water sparingly as needed to get the right texture. Keep in the fridge for a couple of days, or freeze for later use.

For freezing: I usually measure out 1 cup, put it in a ziplock freezer bag, and lay it flat in the freezer. Two or three pumpkins should give you all the puree you need until next fall (depending on how much you use it, of course). But hey, I'm not magic, I'll let you figure that out. ;)

NOTE: You can boil the pumpkin as well, but from what I understand that results in a wetter puree that you may need to strain. If you don't have a food processor, though, you may want to use this option as the pumpkin will mash (or rice) easier.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

I have been on a pumpkin roll lately, and these bars are what took me from intrigued to LOVE. I saw them on Amy's Playing House, and they looked so good I knew I had to try them immediately. What's not to love - cheesecake AND chocolate? I'm there.

And here's why I have officially become a pumpkin convert: it has a very neutral taste, it gives your baked goods beautiful colour, and it replaces the fat in recipes without you even noticing. Plus pumpkin is super good for you! The good for you part wouldn't make me use it without the rest, but its nutritional benefit definitely tipped the scales. I love it so much I'm sure they'll find out in a few years that pumpkin causes systemic organ failure in short redheads or something, as it is rare at best that I luck out with foods I adore.

Anyway, Amy's recipe is super simple and so, so good. I made a few changes, the main one being that I didn't have pumpkin pie spice so I ended up winging it with nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon. I went a little heavy on the nutmeg, so don't do that. I think allspice would be great in these, too. Also, Amy uses an Oreo crumb crust, and I ended up forgoing a crust entirely. I can't remember why; maybe I was out of butter, or I was tired, or the dishwasher was full and I didn't want to clean a bowl by hand, I'm really not sure. Knowing me, it was the latter.

One more thing: the chocolate part was SO delicious, I seriously had to exert every last fiber of my woefully weak willpower to keep from eating it all. I could have easily sat down and eaten the entire bowl of chocolate filling, rather than add it to the bars. Next time I think I'll double the chocolate filling part; it was just that good. These keep great in the fridge for days, and are perfect for freezing, too. Head on over to Amy's site for the complete recipe, and for the sake of your thighs, please share them!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

TWD - Potato Biscuits (theoretically)

This week's TWD recipe was Sweet Potato Biscuits, chosen by Erin of Prudence Pennywise. And don't mine look perfect? The total epitome of what a biscuit is - nay, the template of the perfect biscuit? Oh try to make that good, people - I dare you. You won't come close, but hey, imitating perfection can only be beneficial.

In other words, these were a total flop. I don't know what I did wrong, but BOY something went wrong. First, I decided to use regular potatoes, so I boiled some up and mashed them. I did this A) I hate sweet potatoes, and B) the recipe called for canned potatoes, which is anathema to this Prince Edward Islander. We are the land of potatoes! I didn't even know you could buy them canned, and that's the truth.

Anyway, I decided to use some pumpkin as well, as one of the bakers did. I combined 1 cup of pumpkin with 2 cups of mashed taters, and I think that's where things went pear shaped. I tried to convince myself that they were puffy, but yeah, not so much. They were basically more like flatbread, and they were chewy, not flaky. I did use some the next day for an egg mcmuffin type thing, though, so they weren't a total loss.

See? There they are in all their glory! Or infamy, whichever. Slightly puffy, orangey little disks, wheeee go me! I might try these again sometime, this time with just pumpkin.Perhaps I will have to come to terms with not being able to make biscuits, but I'm not ready to accept defeat quite yet.

I think I'm in the minority of people who failed at this, so by all means check out the TWD website to see the blogroll of talented bakers. :)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Red Lentil Soup

There is nothing better than a hot bowl of soup to warm you up in the cool days. This soup has a warm, spicy undertone, has a great texture, and is chock full of protein from the lentils. It's a quick soup to make, it uses minimal ingredients, and it freezes like a dream. Out of all the soups I make (Three! Three whole soups! Yay me!) it's my favourite - a rich, flavourful meal that's actually really good for you. Serve it with some nice, soft rolls, crusty bread, or if you really want to stay healthy, some nice crispy chapatis.

Let's talk about the curry paste for a minute. Some people are afraid of curry because it's A) too hot, or B) "I don't like curry." First of all, don't use that yellow curry powder stuff - it's just icky, in my opinion, and it's not very authentic. Curry paste is much better. I use Pataks, and it keeps in the fridge forever, basically. It has different heat levels, so get whichever one your tastebuds can stand. You really need the flavour curry paste imparts, so please give it a try before you dismiss it out of hand, okay? Trust me, I wouldn't steer you wrong!

It's so quick to make, this can easily be a weeknight meal. Now, the original recipe calls for whole spices that you toast and then grind. If you're familiar with my blog, you'll know that I'm lazy, so I can't be arsed with all that. Instead, I use a tip from an Indian friend: fry the spices in hot oil, and then fry the onions in that glorious spice infusion. Much less fussy, and you still get the nice flavour toasting brings out in the spices.

After that, add in some garlic and let it cook a minute or two (any longer and it will burn), then add a can of tomatoes and let that cook for about 10 minutes. Add the lentils and stock, and let cook until the lentils are good and soft, about 20 minutes or so. You can leave it whole, but I prefer to puree it with my trusty stick blender - I loves me my immersion blender!

NOTE: Aside from the spices, there's really only 5 major components to this dish, so choose them wisely. I use whole canned tomatoes, rather than diced, because I find they have more flavour. Also, I use my own stock for the same reason. If you're using canned stock, you might want to let it rest in the fridge for a few hours to let the flavours blend better.

adapted from NY Times

2 tablespoons canola oil or peanut oil
1 medium or large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
Salt to taste
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons coriander
2 teaspoons hot curry paste
Cayenne to taste
salt and pepper to taste
1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes with juice
1 pound red lentils (about 2 1/8 cups), washed and picked over
2 quarts water/chicken stock
Juice of 1/2 lime
For garnish:
Chopped fresh cilantro
Thickened yogurt

1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add spices, and let fry for 1 or 2 minutes. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, and curry paste. Stir together for about a minute, until the garlic is fragrant, and stir in the tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes, until the tomatoes have cooked down slightly. Add more salt if necessary.

2. Stir in the lentils, water, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes or until the lentils have fallen apart and thickened the soup. Add the pepper, taste, and add cayenne if you want more spice. Taste and adjust salt. Stir in the lime juice.

3. If you wish, puree with an immersion blender. Heat through and serve, topping each bowl with a dollop of yogurt and a generous sprinkling of chopped cilantro.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Martha Stewart's Grammy's Chocolate Cookies

Say what you want about Martha Stewart, but the lady knows how to bake. I bought Martha Stewart's Cookies last year, and every recipe I've tried so far is fantastic. My favourite is the Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies, but I'm not sure when I'll be making them again since I'm quite certain I'd eat 'em all. Mmmmmmmm.

I needed a chocolate fix last weekend, so I pulled out trusty Martha and tried a new one. I halved the recipe, and it STILL made a lot. I wasn't super thrilled with them, but I think that's mainly due to the cocoa I used. The closest thing I had to Dutch process cocoa was Hershy's Special Dark blend, and I gotta tell ya - I'm not a fan. It tastes really dusky or something. Does that make sense? Probably not, but I don't like it. So I'll give these a try again, but this time with regular ol' Frys.

Overall, these are a really straight forward cookie to make, and they are nice and soft with out being crumbly. My co-worker remarked that they'd make great ice cream sandwiches, and I think she's absolutely right. I smeared them with a bit of peanut butter, and MMMMM that was nice, too! They're a seriously pretty cookie, too. Because my cocoa is so dark, once they were baked up in the rolled sugar they looked like stars against a night sky. How's that for some purple prose? Man, I really gotta get out of the city.


2 cups plus 2 tbsp flour
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter
2 cups white sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
sanding sugar for rolling

1. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat to combine. Reduce speed to low, and gradually add flour mixture; beat to combine. Form dough into a flattened disk, wrap with plastic wrap, and chill until firm, about 1 hour.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Shape dough into 1 1/4 inch balls. Roll each ball in sanding sugar. Place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake until set, 10 to 12 minutes, rotating halfway through. Transfer to a rack to cool for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies from baking sheet to wire rack. Cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Goat Cheese Cookies

My good friend gave me a jar of her red pepper jelly, and it looked so, so good - red, vibrant, bright! Like having a little jar full of Fall, right on my counter. And I knew I had to have something good to eat it with. My first thought was spreading it on a cracker with some goat cheese, but NATURALLY I didn't have any crackers. DAMMIT!

Then I remembered a recent episode of Top Chef that had me salivating. The chefs had to pair a specific drink with an appetizer, and one of the V brothers (they are both so delish I forget who is who and I don't even care, I'd take them both) paired an apple drink with a goat cheese cookie. AHA! Perfect for my jelly, thought I!

Unfortunately, not so much. In my mind it was a cracker, not a cookie, but really it is sweet. VERY sweet, actually. It was well received on Top Chef, but the other dish was much less sweet than for how I was using it. SO....keep that in mind when you make it. Perfect for something tart - in fact, I bet it'd be great with rhubarb or something like that. But not with something else sweet.

Anyway, it was super easy to make. Cream together goat cheese and sugar, then mix in some flour and egg whites. Spread it on a cookie sheet, top with sea salt, pepper, and sesame seeds, and bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown. It took me less than 5 minutes to make, and it was easy to spread. I put it on a silicone sheet so I wouldn't have to arse around with clean-up...I hates me the clean up.

After about 25 minutes, it looked like so:

See how nice and brown it is around the edges? That was my favourite part, as I preferred the crispy texture. Next time I'll spread it thinner. It really doesn't puff up, since there's no rising agent.

Ah well, it wasn't what I thought it would be, but it's always good to try something new!


1 cup goat cheese
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
3 egg whites
sea salt
cracked black pepper
sesame seeds

1. Cream together goat cheese and sugar. Stir in flour and egg whites until smooth.

2. Thinly spread on a silicone sheet or parchment paper, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and seeds. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or so, depending on how thick it is. Colour should be golden brown when done.

3. Break or cut into desired shapes and serve either warm or cold.

NOTE: I found this recipe extremely sweet; I would recommend cutting the sugar in half.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

TWD - Split Level Pudding

Look, let's get this out of the way - this picture is terrible, I know. It's October and it rained for a week. This picture was actually taken on one of the brightest days, if you can believe it! Many bloggers can compensate for poor natural lighting conditions, but tragically I am not one of those people. Such is life, eh?

Anyway, this week's TWD recipe was Split Level Pudding, chosen by Garrett of Flavor of Vanilla (his pictures look really pretty!). It's really quite simple - add some chocolate ganache to a dish, top it with a simple, tasty vanilla pudding. Voila, that's it! I added cinnamon to mine, but I think next time I'd leave it out. Chilled cinnamon is not so tasty, sadly. The ganache was killer, though.

Things I learned:

1. Dorie uses the food processor for all the mixing in this recipe. I made 1/3rd of her recipe, and the blades didn't even touch the ingredients so I just used my whisk. The whisk was so easy to use and the pudding turned out perfectly; I don't think I'd bother dirtying the processor even if I made a full batch.

2. I LOVED the cinnamon when the pudding was still hot, but not so much when it was thoroughly chilled. I agree with Garrett, this pudding is fantastic while hot.

3. If you want to serve it cold, make sure it is chilled for at LEAST 4 hours, as Dorie suggests. I couldn't wait that long, and I have to admit the first pudding I ate wasn't as good as the one that was good and cold.

Next week's TWD recipe is Spice Crumb Muffins, and I can't WAIT. Perfect fall dessert, eh?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Mom's Sweet and Sour Sauce

People, I am on a ROLL. Two posts in consecutive days! Special! I'm sitting here at home in the pouring rain, bored silly, foot to sore to go anywhere, so naturally the cooking impulse has taken me. On a cold, dreary day like today, I decided I'd whip up a batch of my mom's sweet and sour sauce.

This sauce is soooo good I cook something as an excuse to slather it on. Mom always cooks ribs in this sauce - so rich and tangy and flavourful. It's great for meatballs, too. Mainly, though, I have a jar of this stuff in the fridge at all times; just a spoonful will add a big flavour punch to most everything - sloppy joes, spaghetti sauce, goulash, even tomato soup.

It is ridiculously easy to make, too. Mix together some ketchup, vinegar, sugar, garlic powder and ginger, simmer it for about 20 minutes, and then thicken it with a bit of cornstarch and soy sauce. Pour it in a bottle and store it in the fridge for weeks. Simple, cheap, and better than any store bought sauce, that's for sure.


1 cup white sugar
1 cup white vinegar
3/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup water (optional, depends on how thick you want the sauce)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
garlic powder to taste (I use about 1/2 tsp)
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch

1. Add first 7 ingredients to a medium sized pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20-30 minutes.

2. Mix together soy sauce and cornstarch. Add some of the hot liquid as needed to make a paste, then stir into sauce. Cook until thickened (should happen almost immediately).

3. Bottle and enjoy!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Ruby's Mustard Pickles

I love, love, love Autumn. It's the perfect time of year for me - not too hot, not too cold, not as busy as summer, not as dreary as winter. I think the landscape is at its most gorgeous now, too. The first hard frost has hit, so all the low bushes have turned a deep red. And all the trees are starting to come out in their glory. You'd think we like our scenery best in Spring, during its rebirth, but no - it is in the height of nature's maturity when its beauty is paramount. Maybe we should remember that next time we see a white hair; we're not getting old, we're maturing! I'll try to remember that when my hair is snow white. ;)

Anyway, back to the frivolities. I'm most active in cooking in the Fall. Usually it's been too damn hot to cook anything elaborate in the summer, so now I make up for lost time. Also, it seems as though everything in the garden is ready at once, and you can't let it go preserves it is!

See that? That ain't no hothouse cuke - that monster is home grown, for sure. You try eating a garden full of these bohemeths before they go bad - can't be done! Enter mustard pickles, my favourite of all. I remember eating them since I was wee, and that gorgeous smell of pickles simmering is indelibly linked with Fall. And now I'm going to share my family recipe with you! (For those of you wondering, Ruby is my auntie. The recipe is hers.)

It's pretty easy, actually. Finely dice your cucumbers, red peppers, and onions. Add salt and water, and let sit 2-3 hours (or if you're lazy like me, overnight). Drain and rinse a couple of times, and then get your sauce ready.

There they are, all ready to go. I used the food processor for the onions, but don't use it for the cukes or peppers - it'll chop them into mush. I used 7 of those giant cukes pictured above, and it filled my biggest stock pot 2/3rds full. It's times like these I wish I had a minion or two.

Next, you make the sauce. It's simple, too - add a bunch of dry ingredients, including dry mustard, flour, and sugar - to a pot, dump in some vinegar, and let simmer until it thickens.

Combine the sauce with the pickles. Mmmmmmm. Just looking at it I can remember how good the entire house smelled. Keep these bad boys hot for at least 30 minutes, and then bottle them all while still hot - the jars will seal themselves that way. If you want to go through the whole canning procedure, knock yourself out, but my Mom never does and neither do I. And we're all still alive, so there.

I got 16 jars out of this batch, which is enough for me and enough for presents. If you don't have a lot of pickles or have a lot you want to give away, get the little decorative jars. That way, you still look generous and wow people with your mad picklin' skillz, but above all it's still more for you. ;)

Ruby's Mustard Pickles

4-6 cucumbers, seeded and diced
3 red peppers, diced
4-6 medium onions, diced
1 cauliflower (optional)*
1/2 - 3/4 cup table salt**


3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 - 2 tsp celery seed
4 cups vinegar
4 cups white sugar
1/4 cup dry mustard
1 1/2 - 2 tbsp tumeric

This recipe will make around 8 jars, 2 cups each. Doubling or tripling works well, as long as you have a big enough pot.

1. Dice all your veggies and place them in a large pot. Do not use a food processor for either cukes or peppers.

2. Add salt to the veggies, and add enough water to cover them. Let stand 2-3 hours.

3. Drain veggies and rinse well, 2-3 times. If you skip the rinsing step, they will be too salty. Set pot aside while you make the sauce.

4. To make the sauce, add all dry ingredients to a large pot. Add vinegar in two stages, stirring well after each addition. If your sauce has any lumps, simply use an immersion blender or a hand mixer to beat them out. Everything should come out smooth, though, as it heats up.

5. Cook the sauce on low medium heat until it thickens, stirring occasionally. This may take as much as 30 minutes, so don't be alarmed if it doesn't thicken right away. Once it begins, the thickening process will happen quickly, so don't leave it unattended at this point.

6. Add sauce to veggies, and keep the whole pot hot on low heat for at least 30 minutes. Immediately fill clean jars with the hot pickles; they will seal themselves. If any jars don't seal, simply eat them first!

*My mom always puts cauliflower in her pickles, but I personally believe cauliflower ruins everything it touches. Feel free to use it if you want.

**Use the lesser amount of salt if you omit the cauliflower.

And once you're done, enjoy staging them in weird poses for your blog. WEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Roasted Yellow Pepper Hummos

Little known fact: in addition to both having the best potatoes in the world AND Anne of Green Gables, PEI also probably the best Lebanese food in the world. Well, besides Lebanon, I guess. That goes without saying, eh?

Anyway, over the years, I've perfected (if I DO say so myself) my hummos recipe. Quick, easy, packed full of nutrition - two spoonfuls of hummos, some pita bread, and a glass of milk are a perfect post workout snack - and above, all TASTY! That's my biggest problem - I can't do healthy unless it's tasty. Fortunately, this is one of those foods that tick all the boxes.

All it takes to make hummos is chickpeas, onions, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, and a few spices. Make sure you use dried chickpeas that you've soaked overnight; I promise you, the taste is miles better than the canned variety. I wouldn't urge you to use this extra step if the taste wasn't manifestly different from the canned; I'm pretty lazy, after all. Just trust me. Check out my post on falafel if you want soaking instructions. Once you've soaked the chickpeas, rinse well and cook for about 20 minutes or so, or until they will easily crush between your fingers. This step can be done well in advance, and you can even cook a bunch and freeze them if it's easier for you.

Now, for this batch, I wanted to throw some roasted peppers in the mix. Red ones have a strong, but not unpleasant taste, but I wanted something a little more subtle. Hence the yellow ones! Once everything is ready, place it in a food processor and pulse until well combined.Taste it, and add more seasonings if wished or thin it out a little if you'd like. Transfer the hummos to a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and add some chopped cilantro for garnish. It will keep in the fridge for at least a week.

Unless you keep going back for just a taste, that is...then it will last for a couple of days. Ah well, willpower may be weak, but at least it's nutritious!

Roasted Yellow Pepper Hummos

1 cup dried chickpeas
1 medium onion
3-5 cloves garlic
1/2 cup tahini
1 tsp cumin
1-2 tsp salt (to taste)
juice from one lemon
1 roasted yellow pepper

1. Soak chickpeas overnight. Rinse well, then cook in a large pot until soft, about 20-30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, quarter a yellow pepper and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment. Place directly under broiler, and broil until blackened, 5 minutes or so. Watch carefully so it doesn't burn. Place roasted pepper in a plastic or paper bag for a few minutes; it will make the skin easier to peel.

3. Add cooled, cooked beans, onions, garlic, roasted pepper, tahini, lemon juice, and seasonings to food processor. Blend until well combined. Taste, and add more lemon/salt/spices if you wish. If mixture is too thick or lumpy, gradually add a bit of water until it reaches desired consistency.

4. Garnish with fresh cilantro, a drizzle of olive oil, and paprika. Keeps well in fridge for days.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

TWD - Flaky Peach Turnovers

First, let me apologize for the picture quality this week; it rained all day, except for 10 minutes after these were in my belly. Then, there wasn't a cloud in the sky, naturally. Welcome to the Maritimes, folks! I don't have the knowledge of light boxes and so forth, so this is what you get.

The pictures might not be the prettiest, but this week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe tasted much better than it (well, mine) looked! Chosen by Julie of Someone's in the Kitchen, it originally called for apples, but I subbed peaches instead (I hate baked apples). They were really easy to make, for the most part; I think the hardest part most people had was making the dough, which can be pretty crumbly. The hardest part I had was forming the little turnovers, mainly because I am inept at making pies. Oh Mother, how ashamed you must be!

Anyway, here's some things I learned:

1) All the butter makes the dough hard to roll out, especially when it's fresh out of the fridge! Work those biceps, baby, but make sure you roll it out thin enough. I didn't, and mine ended up being a little doughy as a result.

2) The dough is very soft when it warms up, so form those turnovers quickly! Some of mine look pretty rustic. You see, "rustic" is the word food bloggers use for "raggedy-ass". Regardless, they still taste good.

3) I'd put more filling in next time; mine were a little thin.

All in all, it's an easy recipe to make, especially if you're proficient at pie making. Not sure if I'll make them again, but I'm definitely glad I tried it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

TWD - Chocolate Souffle

This week's Tuesdays With Dorie project was a chocolate souffle. Man, I was looking forward to this - doesn't it just sound so elegant and rich and chic?

Those words are, generally, never uttered about my cooking, let me tell you. And perhaps that's why I didn't overly like it. I didn't find it hard to make - I think souffles are a lot easier than they're made out to be - but the taste didn't wow me. It was light and fluffy, but I wanted a super chocolate punch and I didn't get that. From now on, I think I'll stick to savoury souffles, because I don't think the recipe was a problem - just not what I was looking for, that's all.

Ah souffle, it was good to know you! Next post: food that is not a dessert. Really.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Ah Chow. When I was a kid, it was my favourite condiment; my Mom says I used to sit with a spoon and eat it straight from the jar. Even when my tastebuds turned and I decided I hated chow (and wtf, younger self) I still loved the smell of it cooking. The sweet, sharp tangy scent would fill the house; it's a scent that is indelibly imprinted with the best feelings of home: comfort, succor, warmth. That's probably the main reason I make chow now that I've moved away - to recreate that feeling in my own home.

But just what the hell IS chow, Melissa? I'm sure some of you are asking. Well hopefully some of you are asking, otherwise I'm just talking to myself. Legions of fans, the answer is thus: it's a sweet, tangy green tomato preserve. And fellow babies, it is GOOD. Especially tasty with fish and pork, you'll definitely want to serve this with some bread to soak up all the saucy goodness. And if you're watching your weight, use this instead of butter on your potatoes - I guarantee you won't miss the butter, and that's probably the only time I'll ever say that. Chow makes simple food into something stellar. It's just the shit, that's all that needs to be said.

And it's easy as all get out to make, and is very adaptable to the individual palate. For instance, my mom, who wouldn't thank you for an onion, makes hers with more onions than tomatoes (yeah, I don't know). Personally, I like it with a lot of red peppers. Everything is up to you - rock out with your chow out.

To start, slice some green tomatoes into medium thick slices. I got my tomatoes from Mom's garden, but they should be easy to find in a farmer's market or something similar this time of year. I make a batch that's big enough to fit my ginormous stock pot (yay Paderno blowout sales!), and I used about 2 dozen. Mom said to use a peck. I have no idea what a peck is.

Cover them with a couple of handfuls of COARSE salt, and let sit overnight. I didn't have any on hand, so I used kosher salt and that worked fine. Just don't use regular table salt; it's too fine. The salt will bring the water out of the tomatoes and help preserve them, so don't skip this step.

The next day, drain the water and rinse the buggers out a couple of times. Then, add vinegar until the tomatoes are just covered. Next, add your onions, peppers, Pickling Spices, and 4-5 cups of sugar (for a big batch). It sounds like a lot sugar, but this makes a serious amount of food. I like my chow on the tangy side, so I use 4 cups. Mmmmmm, PUCKER UP! Let it simmer 3-4 hours, or until the tomatoes are good and soft. I got a little more than 10 500ml jars out of this batch.

See? There she is, all done! Looks good, right? RIGHT? Right.

Freaked out by canning? Don't be. Here's something I find in today's world: people over-complicate things. If you read the net, you'll find all sorts of canning instructions telling you to buy a sterilizer, canning apparatus (apparatii?), tongs for sterilizing, water baths, blah blah blah. That's a foolproof way of having safe preserves, hands down. But I'm lazy, so here's how it's been done in my family for at least 100 years (seriously): Fill the mason jars when the chow is hot, screw the lid on tightly, and let 'er sit for a few hours. The heat of the chow will seal the jars shut, and in fact, you'll hear the lids start popping over the next few hours. Press down on the lid: if it pops back it's not sealed. If a lid doesn't pop, eat that one first. Simple. Easy. Miraculously, we're all still alive.

So don't freak out, make this chow, eat it with gusto, and welcome in the fall!


2 dozen green tomatoes (give or take)
coarse salt
3 lbs white onions
3 large red peppers
White vinegar
4-5 cups white sugar
3-4 tbsp pickling spices

1. Slice tomatoes in rounds, about medium thickness. Place them in a large stockpot and cover them with 2 handfuls of coarse salt, which will bring out the water in the tomatoes. Note: do NOT use regular table salt! Cover, and let sit overnight or until reduced by half. When the ratio of tomatoes to water is almost equal, they are ready.

2. Drain water from tomatoes. Rinse well a couple of times so they aren't too salty, but you definitely don't want to remove all the salt.

3. Add enough vinegar to just cover the tomatoes.

4. Slice onions into rounds and chop red peppers in a small dice. Add to pot. Tie up pickling spices in some cheesecloth, and add to pot. Add 4-5 cups sugar, and give the whole thing a quick stir.

5. Put pot on stove and cook at a very low simmer for 3-4 hours, or until tomatoes are good and soft. Immediately place the hot chow into glass jars and seal; you'll hear them self-sealing over the next bit. Refrigerate opened jars, and enjoy!

I like this picture. The chow looks like it's kinda hanging out there, doesn't it? Streetwalker chow!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Typical Maritime Weather

It has been stupid humid here the last couple of weeks, and there was no worse day than when we were waiting for Hurricane Bill. We got slammed a few years ago by Hurricane Juan (which we all completely dismissed), so this year the provinces collectively decided we'd take this seriously.

And naturally, it didn't hit at all. We had about 60mm of rain, winds about 65 km/hr - no big deal for us, although that's more normal for Autumn than Summer. There was only one real way you knew a hurricane and blown by - the surf.

Oh the surf.

It was magnificent. I love living on the ocean; it gets into your blood in ways I can't describe. For me, there is no better feeling than watching the power of nature manifested through the water. Smelling the salt in the air, getting drenched by spray, skin sandblasted by the wind...that's my happy place right there.

I wanted (foolishly) to go to Peggy's Cove, but the road was blocked off by both police (I can get around them!) and rocks - granite rocks - washed up on the shore. It was the latter that deterred me; sometimes nature saves us from ourselves.

However, a couple of hours after the storm had passed, my uncle took me to a locals-only spot near Peggy's Cove that I didn't even know existed. And was way better! Taller hills (the safer to watch from!), more shoals (bigger waves!), and beautiful green, moss covered hills. Blueberries everywhere, and bay plants all over the place. Gorgeous. A bit of a hike to get there, but I'll be back.

Speaking of back, tomorrow I am making my first batch of Chow for the season, with tomatoes fresh from Mom's garden. So tune in for that Maritime staple in the next couple of days. :)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Hello my little strawwwberries! I know I haven't posted in a little bit, but fear not - I am not giving up. For the next couple of weeks it's going to be hard posting. For one, my dad stole my camera for his trip to NFLD because - get this - he didn't know the battery was rechargeable. WOW Dad...just. WOW. True story - I once had to drive all the way from Kingston, Ont., to PEI to fix the remote for him. And every time he visits me, he wrecks my remote. EVERY TIME.

Ahem. Anyway. The other main reason my posting is down is because of the weather - it is SO humid. I have such bad headaches from the humidity I can barely think of using heat to cook, let alone bake or anything. Summer is when I gain weight; turns out cold things and ready made things have more calories than real food. THE NERVE. And when it's not like living in a sauna, it's cloudy and raining, aka no good light. Not that it matters, since Dad has my camera for a couple of weeks, but STILL.

I will be back full force in a couple of weeks, though, with all sorts of goodies like Mustard Pickles, Chow, all the TWD stuff I AM still making, and more, lots more! Please check back; I seriously love having people read my blog. :)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fuzzy Navel Banana Bread, Apricot style

Yesterday morning, I saw Streaming Gourmet's Fuzzy Navel Tea Bread, and I knew I had to make that, and make that soon! When I got home from a long, loong, looooooong day at work I discovered that I had not properly shut the freezer the night before (aka CRAP!!!!), and among other things, my frozen bananas had thawed. So it looked like the time to make this bread was now!

And am I ever glad I did. Check out her site for the recipe, it's definitely a keeper for me! Amy takes a classic banana bread recipe and jazzes it up with peaches and oranges, and the result is one of the best banana breads I've eaten. The texture is moist and dense without being heavy, and the flavours all blend together beautifully; they all mix together with a nice fruity undertone, and no one taste overwhelms the other. I don't like super bananay- banana breads, so this was perfect for me.

Things I learned:

1) I didn't have peaches, so I used the apricots I had bought for another project (sorry TWD - no brioche tart this week). I used 4 medium sized ones, and it worked like a charm. Can't wait to try it with peaches, though; I love peaches!

2) Lately, when I make a muffin or quick bread, I blend all the wet ingredients together with my stick blender. I like the uniform, smooth texture it gives, but if you prefer larger chunks of fruit by all means use the more traditional method. In fact, when I give it a go with peaches, I will likely do a peach puree and add some finely diced peaches as well.

3) This bread is great fresh out of the oven, when chilled, and toasted and spread with butter. Mmmmm. It's very versatile.

One final note: this time of year, if you are doing ANYTHING with fruit, dump all the scraps and outside and bleach the hell out of your countertops and sink drains as soon as you're done, otherwise the fruit flies will have a field day. I HATE FRUIT FLIES! I will destroy them all, you'll see!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Strawberry Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

I know strawberries are long over in many places, but in this part of the world they are just coming into their glory. I look forward to fresh strawberries more than any other food; they just speak summer to me. And of all the strawberries in the world, I can say without any bias whatsoever that Prince Edward Island strawberries are the best in the whole wide world. They are sweeter, tastier, truer than any other berry you'll ever eat.

I mean just look at that berry. And that's not even a prime season berry, folks!

I know of few better ways to celebrate the lovely strawberry than with homemade strawberry ice cream. With such gorgeous berries, you really want to showcase their flavour in a simple manner; don't chop them up into something where they're just a background taste, make them the star of the show!

If you've never made ice cream before, please start; it's easy, cheap, and better than anything you'll ever buy. (See my post on Honey Peach Ice Cream for basic tips.) I prefer using a custard base rather than using cornstarch to thicken the base; I just think it gives a creamier, smoother taste. And really, if you're using 1.5 cups of cream in one recipe, are you really worried about the extra calories from egg yolks? Go big or go home, that's what I say!

Make your custard base first, and while it's chilling, cut up your berries. You need to let them sit for a couple of hours so they get all juicy. Stir the accumulated juices into the custard base, pour into the ice cream maker, and churn baby churn. About 5 minutes before it's done, add the chopped berries.

And see? Here's your result. No, it's not bright pink, because it's all real, fresh ingredients. And those black specks? That's real vanilla bean, baby. (Make sure you put the spent bean in a jar with sugar: in a few weeks, voila, you now have vanilla sugar to boot.) I'd tell you that I didn't eat big spoonfuls right out of the machine, but, well, that would turn this blog into a BLOG OF LIES!

So make this ice cream. Would a girl like me lie to a person like you? Nah!

Strawberry Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 whole vanilla bean
2 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vodka (optional)

1. Combine the milk and cream in a medium saucepan. Split the vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds, adding both to the milk-cream mixture. Bring the mixture to a slow boil over medium heat, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Meanwhile, combine eggs, egg yolks, and sugar in a medium bowl. Beat mixture until it is thick, smooth, and pale yellow in colour.

3. Next, prep your strawberries. Thinly slice 2 cups of fresh berries and combine with 1/3 cup of sugar and 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice. Let macerate for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

4. After 30 minutes, remove the vanilla bean from the milk (add to a cup of sugar if you like, and in a month you'll have vanilla sugar!). Pour out a cup of hot liquid and slowly add to the egg mixture while whisking continuously. This will temper the eggs and keep your custard from becoming scrambled eggs.

5. Add tempered mixture back to the main pot, whisking all the while. Cook, stirring continuously, over medium low heat until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

6. Strain mixture through a seive (this will catch any lumps that may have formed) into a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and chill completely, overnight preferably, but at least two hours.

7. Add strawberry juices and vodka to the custard mixture, and pour into your ice cream machine. During the last five minutes, add reserved berries. Add mixture to an airtight container, and let cure for at least 2 hours.

I just had to throw this failed picture in here for amusement's sake. It reminds me of the red room Jane Eyre's benefactors threw her in for punishment...only with ice cream instead of a ghost! Go Jane!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Roasted Garlic Pizza Dough

You know, I don't always bake; sometimes I cook as well. Actually, I like to think I'm a pretty good cook, thankYOUverymuch! I haven't posted too much lately on the blog, because we just wrapped up 2.5 WEEKS of rain and clouds. It's been muggy as all hell, and that does not make for either good pictures or the desire to cook.

But I broke down the other day and made some homemade pizza. I wanted to jazz up the dough a bit, so I thought to myself "Self, how about roasted garlic in the dough?" And thus a lovely supper was born!

I used Mark Bittman's recipe for pizza dough, which I've posted below. It uses the food processor, so there is NO KNEADING at all and is unbelievably easy to put together. Through in the dry ingredients, add the water, add the garlic, blend for 30 seconds. DONE. On its own, it takes about 5 minutes from start to finish, not including rise time. That's it. The garlic takes about 30 minutes to roast, but it's not like you have to sit there and croon to it or something.

Never roasted garlic before? It's easy. Take a whole head of garlic, remove as much of the papery skin as possible, cut about 1/2 off the top to expose the cloves, drizzle it with olive oil, and then wrap it up in tinfoil. Pop it in a 425 degree oven for about 30 minutes. You'll know it's done when the house starts to smell like garlic, mmmmmm. Let it cool so you can handle it, and then just squeeze the whole head of garlic; the roasted cloves will squeeze right out like toothpaste. Easy peasy!

There's the uncooked product. I like my pizza toppings simple, and I really wanted to taste the dough more than anything here. I saw a chef say once that real Italians never put cooked tomatoes on a pizza; they just chop up raw tomatoes, so that's what I did here. I whizzed a whole tomato in my mini-chopper, and then added enough to cover the dough. After that, kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste, fresh grated parmesan, and then a drizzle of balsamic for good measure.

And wow, it was good. The garlic flavour was really present, but gentle; roasting garlic really mellows it out. I through in some parmesan with the dough, but I don't think it added to it; I couldn't really taste it.

I can still taste that damn pizza, though. As you can see from my picture, I took a taste or two (or three) before I remembered to take a pic for the blog. Heh...whoops. ;) And I LOVED the fresh tomatoes in place of sauce; I will keep that up for sure.

Roasted Garlic Pizza Dough

This recipe is adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything.

1 tsp instant or rapid-rise yeast
3 cups flour
2 tsp kosher salt
1 - 1 1/4 cups water (I used lukewarm)
2 tbsp plus 1 tsp olive oil

and my additions...
1 head of roasted garlic
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

1. Combine the yeast, flour, and 2 tsp salt in the food processor container. Pulse to combine. Turn the machine on and slowly add 1 cup of water and 2 tbsps of oil through the feed tube.

2. Just as dough is starting to combine, add the cloves of roasted garlic and parmasan, if using.

3. Process for about 30 seconds, adding more water , a little at a time, until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch. If it is dry, add another tbsp of water and process for another 10 seconds. (In the unlikely event that the mixture is too sticky, add flour, a tbsp at a time.)

4. Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand a few seconds to form a smooth, round dough ball. Grease a bowl with the remaining olive oil, and place the dough in it. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp cloth and let rise in a warm, draft-free area until the dough doubles in size, 1 to 2 hours. You can cut this rising time short if you are in a hurry, or you can let the dough rise more slowly, in the fridge, for up to 6 or 8 hours.

5. Add desired toppings and bake in a 425 degree oven for 15 minutes.

I tend not to use all the dough at once, so I freeze it in small portions. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place it in a freezer, and allow it to defrost at room temp before using. Set the oven to the lowest temp it can go, and turn it off when it reaches that temp. Place the thawed dough in the oven for about 15 minutes or so or until it rises a bit. I find letting it have that second rise stops it from forming giant crust bubbles as it bakes.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

TWD - Katharine Hepburn Brownies

I have a never-ending search for the perfect brownie, and oh quest has come to an end. This week's TWD recipe was picked by Lisa of Surviving Oz, and she is my new hero. These brownies are exactly what I've been searching for: rich without being overwhelming; chewy, fudgey texture without feeling underbaked; and the perfect, absolute perfect, combination of complimentary flavours. Every single ingredient in this brownie works together in perfect symbiosis.

They are ridiculously easy to make, too. You just melt some butter in a pan, dump in the cocoa and coffee, stir in the eggs and vanilla, add the flour and chocolate chips, and bake. DONE. It took longer to measure the scant ingredients than it did to put them together. I've always heard people disparage brownie mixes, saying they are so easy to make, why would you buy a box mix? Well, these are the first I can honestly say make me vocifierously agree. For the love of God, make these brownies!!

I don't have a lot of tips, other than don't add nuts. Nuts are an abomination in brownies. But that being said, here are some things I learned:

1) Make sure when you're melting the butter that you use a decent sized pot, because all the ingredients are eventually going in there. Look at the pan below: yeah, it was a little wee, but I managed.

2) Just because you've been baking since Christ was a cowboy, it doesn't mean you're allowed to be uppity and skip directions. There's a part that calls for you to line the pan with parchment paper and butter it, yadda yadda yadda; I scoffed at that, since I had a non-stick pan.

See how they turned out? Yeah, they came out of that pan like a dream! Except not. Even when they cooled longer than, say, the 2 minutes I let them rest, they still came out in pieces. It makes for crappy pictures, but doesn't affect the taste at all. I'm betting no one is going to complain about how they look.

3) Finally, see how good this looks?

Keep this in mind: no matter how glossy and chocolately and rich it looks, until you add the sugar it tastes as bitter as a desperate housewife. GAHHHHH! Don't eat the batter until everything is mixed together.

Anyway, this brownie just made my damn day. Ahhhhh, thanks TWD!