Monday, November 28, 2011

One.

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Yesterday was our first year anniversary. One! 'One' was also our wedding song. We had a great weekend. We went to Il Terrazzo for dinner on Friday night - shared a salad and calamari for appetizers, had a 'real bellini', C had short ribs and risotto (amazing) and I had chicken with scallops and prawns - also deelish.

Saturday, my friend Maegan, and I went to the French Mint for a cooking demonstration on Holiday Appetizers. It was so wonderful. Maegan had given me the cooking class as a gift for my wedding shower. We took awhile to pick which one we wanted to take, and I was so happy that we picked this one. A few recipes I will definitely be trying for the holiday season. It was such a great gift - Maegan is always super thoughtful and gives the best gifts. Then in the evening we went to my friend Tracy's surprise party at the Bard and Banker. Surprise she was! It was a great night.

Then yesterday, C and I had a low key day. He worked, I hid from the rain. And then we met Tracy - who took a couple of pictures of us on our first year anniversary. Ordered in Pizza for dinner and then made a cake. We started two new traditions that we are going to 'do' each year on our anniversary: 1. Have a picture of us taken; 2. Bake a cake. It has been a wonderful year being a new wife - I love our life together and I am extremely fortunate.

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For our first cake we made a Red Velvet Cake. I have said many times before that I am not a baker. C is also not a baker. But, we did pretty well. We used a recipe from the 'Cake Boss'.

My sister- in-law and nieces gave me this for a shower gift last year. It's a great book. There are a lot of recipes and a lot of really great tips. I would highly recommend it if you have a baker on your Christmas shopping list. Adding their bakery to our list of 'must do's' when we finally make it to New York city has been done.

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Red Velvet Cake - from The Cake Boss

1 cup of shortening
1 1/2 cup of sugar
1 tbsp cocoa powder
4 1/2 tsp of red colouring gel
3 cups of cake flour (I used all purpose)
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/4 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp white vinegar
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups buttermilk

Pre-heat oven to 350.

If you have a mixer, I would recommend using that - if not, using a hand mixer would work just as well.

In a large bowl, cream shortening, sugar and cocoa powder. Add in colouring gel. Add in flour, salt, vanilla, baking soda and vinegar. Beat at low speed until ingredients are all incorporated and then beat on high for one minute. Add the eggs in, one at a time, beating for one minute after adding each egg. Add in the buttermilk in two batches and scrape the sides of the bowl to ensure that all ingredients are all mixed in together.

Using 2 nine inch cake pans, lightly butter and sprinkle with flour. Divide the cake batter evenly in both pans. Bake between 35 to 40 minutes - ours was perfect at 37 minutes.

Remove from the oven and place on cooling racks, and let cool for at least 30 minutes, ideally an hour, before removing the cakes from the pans.

Apparently the traditional icing for this cake is Cream Cheese Frosting - recipe to follow.

Cream Cheese Frosting

16 ounces of cream cheese - let sit at room temperature for at least 4 hours
8 tbsp of unsalted butter * (softened at room temperature)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups of icing sugar - sifted

*Unsalted butter - I learned at my cooking lesson that unsalted butter is the freshest. They salt butter to make it last longer - this was started before refrigerators were invented - curing the butter to make it last longer.

Cream together the cream cheese, butter with the mixer or hand blender for 30 seconds. Add in the vanilla and beat for another 39 seconds. Add in the sugar, 1/4 of it at a time, beating until smooth.

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We sliced each cake into two and added the frosting between the layers. We did not soften our cream cheese enough - so it was a bit lumpy - but still delicious.

This was a really easy cake to make - and one piece was my treat - we sent a bunch to work with Chris for his groomsmen. There's still some left if you want to stop by.

Loves.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rainy, rainy night

I'm not sure if you can hear that... can you? If you can, then you know that I am talking about the sound of the rain. It sort of sounds like a terential downpour, mixed with a someone standing outside my front door with a fire hose, mixed with the shower going full blast at the same time. Crazy. It's winter in Victoria. I am not going to complain about it though, for a couple of different reasons: 1. I am sitting in my warm house. 2. We have had a lot amazing cool, crisp, dry weather. 3. My dogs aren't loving the rain either, so I don't feel badly that they had a very short walk today.

I am taking a bit of R&R right now - hanging around home trying to recoop from a year of some sort of whacky health issues. I think that I am on the mend - I'm not 100% but hoping that I get there soon.

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What else has happened in this past year, is that almost one year ago, I got married! A year of married life has been so wonderful - more than I ever thought it would be - and I can't wait for this weekend to spend some time with my husband and celebrate.

So, since I have been home during the days, I really thought that I would spend a lot of time cooking up a storm. It's weird. It's almost the exact opposite. I am not really sure why. I still love to cook - but during the week, I just don't have much of an appetite to cook different things. A couple of times I have dug the Campbell's soup out of the pantry to hook up dinner. It's funny b/c Chris loves anything with Cream of Mushroom soup - I could make a 12 course dinner with the best ingredients - and something with Cream of Mushroom soup - and he may pick that as his favourite.

What I did make though, was a hearty dish of Butternut Squash Gratin. it's hearty, easy, delicious and warms the soul.

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Butternut Squash Gratin

1 butternut squash - about 2 lbs
1 tbsp of butter
1 medium sized onion - cut into thin slices
2 tbsp of flour
Kosher salt and pepper
1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups of cheddar - shredded

Pre=heat the oven to 350.

Peel the butternut squash and cut it in half lengthwise. Discard the seeds. Cut thin slices crosswise and place into a large saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Then reduce to medium heat and simmer for about 10 minutes - or until soft with a fork.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a skillet and add onions. Saute onions for about 5 minutes or until they are translucent. Season with kosher salt and pepper. Sprinkle in the flour and stir to coat the onions with the flour. Slowly whisk in the chicken stock and stir to create a creamy consistency over low/medium heat. Remove from the heat and stir in one cup of the cheese.

Drain the butternut squash.

In a 8 or 9 inch baking dish, place half of the butternut squash. Cover with half of the cream sauce. Repeat the layers and top with the remaining cheese.

Bake for 30-35 minutes.

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This goes lovely with pork, chicken or even with a beautiful fresh salad.

Alrighty friends - I am enjoying listening to the rain - and will look forward to it stopping soon.

Loves.

Enjoy!


Monday, November 14, 2011

Must Love

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I am. Not a 'Cobbler' that works on shoes. Although I do love shoes. I am talking about the fruity bottom, with a fluffy, doughy topping on top. I think that I am more crazy with the fruit. It's basically baked fruit - which I can't even explain how much I love - with a topping that is so deelish.

Now, I have to confess that for this new recipe that I whipped up, I did not use fresh peaches. I know! How dare I?? But it's November in Victoria, and fresh peaches are non-existent. If I had not loved peaches as much as I did this past summer and ate them every day, I may have been smart enough to have canned some. Maybe next summer. Anyways... I found canned peaches that are packed in water and don't have any sugar added. They're actually quite delicious, and they aren't sweet, and they worked really well in this dessert.

Before I share the recipe - I do want to share that I am parting ways with my Midnight Sun by Pfaltzgraff dishes that I have had since my first year on my own. They are beautiful, excellent quality dishes, and are almost brand new. I have posted them online if you are interested - let me know.

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Check them out on usedvictoria. My mom and dad were so generous to build up my collection over the years - but it's time for a change for me.

Alright - back to cobbler. The dish can be made with fresh fruit for sure, so if you have it - use it.

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Must Love Fruit Cobbler

2 cans of canned peaches - no sugar added - packed in water (is what I like to use) - if using canned - drain the juice and don't add to the mixed fruit
2 cups of blueberries - I have used my frozen organic
1/4 cup cane sugar

For the topping:
1 1/2 cups of flour
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp of cold butter
1/2 cup cane sugar
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1/2 cup cream

Pre-heat oven to 375.

In a baking dish - place the fruit and toss in the sugar. Stir to coat the fruit.

In a large bowl, add in the flour, salt, sugar, baking powder and stir together. With your fingertips add in the butter and crumble it in so that they are pea sized pieces. In a small bowl beat the egg and add in the cream, and then add this to the dry/butter mix. Stir together. The dough will go a bit thick. Spoon out large spoonfuls on top of the fruit. You should be able to have 6-7 spoonfuls.

Bake for about 45-50 minutes, or until golden brown. The crust on the crumble will be crispy and the inside will be soft and moist.

Yumma!

Serve with a dollop of ice cream or a vanilla whipped yogurt or nothing at all.

Loves.

Enjoy!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sims Style Chocolate Donuts with Toasted Coconut

It seems when I set out to bake something - it never really turns out how I intended it to. At least with cooking - if it starts to go one way, you can add a little of this or a little of that and get it back on track. Baking, not so much.

My plan for dessert was to make chocolate cupcakes, with a chocolate icing and toasted coconut. This is what it my 'chocolate donuts with toasted coconut' turned out to be like.

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I picked up an organic chocolate cake mix at the Superstore on the weekend. I actually really like their products and I had tried this before when making cupcakes with my niece. They must use a dark chocolate within their mix b/c the cake isn't overly sweet at all, and the powder is quite dark.

So, I made up the mix, poured a bit of it into my donut pans and the rest in a cake pan. I put them in the oven and checked on them about 15 mins later - and they had ballooned up to look like muffins on the top. Ugh. So, I went to Plan B.

I wasn't sure what Plan B was, but I just went with it.

What I ended up doing was letting the "donutss" cool off and at the same time, I softened a block of light cream cheese. I then whipped up the cream cheese, crumbled in the cooled off donuts, and mixed it all together. Very similar to these. I put them in the fridge for about 30 minutes to let them cool off.

I then toasted unsweetened coconut in a pan on the stove on medium heat - stirring constantly. Once it starts to toast - it happens very quickly - and you need to keep an eye on it so that it doesn't burn.

I also melted chocolate in a double boiler (my version - a pot of boiling water and a stainless steel bowl) with a tsp of butter and splash of cream.

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I then dipped the 'donut' into the melted chocolate and then into the toasted coconut. Placed them on a parchment lined pan and put them back into the fridge.

Served with ice cream - these were a huge hit. They were super moist and not sweet - but a little salty from the toasted coconut. Yumma.

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So, I guess the moral of the story is - you can fix anything - sometimes you just need to be creative.

Loves.

Enjoy!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Donuts - Sims Style

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I'm not much of a baker. I 'try'. I try to use alternatives to make the recipe a little healthier - i.e., whole wheat flour, apple sauce, yogurt... Sometimes this works, and sometimes it does not. I am not really 'there' yet - being able to figure out what measurements to use and where you can or can't or should or shouldn't switch up some of the ingredients. So, I'll just keep trying. I kind of get a bit obsessed with trying to perfect the recipe. The problem is - well there are a couple - 1. The baking has to get eaten - and I don't need it - and I don't always think that the neighbours or friends will appreciate baking. 2. I don't always have ingredients on hand to do the recipe over and over. 3. Who has the time? And 4. I'm not a baker.

I really love the Zucchini loaf recipe that I used for the shredded zucchini. I found the bread to be so moist, so flavourful and not so sweet. It worked well for the Pumpkin loaf too. Both full of flavour. So I decided to try it with carrots. I think that it turned out pretty good, however, I will try it again and add a bit more liquid as it was a tad dry.

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Carrot Loaf and Donuts with Cream Cheese Glaze

2 eggs
1/4 cup cane sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups of shredded carrots - about 4 carrots
1 can of pineapple - drained (save the juice)
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
3 cups of flour (whole wheat or all purpose)
1 cup of chopped walnuts

Cream Cheese Glaze
4 ounces of cream cheese (1/2 a pack) softened
2 tbsp of cane sugar or powdered sugar
3 tbsp of milk

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I used a loaf pan and a mini donut pan. You can find them HERE. They are a lot of fun - I have used it a couple of time - and love what they turn out like. the donuts turn out to be a bit rustic - not Tim's style - more like Sims style.

Pre-heat the oven to 350.

In a food processor, blend all of the pineapple so that it becomes a pulp with some small pieces - not to a puree though.

Whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla together. Add in the pineapple and carrots and mix together. Add in the oil and stir it all in. Sprinkle in the baking soda and salt and then stir in the flour and finish it by adding in the walnuts.

Fill a loaf pan (butter and flour if it's non-stick) about 2/3 full. If you have the donut pan, add the remaining batter to the donut pan. If you don't have more than one pan, then you can fill up the pan - and just alter the baking time.

Bake the donuts for 20 minutes and the loaf pan 2/3 full for 40-45 minutes. If you fill the pan full, bake for 55 minutes.

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For the glaze, using a hand mixer, mix all of the ingredients together. When the carrot loaf is out of the oven and has cooled slightly, cover the loaf with the glaze. And dip the donuts into the glaze.

Ok, off to watch the sunny day - maybe work up the energy to enjoy it with the pups on a walk.

Loves.

Enjoy!