07 4 / 2013
If there is any retribution for this unnaturally long winter season, it is hidden beneath the veil of an amber-coloured national treasure. Cold, frigid nights, accompanied by warm, sunny days should, ideally, create the optimal conditions for free-flowing sap. This sap — colourless and odourless — is boiled into golden, sugary submission before landing on your Sunday morning breakfast table.
I recently made a trip up north to visit a best friend and her family in Haliburton only to find her father boiling sap from the freshly-tapped maples that envelop their forested home. What a treat it was to watch has he poured jug after jug of the clear liquid into his sap tray (passed down from his father), laid out over coals. He boiled sap for three days — a man truly devoted to his craft. Luckily for me, I was sent home with my own personal supply of the liquid gold, having only just left the coals and cooled — a cook’s treat!
In order to pay a proper homage to my syrup, I made pancakes, what else? The divinely moist morsels were adapted from Sweet Paul’s Spring 2010 Issue. The added ricotta makes these pancakes fluffy, but light; not the dense and cakey result you get from boxed batter. The addition of the bananas to the syrup is a decadent touch and completely unnecessary, but then again, if you’re going to all the trouble to whip up the batter and fry each pancake to golden perfection, you might as well heat some bananas up in the syrup and enjoy yourself.
I halved this recipe and froze the leftovers in between squares of parchment. If you chose to do so, thaw the pancakes in the fridge and then toast them in the toaster to reheat for a quick breaky.
02 4 / 2013
Happy Jays Home Opener Day! Today, for most, marks the official kick off to Spring, when the Dome (though closed tonight on this rather nippy Tuesday evening) opens it’s doors to thousands of Blue Jays fans eager for the kind of sticky-floored, street-meat-fuelled, $20-pint haze that kicks off the start to a hopefully successful season, and longed-for, Summer heat.
Sadly, instead of enjoying what might normally translate into “Canadian Patio Weather” (anything above 5 degrees is fair game), I am curled up at home, enjoying the game from the comfort of warm sweatpants and cozy wool socks. Like most of you, I am not particularly enthused by our “extended” Winter season this year. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy a cold winter and being able to hide my Christmas excess under the shield of oversized sweaters and parkas, but now I’m tired of hiding behind my faux-fur lined hood, sick of cold toes and runny noses and most definitely finished with salt-stained shoes.
In honour of our confused weather system, I bring you Creamy Broccoli Soup from Whole Living. I do really relish the idea of spring soups. They always seem to be vibrant green — a bright green vegetable puréed until smooth and finished with cream or a dollop of crème freche. Asparagus, peas and leek play host to shrimp or scallops, spiked with lemon or finished with fresh herbs. These soups are the opening act to your Easter lamb, or whole roasted salmon. They emit the kind of herbal, fresh aromas we long-for after a cold, dim winter. They speak of flavours to come.
I stumbled upon this recipe while attempting to clean out my diet, literally. I needed to purge myself of the junk and really focus on the kind of clean eating that should be inherent, yet isn’t. This recipe is vegetarian, vegan and unbelievably delicious — like health in a bowl. The trick is in the avocado — a surprising addition to this otherwise plain and simple soup. Add as much chili flake as you like to spice it up, but don’t skimp on the avocado. Don’t, just don’t.
Creamy Broccoli Soup
Make. Eat. Repeat. (see link above for actual recipe)
12 2 / 2013
Have you ever had that kind of eureka moment with food when two seemingly simple ingredients marry to become the single greatest flavour combination since peanut butter and jelly? Or maple syrup and bacon? Or cheese wiz and celery? Anyone? No? Well, I did this past weekend when I made these sweet and savoury little nibbles from who else? Sweet Paul (swoon). These Roasted Grape and Thyme Ricotta Crostini (actually named Roasted Grape Bruschetta) were adapted from the Winter 2012 Issue, and to me, are the epitome of understated elegance; roasted, smeared with ricotta and laid to rest on toasted baguette, elegance.
I’ll leave you to drool over the elegance now.
03 2 / 2013
Bowl Beyoncé Sunday!
I’ve got a short and sweet post to share with all of you couch-hugging, beer-sipping, nacho-munching footballs fans: Baked Sweet Potato Chips. Though not particularly synonymous with the chilis and chicken wings of traditional Super Bowl Sunday fare, these slightly more health concious treats are just as addictive as your favourite chips, and better yet, you won’t feel so bad munching on them after Beyoncé’s performance (admit it, you put down your pulled pork sandwich while Destiny’s Child hit the stage, didn’t you?)
I made this batch with cracked black pepper and coarse sea salt, but I’ve also made variations using curry powder and sea salt and rosemary.
If you’re feeling extra adventurous, make a simple dip using Greek yoghurt or light sour cream, fresh herbs like chives or dill and a few spices such as cumin or coriander.
16 12 / 2012
Day 9. Day 9 is devoted to an oldie and a newbie: Coconut Macaroon Trees. Growing up, my mother made chocolate coconut macaroons, a recipe she learned from her mother, and her mother before that. A mixture of coconut, oatmeal and cocoa powder was spooned onto sheets of wax paper that lined our dining room table and left to set until dry; no baking required.
My version of the macaroon comes from a Passover tradition. Unsweetened coconut, egg white, sugar and vanilla come together to create the most heavenly aroma when baked. While the exterior turns golden, the inside remains moist and chewy — simple, yet divine.
I found the idea for these adorable Macaroon Trees in the December 2012 issue of Martha Stewart Living (where else?). Mix and bake in under 20 minutes but be sure to keep an eye on your little trees as they can burn easily.
15 12 / 2012
Day 10. Day 10 is for pouring yourself a very, very cold glass of milk and sitting down to a classic Christmas flick and a plate of Chocolate Espresso Snowcaps. The addition of the espresso enhances the cocoa powder and the melted semi-sweet chocolate in this recipe. And a crispy outer shell instantly gives away to a soft, deeply rich chocolate center. Need I say more?
Happy Baking! (and don’t forget the milk!)
14 12 / 2012
11 days. 12 seemed reasonable, 11 just seems impossible. If you’re a fretting, flour-covered mess like me, I’ve got just the thing to help get you through this 11th day before Christmas: Stained-Glass Window Cookies (also referred to as Church Windows or my not-so-secret obsession). Though we hadn’t made these in years, I suddenly had a craving for artificially-flavoured, mini marshmallows engulfed in melted chocolate and butter and wrapped in a cozy coat of shredded coconut (who doesn’t?). Though I can’t actually recall making these myself, Stained-Glass Window Cookies go way back to a time when the only thing my mom would let me do during baking season was put sprinkles on the shortbread.
In staying true to my Christmas Cookie roots, I decided that this recipe was just too important not to share. Neither my mom nor I could figure out where this recipe came from however, so I used this recipe and simply omitted the nuts.
I’m almost ashamed to admit how few ingredients are actually in this recipe, especially when compared to the complexity of the Day: 12 cookie, but, like I said, I’m “almost” ashamed.
I highly suggest
insist putting these marshmallow-studded little devils in the freezer to avoid eating them up before the big day arrives. Then again, they’re so easy to make that should you decide to indulge (don’t blame you), you can easily and quickly whip up another batch.
13 12 / 2012
Can you believe that there are only 12 days left until Christmas? 12! That barely leaves me enough time to shop for presents, celebrate with friends and bake every cookie on my Christmas Cookie To-Do List! This time of year inevitably, without a doubt, inflicts a a sprinkle-covered haze of panic on the holiday-baking fanatics of the world. Though I look forward to testing new cookie recipes, my busy schedule (or rather my waistline) refuses to permit it. Or maybe its more about what my taste buds are willing to permit. Though I enjoy making a mess in the kitchen, experimenting with new, calorie-laden treats, I can never let a Christmas season go by without making a few very important cookie staples. You know the ones, for some it’s old-fashioned gingerbread, others, it’s those kitschy chow mien noodle haystacks (sorry Shelbs!), and for my family it’s the shortbread, pizzelles and coconut macaroons that grace our cookie platters year after year. Whatever your cookie traditions, you know that you just couldn’t bear the thought of a holiday season without them. This year, I’ve decided that I’d devote a bit of time to making a mess, while being sure to include some of the oldies.
A good blogger should post a cookie every day for the twelve days leading up to Christmas in order to successfully complete a Christmas Cookie Countdown. Though the idea of posting a cookie a day would be absolutely marvelous, those kind of liberties are reserved for stay-at-home moms and the unemployed. I, fall under neither category, therefore I will try my very best to get a cookie up and posted a few times a week.
To kick off the countdown, I give you a newbie: Cranberry Pistachio Burnt Salted Caramel Bars (with a twist!) which I adapted from the Holiday 2012 issue of Food & Drink. These are every bit as sinful and delicious as they sound, so if you can manage to keep your hands off them until Christmas, serve them up to guests after turkey dinner.
I only made two adjustments to this recipe; one by accident, the other intentional. I added the white chocolate drizzle because the bars came out looking dark and very un-Christmas like. The accidental adjustment was made in light of the fact that I left the kitchen at the exact moment the caramel came to temperature and then burned - not badly mind you - but enough to turn that creamy confection into burnt amber. The result? Cranberry Pistachio Burnt Salted Caramel Bars.
08 11 / 2012
What does one do when home sick from work? Nap? Drink hot tea? Watch back-to-back episodes of Sons of Anarchy? (hells yes) What do I do when I’m home sick from work? (besides watch back-to-back episodes of Sons of Anarchy?) I bake. Perhaps the hours of blog-trolling yesterday morning was to blame for the impromptu bake-a-thon. With busy weeks at the office, and even busier weekends, my go-to list of must-read blogs often go unread. While answering work emails with one hand, and scrolling through Cupcakes and Cashmere with the other, I became inspired by photo after photo of envy-inducing outfits via Emily Schuman, and mouthwatering photos via my fave food blogs. Not long after, I made the executive decision to don the apron and make a mess.
I had been eyeing the Streuseled Acorn Squash Muffins from Spoon Fork Bacon for weeks, convinced not only that the flavour combination was absolutely brilliant, but that I MUST make these savoury, spicy muffins. Having been stranded, car-less, and unfit for public viewing, I scoured the house for ingredients resembling those in the recipe and came upon enough substitutes to call it a recipe. That being said, I can’t actually attest to the Spoon Fork Bacon muffin, but I can tell you that this adapted version is a surprising and confusing (in a good way) flavour combination for the taste buds.
Here are my substitutions:
- I swapped in finely grated sweet potato for the acorn squash. The consistency is actually quite close to that of carrots;
- I didn’t have an overly ripe banana, so I used plain, balkan-style yoghurt - about 1/2 a cups worth; and finally
- I added more cinnamon than suggested. If you’re like me, your tastebuds need a bit of a wake up call in the a.m., so go ahead, add an extra 1/2 teaspoon.
29 9 / 2012
It’s official, it’s Fall. It’s the time when we don our boots and scarves and venture out to the pumpkin patch. It’s the time for hearty roasts, apple pies and warm mulled cider — the kind of cool-weather fare that fills up our bellies and comforts our souls.
Though I often despair at the loss of my fresh summer produce, I feel comfort in knowing that the changing seasons in Ontario bring with them a plethora of new, in-season produce. Squash, apples and parsnips replace summer berries, tomatoes and melon. Grilled veggies give away to roasted root vegetables, while crumbles, grunts and pandowdys give our seasonal fruit a Fall makeover.
Before I dive straight into turkey and stuffing however, there are just a few more posts I couldn’t bear not to share; the first of these being a Plum Crostata. A crostata, to an Italian, is a dreamy afternoon snack of pastry and jam. Sweet pastry is pressed into a tart pan and then filled with various jams and baked. My personal favourite is a crostata di ricotta; where jam is replaced with ricotta sweetened with sugar. A crostata di frutta is made with fresh fruit like pears or apple, or in this case, plums. (I wasn’t a big fan of the pastry in this recipe, so I’ll save you the heartache and suggest that you venture on over to Canadian Living and use this recipe instead.)
To be honest, there is nothing particularly special about this dessert. Sandy, cookie-like pastry is filled with fruit and baked — certainly not a prolific discovery in the dessert department, right? It doesn’t call for any special ingredients and doesn’t require the aid of your stand-mixer or your new Williams-Sonoma cookie cutters, but what makes this dish so desirable is it’s simplicity. An open-faced pie showcases seasonal fruit of your choice, caramelized by the heat of the oven. I think I fell in love with how the crostata looked when I pulled it out of the oven more than the idea of actually eating it. That being said, don’t think I didn’t devour every last bit of that tart treat after sufficient photos were taken.