Sunday, December 11, 2011

Writer's Block

I usually have the written version of verbal diarrhea and have to pull myself back and rewrite everything, cutting words with abandon.  Writing has always come easily to me.  Lately though, I seem to have lost my flow and jump from subject to subject.  Not like me at all.  I feel so lost without lots of writing.  My latest scribbler is looking a bit pathetic because all I've written has been about thirty pages or so.  Even my reading has taken the back seat lately.  I try to keep track of what I've read and since the beginning of September I've read less than two dozen books.  That has got to be the all-time lowest number of books read record for me.  I normally read about two or three books a week.  I'm stuck!!  It is scaring the hell out of me!  Is it the weather?  All that brown out there can't be good. (I hate brown - it just depresses me even thinking about it.)  Maybe it is the lack of snow? 

It would be different if I was productive in other areas but I'm not.  I am just at a standstill.  I have barely done any Christmas preparations.  Except today.  Today I baked two large bread wreaths, two medium fruit loaves, two small fruit loaves (all but one to give away), six dozen whipped shortbread, four dozen phyllo triangles (made and frozen), a loaf of plain bread, two pork tenderloins, with all the trimmings - potatoes, vegs and more vegs. (I was pretty pleased with myself, I'll tell you!) Hubby and I brought up all the Christmas stuff and I put on all the lights.  Two stings decided they should quit working after I put them on the tree, this despite checking them first.  sigh.

Is anyone else hitting this type of malaise this fall?  Is it just me?  Perhaps it is the weather?  I think I said that already...sigh.  I sure have been whiny this fall...Good thing the new year is getting close....

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sick of being Sick!!

I have been home from work the past couple days with a respiratory flu.  I think I picked it up from the personal care home where my Mom lives.  Bit of a bummer.  I have been flat out in bed since Friday and am not too pleased with about it.  I know when I am really sick because I don't even want to cook! And I love cooking!  Talk about being wiped out!

I don't remember getting sick very often when I was young and if I did, it only lasted about three days and was gone.  Now it seems to hang around for weeks and torment me.  I also have been noticing that I am not the only one whose colds/flu hang around a lot longer.  Are any of you noticing this as well?

I have decided that I am never going to be sick again this year.  Now, if only my body will co-operate I will be off to the races...

So that is my "poor, poor pitiful me" rant, it feels better just to have gotten my complaint out there.  Sorry I am unloading on all of you - I promise my next post will be very positive, or more positive at least.  

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Second Annual Family Pumpkin Carving!

I just lugged home three more large pumpkins for our second family pumpkin carving day!  Man were they heavy.  They were on sale for nineteen cents a pound - a good deal that inspired me to buy ones that were quite large!  They cost about four dollars and weigh about twenty pounds each.  Good carving material!  It was a ton of fun last year and a good excuse to get everyone together.  (I'll post the pictures later from this year's carvings.)

Here are some pictures from last year's competition:

These speak for themselves!

The dog thought pumpkin was a new food group for her!

Some of the guys decided that logos were the way to go!

Others were somewhat more traditional.

And she even dressed up for the occasion!

I am back, again!

My computer is finally working again!  For how long, who knows?  I know I am due for a new one but I seem to have a rather odd sense of loyalty to this old one.  I think it is about ten years old (or maybe just eight) and it surely doesn't owe me anything.  I just keep hope it keeps ticking for a bit longer...at least until I get my kitchen redone and can afford to get another one.

Speaking about kitchens, I am finally biting the bullet and getting my kitchen done.  Or rather, trying to get a company to agree to do my kitchen.  I am currently striking out.  I went to one of the local custom kitchen places to get a quote last week to do the kitchen.  I want a good working kitchen but it doesn't need to be fancy, just nice.  I spoke to the interior designer and she seemed quite knowledgeable.  I went back the next week and brought in my kitchen measurements.  She wasn't there but two other people were.  The new lady went to great pains to ask me if I knew that they made custom kitchens.  I said I did.  Then she asked me if I knew what a custom kitchen was.   I replied that I did.  When I said I liked a light wood like birch they proceeded to show me laminate.  I hate laminate.  And yes, I was quite offended to be treated like a dummy.  I don't think I will be going through them.  Yeesh. Some people just can't come out of their towers.

My husband and I did go out and buy a fancy stove the other day.  I was almost physically sick for spending so much money on it though.  My husband thinks it is hilarious because I have such a hard time spending large sums of money.   It is a beauty though, with a gas top and dual ovens - truly overwhelming in how modern it is...  My current old stove is a second-hand one I picked up from a friend because my old stove (thirty-eight years old) died an honourable death a few years ago.  My husband had rewired and then completely rewired it again.  He replaced most of the burners a couple times but finally said enough was enough.  I miss that old stove - it held six loaves of bread in one shot and the temperature was nice and even throughout.  sigh.  Here's hoping the new one will hold at least three loaves.  Stomach is still churning...

Friday, September 9, 2011

I am having that love/hate relationship with my computer again!

My computer has possibly died permanently and my computer fellow has been gone out of country for a bit. I hope that it hasn't died but am not going to hold my breath about it.   My wonderful husband brought home his laptop from work so I could tinker a bit.
So - hello everyone!  I have missed reading your blogs and keeping up with what is new in your writing, lives and quilting worlds.  I hope that I can still be allowed the privilege of entering your world and that you will once again, share mine.

It is once again back to work for me.  My summer has come to an end, although our temperatures are still in the 30 degree C's and everything continues to be green, the school year has started once again.  Sigh.  It has been wonderful seeing all the kids and staff from last year and catching up with them.  It always amazes me how much kids change from grade nine to grade ten.  Not only do they grow in height, etc but in maturity.  Most come back much more sure of themselves and have a whole new perspective to offer the coming year.

Take care!  I will be checking into your sites in the next week or so. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

This picture says it all!

My husband recently encountered this truck on his travels through one of our many small towns just north of here.
I thought it deserved recognition for it's wit/bathroom humour.

The picture definitely says it all!

Friday, July 22, 2011

I won! I won! I am so lucky!

 I am going to make this short but it is oh so sweet!

I just received an email from Linda at LEFTBRAINWRITE (http://linda-leftbrainwrite.blogspot.com/) informing me that I had won a copy of Meg Pokrass' book called DAMN SURE RIGHT which is published by  Press 53!!  (http://www.press53.com/bioMegPokrass.html) Not only that but it is going to be signed by Meg herself!  I am absolutely thrilled!  It truly made my day!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

My lovely garden




Cauliflower is so lovely!


Broccoli without chemicals!
I am blessed with a beautiful yard with an abundant garden and  huge wrap-around flower beds.  I am also very lucky that my husband also loves to garden and takes a  pride in keeping our yard beautiful. We also don't use chemicals in our  garden but rely on sustainable practices like composting to grow our vegetables. 
My Japanese peonies are huge!

My roses are blooming like crazy, as are the peonies and sweet william.  My mock orange bush in the front of the house (my header picture) is completely covered in fragrant white blossoms - it is truly the most bodacious I have ever seen it!
I love how these are so petite yet so lovely.

My garden is starting to take off now that we have some heat.  It was such a cold wet spring that I thought for sure that my garden would not do well.  It is starting to produce far more than I ever expected!  I can hardly wait to start enjoying fresh produce from the garden.  The only thing that isn't doing well are the beans - it was too cold for them to germinate so they are off to a late start (I think most rotted.) and are just starting to peak out of the ground. My cucumbers are also a bit challenged as we had a wild wind shortly after I planted them and it destroyed most of them.  The rest is wonderful and flowering and just bursting with life!!  I love gardens.
Isn't this rose exquisite?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Smile! I have tomatoes!!

Tomatoes!! Yay!!

Guess what!!!   After a long, cold, extremely wet spring, we have had heat for about a week now and I have tomatoes!!  Not just tomato flowers but actual little tomatoes!

I had made some makeshift "mini-greenhouses" that I had put on top of my tomatoes to compensate for the lack of heat and to keep some of the moisture away from the plants.  I wasn't sure if it would work, but it did!  I have not one, not two but five lovely little (just under 1") tomatoes on a couple plants.  I didn't expect it because of all the cool weather and rain, neither of which tomatoes are particularly fond of.  I wish I had taken pictures of these "mini-greenhouses" because they worked incredibly well and cost me only a couple cents for the string to tie them up.  The greenhouses themselves were discarded fish stocking bags left-over from when my husband stocked various lakes in the region. Who would have thought that they would work so well?

I had a dream about eating a nice, warm toasted tomato sandwich with a bit of Hellman's, homemade bread and black krim tomatoes...mmm  So good but still so far away...sigh

Friday, June 17, 2011

I swear I am cursed!

Remember in my last post when I said that I swore I was cursed?  I am.  I really think that I have an invisible bull's eye attached to me somehow.  Why might you ask?

My hubby and I went shopping for a new fridge because we are hoping to redo the kitchen very soon (the current one is about twenty-eight years old and was a wedding present from both sets of parents- still works great though).  We checked out a couple places near us and then headed up to the north hill to Dufresne's Furniture.  I went to park between a couple cars but hubby said to park at the end because there was no-one there.  So, I did and I agreed it was a much better spot.  The bonus was that it was even closer to the door, which, most of time is a good thing - right?  Except this time!

We were in there for about fifteen minutes when we could hear someone calling out on the main floor.  We walked out of the appliance area and they were asking if anyone owned a gold van.  I sort of had this sinking feeling and asked if it was possibly a grey van?  As I hoofed it outside I realized, that indeed it was my van that they were referring to!

McMunn and Yates Building Center had been delivering some building materials to the furniture store through the front of the store because Dufresne had had a great deal of water damage from a broken hot water heater - or pipe of some sort that filled the place overnight with water.  When the young fellow that was driving went to swing back out my van was unfortunately directly in his path and blind spot.  He was so upset I honestly thought he was going to cry.  It was an unfortunate accident and he apologised at least three times when telling us.  Poor kid.  Even my husband felt bad for him.  We were impressed that they were honest enough to come and seek us out rather that doing a hit-and-run scenario.  He will probably lose his licence because of how the legislation works here for newer drivers.

My taped up light and some of the damage.
I now have a basketball-sized dent in my back hatch, all my right back lights broken (didn't we do a nice tape job on the lights?), a smashed in bumper and the adjacent quarter panel needing repairs.  The catch is that my van is old - 1996 - but is almost like new in appearance with very little mileage on it.  Unfortunately, MPI only really looks at the year and my van is no longer worth much.  Their initial estimate of repairs is $2500 - borderline with its value.  So, I wait with bated breath whether or not I have a write-off or if they will repair my van.  As my hubby said - the van is worth $30,000 to us regardless of the book value. 

It all took the wind out of my sails and I still haven't had the heart to go back out to look for a new fridge.  I guess it will have to wait until I am done dealing with the van.    sigh.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I hate computers!!!! And the internet!! (Only sometimes)

I finally get my computer fixed and then the internet has been down or wonky for the past while.  Not only that but I filled up the memory card on my camera and I can't seem to access my pictures.  I swear I am cursed!  I haven't been able to access google or my gmail for what feels like ages.  So, here I am again...I am still recovering from going through withdrawal from all of you wonderful bloggers out there.  I can't even access your blogs from the computers at the school because of all the filters and restrictions they have to keep in place to protect our innocent young minds at the school!  lol  (If you believe that, I have a great deal for you on something!!lol)

Did I tell you that I won a shared third place from Cathy at the Life on the Muskoka River with her door matching game?  I have to very sheepishly admit that it was a very random matching on my part and pure fluke that I matched what I did.  Despite this, she sent me the most fabulous prizes!  I was overwhelmed by her generosity.  I love the red mittens - I kept telling myself to go buy a pair for ages but never got around to it - now I don't have to!  Then there is a great Canadian t-shirt, a Muskoka River mug, a cute keychain, a mushy music cd and I think the best thing of all - a small white bottle that had me perplexed (until I opened it) and then ecstatic  - it was a bottle of soap bubbles that you can blow into the air.  My cats and dog are terrified of the bubbles - who would have thought?  I thought they would love chasing them as much as I love making them!  Sigh. They just don't know a good thing when it floats past them... I will post a picture of my incredible prizes when I figure out my camera's dilemma.

Now that I have whined and cheered alternatively, I will be blogging more regularly once again.  You're stuck with me folks!   ;)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Hello out there!

My computer is finally up and running!!  Many thanks to our very good friend and computer guru, Terry!! He is a genius with a computer!  I got an especially nasty virus that is striking a lot of computers - he said that he had done six others this week with exactly the same thing.  It has been a long haul because it started before the end of the A to Z blogging and he removed it after about a week or so.  Then another one or possibly the same one came back and crashed my computer and continued until he came over before the long weekend and took away my tower.  He came back two days ago and got me all set up again.  Thank you, thank you, thank you, Terry!!

I was surprised how much I missed all of you.  I missed checking your blogs and finding out what was new, whether it was a new story or a new post on the goat kids.  I think I went through withdrawal for at least a couple weeks, if not more.  Did you miss me?  

I am going to be doing a lot of reading - I have a good three weeks or more of all your posts to catch up on! Please bear with me until I can catch up - I will add comments and hellos along the way.

Good to be back!!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Water - Water Everywhere!!! Flooding in Southwestern Manitoba

Our beautiful little city is now under a state of emergency.  The Assiniboine River has spilled over its bank an unbelievable amount.  They have evacuated about 2000 people from the north and south sides of the river as of 8 pm this evening.  They are hoping for the best-case scenario but are more likely to see the worst-case scenario as the rain continues to fall and the watershed continues to feed into the river from all directions an rain is on the forecast for the rest of the week. 

They just announced a couple hours ago that they are going to make some breaks in the dikes before the town of Headlingly, which is just west of Winnipeg and just under a couple hours east of here, to allow some of the excess water to be released before it hits Winnipeg because the floodways are already at capacity and the water has nowhere to go.  They figure that about 150 homes will be lost...My heart goes out to all those families that will be impacted.

I admire all the city crews, volunteers and our mayor Shari Dector-Hirst for the courageous effort that they are putting forth to attempt to hold back a prodigious amount of water.  They all deserve major kudos for their very hard-working efforts.

Look at the height of the water in relation to the vehicles.
The super bags that have been put in place are currently keeping the river back but they did have to close 1st Street  because they couldn't keep up with their pumps despite all the bags.  These bags each sit about four feet high and are double stacked and are now double and triple layered as well.  The water levels are higher than the average vehicle on the other side of the dikes from the road.  Kind of scary when you realize that the water is higher than your vehicle and has the strength to simply crush it or wash it away...

Check out the photo from ebrandon (from 3 days ago - water levels are higher since) at the right - especially the vehicles to the right and the water on the other side of the super bags...


There are some more photos of the river going through Brandon and the surrounding area and the efforts that have been put in place.  Check out the photos on our local ebrandon site - especially the aerial ones on the second and third pages.  If you click on the photos - they will enlarge.  Keep in mind that the aerial photos were from May 6th and the river has risen and spread a great deal more since then. 
http://www.ebrandon.ca/photos.aspx

I am not a religious person but hope that you will all send a heartfelt prayer or thought for all those affected by this flood.  So many towns, Hutterite colonies, homes, farms, animals and wildlife are being impacted and they need all the help they can get.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Z is for Zucchini

I am back -

I fully intended to finish my A to Z blogging and damn it I will despite having almost been without my computer for two weeks!!!!  First it was an incredibly nasty virus - the one you know is really bad when your IT god says OMG! every few minutes and then again six hours later announces that he will come back tomorrow to finish it...then the next day...and finally Sunday night.  Then I find out the internet is down because of the Assiniboine River flooding has damaged some fiber optic cables...now it is Thursday night and FINALLY it is back on line.  It has been a long haul and after the first signs of withdrawal I didn't think I would make it but I have and I'm back!!

Did you miss me?

Anyway, I am going to keep this one simple.   Zucchini is one of those wonderful, innocuous vegetables that you either love or hate.  I really love it.  I like it raw and chopped up into a salad or sliced lengthwise and on the grill.

Grilled Zucchini

Zucchini - any size but keep them all roughly the same size
Italian salad dressing
crushed garlic
grated ginger
wooden skewers

Cut zucchini into 3/4 inch thick rings and place in a non-metal bowl.

Pour some Italian salad dressing on top.

Add 1 or two cloves of crushed garlic, depending on how much zucchini you are preparing.

Add about 1 tsp grated ginger.

Mix and let sit overnight in fridge.

Thread onto skewers from skin to skin.  You need to make sure you go through the skins or they will fall off the skewers.

Cook on barbeque or under a broiler until tender for  about 10 - 15 minutes.

Shake some parmesan cheese lightly on top and serve.

Enjoy!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Y is for Yogurt Cheese

Yogurt cheese is one of those things that if you haven't tried it, you should. People make yogurt cheese from plain yogurt 99% of the time.  I have found that you can also make it from any of the flavoured yogurts as well.  Try to choose a yogurt that doesn't have gelatin in it but if you can't it truly isn't the end of the world and I really haven't noticed much difference between the two. 

If you have never heard of yogurt cheese - you will laugh when you discover how easy it is to make.  Ridiculously easy, actually. This is truly my easiest recipe.

Yogurt Cheese

fresh yogurt
unbleached cotton - I use a clean tea towel.
that's it!

Drape the dampened tea towel over a colander and pour the yogurt into it. 

Draw up the corners and tie together, allowing it to hang for 24 hours.  I usually just suspend the colander over a deep bowl and set it into the fridge with a cover over it.

Four cups/one liter/one quart of yogurt should give you almost 2 cups of cheese.

How do you use it? 

The same way as cream cheese - ie on bagels or mix with herbs for a cracker spread or mix a dollup into your mashed potatoes. Delicious!

The whey or liquid that drain from it can be saved and used in making bread or in a soup for extra nutrition.

Enjoy!

X is for "Xtra" Special Christmas Potatoes

There is just no recipe that I have that starts with X - I was definitely stymied on this letter.  So I have cheated and created a fake word to cover up my problem - call it creative license!

Christmas potatoes are only made on Christmas day mainly because they are so incredibly high in calories and terribly decadent.  Your arteries will slam shut just reading this recipe!  They are absolutely delicious though.  I do make sure there are extras for the next day's leftover meal...


The picture is from firsttimecook.com as I didn't have one.
Xtra Special Christmas Potatoes

5 lbs of red potatoes
1 - 8 oz block of full fat cream cheese
4 large tbsp of butter

1/2 - 1 cup sour cream
1 tsp salt
water

Peel potatoes, cook until tender and mash.

Add cream cheese, sour cream and butter and continue to mash until nice and smooth but not sticky or gummy.

Serve with a dollup of butter and some chopped parsley to garnish the top.

No calories are absorbed as long as your feet touch the ground! lol

Enjoy!

W is for Waffles

I thought of doing wine but waffles are just so darn good!  I usually take and make a whack of them, cool them, and then freeze them in bread bags to put in the toaster for later on.

This is a basic recipe that you can add your own flavourings to.  Flavourings like vanilla, almond extract, ground nuts, chocolate powder or whatever strikes your fancy.

Waffles

1 3/4 cup flour
2 tsp. baking powder (I use double action baking powder.)
1/2 tsp. sugar ( sometimes I leave it out)
3 eggs, separated
1 3/4 cups milk
6 tsp melted butter or oil (I usually do half and half because I like the flavour of butter but not the saturated fat.)


Combine the flour with the other dry goods.

Mix egg yolks with milk and melted butter.  I warm the milk just slightly so the butter doesn't harden back up.

Add to the dry mixture just until moistened - they will turn out tough if you mix them too much.

Beat egg whites in a separate bowl until you get peaks but not stiff peaks.

Let sit for about 5 minutes.

Heat up the waffle iron and grease lightly.

Add batter and cook until steam has stopped coming out the sides.

Gently lift the lid - if it sticks it might need a minute more or you to loosen it manually.  It should be light golden brown.

For special occasions serve with whip cream and strawberries.  Otherwise, serve with some syrup and fruit.

Enjoy!!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

V is for Vinegar

Making vinegar?  That is probably one of the easiest but last things most people would ever think to make.  And it truly is easy.  I have been making vinegar for as long as I have been posting and I think I am probably a better vinegar maker than a blogger...lol

Seriously though, it really is incredibly easy to make vinegar.  All you need is a some left-over wine (you wouldn't want to use a good bottle!!), some water, a bottle of Bragg's cider vinegar or a vinegar mother, a jar with a large opening and lots of time. Time for it to sit, it really doesn't demand more than a minuscule amount of time.

These vinegars are not high enough in acetic acid to use them for canning.  It is best to stick with commercial vinegar for  canning.
Bragg's cider vinegar

How to make Red or White wine vinegar:

leftover wine
water (optional)
Bragg's cider vinegar
or
a vinegar mother
a jar with a large opening
coffee filter
rubber band
warm cupboard

Make sure that the jar that you will be using is good and clean.  The jar itself should have a wide mouth and be able to hold at least a three or four cups of liquid. A canning jar is great or, if you are planning a larger amount, a one gallon pickle jar would work as well.

You want to make sure there is a lot of head space or air above the vinegar because it needs it to aid in the conversion of the alcohol to vinegar, so don't fill your jar more than half full.  If you notice that it is getting pretty full and the vinegar is ready, filter it and start over.
White wine vinegar starting

There are three/four ways to make vinegar.  The first is just to take a wine bottle about half full and cover the top with a couple of layers of cheesecloth or a coffee filter (basket style) that is held down with a rubber band to prevent flies from spoiling your batch.  Put this in the back of a warm cupboard and leave it for about six months.  At this time, remove from cupboard and give the wine a sniff.  It will either smell like vinegar and have developed a vinegar mother or smell like paint remover.  If it is vinegar, strain it into a clean bottle reserving the mother to help create a new batch.  If it smells like paint remover, recover it and put it back into the cupboard for another month.



The second way to make some vinegar is to take some Bragg's cider vinegar and put about one cup of it into the canning jar along with about two cups of wine. Some people add water when they add their wine but I don't, it is up to you.  If you decide to the proportion of wine to water is two to one or for one cup of wine add one half cup water.  I always figure that you can add water later if you find it too strong.  When you purchase the Bragg's, look for what looks like residue or dust on the bottom, the more the better.  This "dust" is the vinegar mother and is what will jump start your vinegar.   Again, cover it with some cheesecloth or a coffee filter and let sit in a cupboard for a couple weeks.  Add about a half cup of red or white wine occasionally - preferably about once a week after the initial period.  By adding the wine occasionally you will be feeding the mother.  Sometimes the mother will fall to the bottom and another will form on top.  You want her on the top to be effective.  When you decide the vinegar is to your liking - taste it to find out - strain and bottle it.

The third way to make vinegar is to acquire a vinegar mother from a wine store or another individual and add it to some wine.  Let sit and proceed in the same manner as for the first and second ways.  I don't have a picture of a mother (I lost/misplaced some pictures when my computer took a vacation.) but it can have the appearance of anything from a wispy veil to a solid raw meat type of look and feel.  If you google vinegar mother in images there are tons of pictures of various types of mothers.
Pineapple vinegar from fruit

The fourth way is to make it straight from the fruit but I won't go into that right now.

Something to note:  The vinegar mother should be fed occasionally to keep her viable.  If she falls to the bottom, it means two things - she has run out of wine to make vinegar and has lost her potency.  It is best to remove the old mothers occasionally.

Also - red wine will create vinegar far quicker than white wine but they both will take a few months.  Cider vinegar is the quickest to make.  After straining your vinegar, you can pasteurize it by bringing it about 150F for 30 minutes.  I personally don't pasteurize mine because I believe that it is more natural and better for you if you don't but it is a personal choice.  I do, however, keep mine in the fridge after I filter it to slow down the eventual development of a new mother.


You can dry out a mother for future use and I have heard of persons freezing them but I never have so don't know how well it works.

U is for Ukrainian Honey Cake (Medivnyk)

When I was really little, I lived in a predominantly Ukrainian/Polish neighbourhood.  We all went back and forth to each others homes and ate wherever we landed.  We shared holidays and toys and just really had a great neighbourhood for being a child in.  Disaster struck when I was about nine years old and I found out I was Irish, not Ukrainian - I was quite flabbergasted by this realization.  I remember saying to my mom that we celebrated all the same holidays and stuff - what do you mean we're not Ukrainian?  I was quite appalled by this turn of events in my life.  lol

I have since recovered from this terrible shock but still love a lot of the traditional Ukrainian foods. Among them was this cake.  I haven't made it in years but thought I would share the recipe anyway.  You should use buckwheat honey but a nice clover honey is just as good.

Ukrainian Honey Cake

1 cup honey
1/2 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
4 eggs, separated
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder (I use double action baking powder.)
1 tsp cinnamon or ginger  (I sometimes use half and half of each.)
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sour cream (yogurt works in a pinch and is lighter on the fat)
1/2 or so cup nuts 
1/2 or so cup raisins (I soak mine so the cake doesn't dry out.)

Boil honey and cool.

Cream butter and sugar adding in egg yolks one at a time along with the honey.

Combine dry ingredients and add in three batches to the creamed butter/sugar mixture.

Beat egg whites until stiff.  Fold into batter along with the nuts and raisins.

Grease a 10 inch Bundt pan.

Bake at 325F for about an hour.  Test with toothpick.

Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing and placing on a wire rack.

You can dust this cake with a bit of icing sugar - it is quite sweet so an icing would just make it overpowering.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

T is for Tea biscuits

Tea biscuits are one of those very easy and versatile quick breads.  I use them for a variety of things - just to eat for breakfast, as a topping for a "chicken pot pie" that I make and as an accompaniment or topping for a pot of  chili. 

I have tried tons of different recipes for tea biscuits but I always go back to the one that was published in the first cookbook that Canadian Living Magazine put out.  It is so light and just so good that any other recipe seems heavy in comparison.

Without further ado here is my version of their tea biscuit recipe:

Tea biscuits

2 cups of all-purpose flour
4tsp. baking powder (I use double action baking powder.)
1 tsp. salt (I cut this down to about 1/4 tsp. when I use butter.)
1/2 shortening  (I use real butter because it adds so much to the taste!)
3/4 - 1 cup of milk or somewhere in between

Mix all the dry ingredients together.

Using a pastry blender or a couple knives, cut in the butter making sure that you don't overdo it.  It should look like really coarse oatmeal when you are done. 

Add milk all at once, stirring with a fork to make a soft, slightly sticky dough. I tend to add closer to the 1 cup amount rather than the 3/4 cup because I find it makes it lighter.

Add a little bit of flour on top and roll it in it so it is not so sticky - about a couple tablespoons - then gently knead your dough about 10 times.  Gently is truly important here - we don't want hockey pucks!

Gently (again - sigh) roll out flat with a rolling pin to about 1/2 - 3/4 inch thickness.

They suggest cutting it with a biscuit cutter but I use a sharp smooth-edged knife and just do wedges that are roughly all the same shape so I am not having to rework the dough.

Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 425F for about 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.

Remove from oven, slather with butter and raspberry jam.  They will be a good 1 1/2 - 2 inches high when they are done and extremely light!

To use these on top of a chicken pot pie, I do everything exactly the same except I top a casserole of hot chicken stew with these biscuits and bake until browned.

Another variation is to use hot chili instead.

You can also brush them with milk and sprinkle with sugar for a sweeter touch.

Enjoy!

Monday, April 25, 2011

S is for Salad Dressing

I'm back!!  Did you miss me?  My computer got a Trojan and it was a bad one that basically took over or "highjacked" all of my computer.  I am just so pleased to be able to come back and post again. I had done my "r" already so just had to post it.

For "s" I am going to do salad dressing.  A wonderful salad can be ruined so easily with a crappy salad dressing.  Commercial dressings tend to be too sweet/salty or acidic to be pleasurable besides being so overloaded with chemicals that you wonder if there are any natural ingredients even in them.  That is not to say that there are no good commercial products just that most of them are somewhat challenged in the natural ingredient department.  I prefer to use products that I know what the ingredients actually are.

Salad Dressing

wine vinegar
olive oil
fresh garlic
salt
fresh ground pepper
dried basil
dijon mustard

In any container that has a lid, pour one part wine vinegar, two parts olive oil, about 1/4 -1/2 tsp salt (depending how much dressing you are making), fresh ground pepper - about 1/4 tsp., one tsp. basil, and finally the dijon mustard - about 1 tsp - 1 tbsp.  Don''t leave out the mustard - it brings todgether the oil and vinegar and allows them to stay mixed together, besides adding great taste!

Crush a garlic clove and add to container.

Put the lid on securely and shake extremely well.

Pour over salad.

You can vary the type of vinegar - there are so many great ones out there!  Try balsamic vinegar, white wine vinegar, cider vinegar, or if you want to be more exotic, try some other specialty vinegars - they can add a great dimension to your dressing. 

Enjoy!

R is for Ravioli

My husband loves ravioli.  He says that he doesn't have a pasta off switch - that's why he can eat so much pasta.  Ravioli know no bounds for him.  I haven't made ravioli in ages/years but after posting this I might make some this weekend.  It just tastes so good.

Fresh Cheese Ravioli

Filling:
about 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 egg
1 tbsp flour

Combine everything but the egg.

Gently beat the egg and mix into the rest of the ingredients.  It should stick together loosely when rolled into a ball.  If it doesn't add a tiny bit more flour until it does.

Roll into balls and set aside.


Pasta dough-

flour
egg

To make pasta dough, you need to combine (100gr) or 1/3 cup all-purpose flour with 1 large egg in the food processor.  It should resemble peas and come together when you gently press it together.

Let it rest about 15 minutes and then put it through you pasta machine, gradually making it thinner and thinner.  If you don't have a pasta machine, roll out your dough until it very thin.

Cover so it doesn't dry out.

Place the balls along the edge that you plan to fold  - space them about 1 1/2 - 2 inches apart. Wet the spaces lightly between the cheese and fold over, pressing down gently to seal.  Try to remove as much air as possible. 

Cut with knife or pizza cutter, cover and set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and add the ravioli when it reaches a good rolling boil. 

Boil for about 5 minutes.

Remove and serve.  A nice pasta sauce can be added on top or it can just be buttered.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q is for Quesadilla

This is one of the easiest "recipes" I will be giving you.  This is  one of our "fast food" recipes that we use at lunch.  We only have about thirty-five minutes for lunch by the time we take into account our travel time from work.  It is good and quick and simple.

Quesadilla

2 tortillas
grated cheddar cheese
olive oil
leftover chicken or some back bacon cooked in microwave (optional)

Heat the frying pan over medium low heat.  Put a very small amount of olive oil in and swish around.

Place one tortilla on into the pan and top with grated cheddar - keep at least 1/2 inch away from edge.

Warm the chicken or bacon that has been cut into slivers  in the microwave and add on top of cheddar.

Top with second tortilla.   Heat until slightly browned and the cheese starts melting.  Carefully flip over and brown the other side.

Cut into 8 wedges and serve on a plate with a bowl of salsa.


Enjoy!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

P is for Plum Cake

This recipe was given to me by my lovely mother-in-law, Irma.  She always made such beautiful desserts when we would go out to visit them on their farm.  Irma would make three completely different cakes, pies or whatever for dessert.  This was one of our favourites.

She had originally given me the recipe using German measurements and also gave me a German measuring cup for a present to go with it.  I converted the recipe to Imperial measurements for my own purposes but will include her measurements as well.

You will have to track down some Oetker baking powder because the stuff we use in Canada is different.  With this baking powder, you start with a cold oven when you bake the cake.  (think of the electricity you'll save by not preheating the oven!) I believe Oetker also puts out vanilla sugar as well. (If you can't find it, split a vanilla bean lengthwise and cover with sugar - unfortunately, you will have to let it sit for about 2 weeks to a month before the sugar will have lots of flavour.  Try to remember to shake it once in a while.)

This is a lovely, dense textured cake that looks as good as it tastes! 

Plum Cake

1/2 cup (100 gr.) butter
1/2 cup (100gr.) sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla sugar
2 large eggs
4 drops lemon extract
1 1/4 cups (150 gr.) cornstarch
1 level tsp baking powder
6 tbsp. milk
500 gr. small purple/violet plums cut in quarters (you can also use apples, cherries, rhubarb or cranberries - I've tried all but the cherries and they were all delicious)

Cream butter.   Add sugar, vanilla sugar , eggs and extract.
Mix very well - should be creamy.

Combine dry ingredients.

Slowly add to wet mixture, alternating with milk - in three parts.  The batter will be very thick.

Pour (scrape is more like it) into a greased and floured glass 9x13 pan.  Decoratively top with the plums (skin side down) and sprinkle on the streudel topping.


Streudel  Topping

1/3 cup (75 gr) butter
1/3 cup (75 gr) sugar
1/2 cup (100 gr) flour
1 tbsp vanilla sugar

Place cake in a cold oven.  Turn oven on to 350F.

Bake for 45 minutes.  Check with a toothpick to see if it is done.  If no crumbs adhere - it is done.

Before removing, broil the top until lightly browned.  Watch carefully because it scorches easily.

Remove.  Serve with whipped cream.

Enjoy!!



Monday, April 18, 2011

O is for Oatmeal!

I think most people of my generation grew up with cooked oatmeal for breakfast.  I still enjoy a bowl of it now and again.  Oatmeal is one of the most versatile grains we produce on the prairies.  It can be used in bread, on it's own, for cookies, for soup, crisps, and the list goes on.

Have you ever heard of Rickey Uncle?  It is a great slice that can be used like a granola bar or, if you undercook it just a little bit, as a crumbly, crunchy ice cream topping.  I hadn't made it in a few years and made a large pan of it the other day.  Little did I realize how much my family actually liked it.  That pan of Rickety Uncle was gone before you could call Uncle.  Well, maybe not quite that quickly but pretty quick. 

Here is the recipe:

Rickety Uncle

3 cups rolled oats
1 1/8 cup brown sugar (whoever heard of an eighth of a cup for baking!!)
3/4 c. butter - butter is best for flavour, although I sometimes will go 3/4 butter and 1/4 veg. oil.
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Mix together the brown sugar and oats.

Melt butter and then mix in vanilla.

Mix wet ingredients thoroughly into dry.

Press into a 9 x 12 pan.  I usually put a piece of parchment paper on the bottom to help lift them out.  Press down evenly.

I generally will score the bars and then pat them down again gently before putting them into the oven.  I find they tend to shatter less if I do that.

Bake for 12-20 minutes in a 350F oven.  Cut into squares or bars before they cool.  Remove when they are cool.

Enjoy!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

N is for Noodles

When I first graduated from university, I bought a little cookbook called "Chinese Meatless Cooking."  I have used it a ton of times and especially like this noodle recipe.  It is called "Szechuan-spicy Noodles or Dan-Dan Mein."  This has a good bite to it and the a nice full flavour.  Be warned that once you start eating these noodles, it is really hard to stop.


This is my version of that recipe:

Szechuan-spicy Noodles or Dan-Dan Mein

3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp of minced garlic...or more is good
1 tsp of sambal oelek or chili paste (I use either, depending what I have on hand)
1 tbsp olive oil
 1/2 pkg  of Chinese noodles - I use the ones that come 6 to a pack - use 3 squares

Combine all the ingredients, except the noodles, in a small bowl or measuring cup.  Set aside.

Boil water.  Add noodles for about 2 minutes max.

Drain and put into large bowl.  Pour sauce on top and mix well.

Serve hot or cold.  Delicious either way.



I have made this recipe for years.  As long as you keep the proportions reasonably close it will be fine.  I use either rice vinegar or plain white vinegar interchangeably and both are fine. The sesame oil is important to the flavour and I wouldn't leave it out.

Enjoy!

Friday, April 15, 2011

M is for monkey-bread aka sticky buns

Alright, you already know how to make great bread.  So using your new-found skills and the recipe from "B is for breadmaking", you can  make sticky buns!  Sticky buns are an all-time favourite in our household.  They are usually reserved for a breakfast at the lake but I have been known to make them in town as well...lol


Monkey-bread aka Sticky Buns

1 loaf of bread dough
butter - works best
white sugar
cinnamon
pancake syrup - the cheap stuff not maple syrup

So - make up a batch of bread - one loaf size is lots.  Let it rise for about 15 minutes.

While it is rising, melt about 1/2-3/4 cup of butter in a bowl.  Mix together about 1 cup of sugar with a 1 heaping tablespoon or so of cinnamon.

Grease a bundt pan with a bit of butter.  If you don't have one - use a large deep loaf pan.

Grab a piece of dough about the size of a small egg - make a round ball out of it - doesn't have to be even close to perfect.

Dip into the hot butter. Then, drop into the cinnamon sugar and roll it around until it is completely coated.

Drop into the bundt pan.  Continue until you run out of dough.  You should have about a layer and a half or two layers in your pan when you are done.

Pour the rest of the sugar over the top and then the rest of the butter - in that order.  If you are out of either - don't panic just pour whatever is leftover on top.

Pour about 3/4 cup of pancake syrup over top.

Cover and let rise until almost doubled - about 30 minutes - it tends to rise faster than a regular loaf as the hot butter inspires it quite nicely to do it's thing!

Heat oven to 350F and cook until the buns sound hollow when tapped.

Now comes the tricky part....place a large, very shallow bowl over the bundt pan and flip it over!  The caramel that has been created from the butter, cinnamon sugar and pancake syrup will ooze down the sides of the buns.

Serve immediately.

Enjoy!!

L is for Pork Loin

Have you ever taken pork loin or part of it and stuffed it?  It is really good and super easy.
I have some pictures of how to do this in my camera but I can't find my cords!!!$%etc. I will add them to the post as soon as I find them...sorry about that!

Stuffed Pork Loin

one tenderloin or portion thereof

apple pie filling from "A is for apples"

diced onions

dry bread crumbs

cotton string

olive oil

Using a non-serrated knife, cut the tenderloin until it lies flat.  Start by slicing into the loin on an angle and then cutting it open until it sits flat.  It is like peeling off one continuous layer until it is all about 1/4 inch or about a little more than 1/2 a cm thick.

Spread your apple pie filling (about an inch from the edge of the meat on all but the closest side to you) along with about 1/4 cup or less diced onions.  Sprinkle a very thin layer of bread crumbs evenly over the apples. Sometimes I add a good handful of dried cranberries or even some chopped up fresh ones.  You may add a few dots of butter along the nearest edge to you but don't add more than a teaspoon total.  Take the nearest edge and start rolling it up.  Once you get about 1/4 of it rolled, fold the sides in about an inch and finish rolling.  Roll it neither loosely nor tightly, just a nice firm roll.  If you roll it too tightly, your filling will squish out the sides.  If you roll it too loosely, it will be difficult to tie up.

Once you have it rolled, then you must tie it evenly along it's length so it doesn't come apart when you are cooking it.  At this point, coat the meat with some olive oil or canola oil.  Grind some pepper on it and either place it in a 350F oven  for about 45 minutes to an hour or on the barbeque, depending how thick your meat is - you can always use an internal thermometer to see if the meat has reached 165F.  If you place it in the barbeque, heat up one side of barbeque and place the meat on the other side.  Again, cook for about an hour but be careful not to dry it out.

Remove from heat and let sit wrapped in foil for about 10-15 minutes.  Slice with a non-serrated knife and arrange attractively on a serving plate.

I have substituted homemade cranberry sauce for the apple pie filling and it is really nice as well!

Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

K is for Kiwi Banana Smoothie

This is wonderful for breakfast on a hot summer morning.  My kids loved these and I loved them because I knew they were getting a couple servings of fresh fruit each day.  I also just loved them because they taste so good.

Kiwi Banana Smoothie

1 kiwi - peeled (can be frozen)
1 banana - previously frozen in 1 inch chunks
frozen orange juice concentrate
milk

Place about 1 cup of banana chunks, cut-up kiwi, about 1 tbsp OJ into a blender.  Add enough milk to come just below - about an inch - the top of the fruit.  Blend.  Add more milk if it is too thick.

Sometimes we would use less milk and make "ice cream" instead.  It is so creamy and good it is hard to believe that it is mainly fruit!

Frozen strawberries are great, as are raspberries.  If you can freeze all the fruit it keeps it nice and thick.

This tastes like a sinfully fat dessert but is actually very light in fat and calories.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J is for Juice


I love the smell in the house when I am making juice - crabapple, rhubarb, etc...  They are all made essentially the same way but have completely different tastes, although all of them are more full-flavoured than what you buy in the store.  Just a little....lol  You can also blend the different juices.  I like adding raspberries to my crab juice and even cranberries are nice with it.
Beautiful organic apples from a friend.
Not a lot of people spray their crabapple trees or rhubarb, so it is generally chemical free juice that is locally sourced.  Most people are more than generous with their crabapples and are more than pleased to have someone come and pick them. 

I like my juice less sweet so the flavour of the fruit can come through.  I don't care to drink sugar so my juices are sometimes refreshingly tart.  Not pucker your face and it implodes tart - just a little bite to them. 

I usually freeze my juices as I have the space and it is also a lot less work than canning them. I follow the Canadian food guidelines when I do can it.

Juice

crabapples/rhubarb/cranberries/raspberries
(whatever fruit you decide to choose - or combo)
cream of tartar
sugar or honey


Wash your fruit.

Crabapples will have to be stemmed and the blossom end cut off.  Rhubarb cut into chunks.  Cranberries and other berries can be used as is.


Fill a primary or carboy used in winemaking about 1/3 full with fruit. The fruit can be put into a mesh bag to make removal easier.
Primary with crabapples.

Sprinkle about 4 tsp of cream of tartar over the fruit.

Pour boiled water over the fruit - almost fill it. Cover and let sit overnight.

Strain by using  hose or just by scooping out the fruit.
Juice simmering.

Using a dutch oven or large pot of some sort, fill with juice and simmer until about 1/2 to 2/3 the volume.

Taste - the flavour should be pronounced but not tart.

Add sugar or honey.  Taste again.  Simmer for a bit longer.

These apple juices were canned.
Let cool, then pour into jars leaving about 2 inches of headspace.  Place in the freezer without lids and freeze.  Once they are frozen, you can put the lids on and screw down.  I find if I do it any other way, the jars break in the freezer.

If you can your juice - follow the guidelines set out for Canadian food recommendations.

Enjoy!

Monday, April 11, 2011

I is for Icing

I know I should have gone with ice cream but I haven't made it since I was a young adult, so my instructions have been lost and I am not sure where on earth they are.  So suffice to say, we are doing a recipe for icing.

Some cupcakes I made for my husband's niece's wedding.
Nothing boring about icing!  Icing can make or break your cupcakes or cake in one mouthful.  There is nothing worse than having dull, tasteless icing to ruin a beautiful cake.

Ingredients are incredibly important when you make icing.  Real butter, pure vanilla extract are not a luxury, they are a necessity in good icing.  You can also use any liqueur to flavour your icing as well - as they are not extracts, the flavour will not be as pronounced but you can combine them with an extract to make them extra special.



Butter Icing

butter
vanilla extract
almond extract

icing sugar
milk

Put about 2/3 - 3/4 cup butter into a decent sized bowl that has higher sides. I know it is an obscene amount of butter but this icing is for special occasions - I don't use it very often but we all love it!

Start adding in your icing sugar, a little at a time until it starts to get a bit stiffer (not stiff though).

Add a couple tablespoons of milk and continue to mix well.

Add about 2-3 tsp. vanilla and 1 tsp almond extract - depending how much icing you are making. Mix in well.

Add more icing sugar and a wee bit more milk.  Mix well.

Taste the icing - it should feel smooth and creamy - not gritty at all.  If it feels gritty, add a bit more butter - about a tablespoon and about a teaspoon of milk.

Keep trying it until it feels like it melts in your mouth.  Just taste a smidgen - not a whole teaspoon or anything like that.

Cream it gently for about 5 minutes.

Ice your cake or cupcakes.  Leftovers freeze well - just stir well and gently when it thaws out.

Enjoy!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

H is for Homemade Eatmores

I love Eatmore bars.  I only buy them about twice a year because then they stay a real treat!  Sometimes, I even get Eatmore presents from my family - again not very often because they know I love them only very occasionally.

I worked at one of the local greenhouses on and off when my kids were little.  When you plant, everyone stands around tables and talks and jokes around.  It is always a great place to be - surrounded by plants, the birds in the apiary chirping, and the sun warming you through the greenhouse walls - so wonderful!!  Anyway, we were talking about recipes and one of the ladies happened to mention that she made these Homemade Eatmore bars.  I couldn't believe my good fortune when she brought in the recipe and a sample!  To make a long story short - they are even better than the real Eatmore bars - hardly seems possible but truly better.

Homemade Eatmores

1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup corn syrup
4 tbsp cocoa

Boil until thick and shiny - about 10 minutes on medium heat. I haven't overcooked these but I think they might turn hard if you do.

Add about 3 cups of peanuts - a combination of crushed and whole. (I add more...)

Poured into a well-buttered pan.  (Butter is best because it adds to the flavour.) (It is a 9x9 pan depending how many peanuts you add...)

Cut with buttered knife while still somewhat warm.  Separate when cool - these stick to themselves like crazy - a piece of parchment might help because I know from experience that they also stick to plastic.

Enjoy!!

Friday, April 8, 2011

G is for galettes blanches

So you are probably asking yourself - what the hell are galettes blanches?  They are a very exceptional French yeast-raised biscuit.  My version of this was originally taken from a Canadian Living magazine years ago.

Galettes Blanches
I didn't have a picture of them - this one is from the Robin Hood site.

2 tsp granulated sugar
3 c. lukewarm water
2 tbsp. yeast
1/2 c. oil
1 tbsp. salt
1 egg
8 c. flour (approximately)

Proof the yeast in the sugared water.

Add oil, salt and room temperature egg, mixing gently.

Very gently, mix in about 7.5 cups of the flour - add more if the dough is sticky.

Knead about 10 times gently.

Roll out with a rolling pin and cut into biscuit rounds.  Or - cut into diamonds and place on a cookie sheet. They are generally about the size of a small hamburger bun after rising.

Let rise for 30 minutes.

Bake 375F until light golden brown  - about 15 minutes.

Seve warm with jam or with a sandwich type of filling.

Enjoy!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

F is for foccaccia

I had a hard time with F - so I decided to be nice to myself and go for foccaccia.  This is a traditional Italian style of bread.  However, the recipe I am giving you is not the traditional version but my knock-off, super easy version...delicious and wonderful with a nice soup, chili, or just to dip in leftover spaghetti sauce.  I would have had great pictures of it, but unfortunately, we ate it before I remembered that taking the pictures was the main reason I made it...lol

I love serving this to a crowd because it goes so far if it is cut into fingers and served with a marinara sauce - it is always a hit!

   This smells so-o-o good when it is baking!

It all looks very daunting but prep time is only about 20-25 minutes before you get it into the oven, depending how fast you work.

You will need this recipe first:

Basic Bread Dough Instructions for one loaf 


warm water
sugar
traditional Fleischman's yeast
salt
olive oil
flour

Pour about 1 cup or so of warm water into a large bowl - it should feel like a good warm bath but not hot.

Add about 1 tsp. sugar - you can also use honey.

Add about 1-2 tsp. traditional Fleischman's yeast.

Proof for about 10 minutes or until you see most of the yeast has "bloomed," or risen to the surface.


Using a fork, stir lightly.

Add about 2-3 tbsp. olive oil, 1 small tsp. salt, and start adding flour.  Mix enough in so that when you stir it it becomes like a super thick pudding.



Clean  your fork off well under running water.  (It will adhere like concrete if you don't clean it right away.)

Continue to add flour and start to knead the dough while in the bowl until it  has a soft but not sticky or tacky consistency - you don't have to do this for a long time.  If your dough is too moist, you will get a large air bubble just under the crust - just add about 1-2 tbsp more flour to correct this.  If it is too dry, it will feel hard to knead -in this case, make a hole in the dough and add about 1-2 tbsp of water and gently knead it in.  It will be gross and sticky, at first, then will incorporate itself in.

NOW is the easiest part and  :)  we can start the foccaccia:

Foccaccia

Extra virgin olive oil
parmesan cheese
basil
garlic - 3-4 cloves
tomatoes
black olives

So...the first step is to take the bread recipe that was back in the B's and make it up. (I copied it above for you - or the part we need.)   The difference is that we will be treating it almost like a quick bread and go for only one very short rise.

After you have  mixed it up, let it rest for about 10 minutes.  This is important or it will be like trying to flatten rubber bands....

Get a pizza pan or 9x13 pan - make sure the pan you use has edges...I have a large round pan I use for pizza, buns, etc. but a cookie sheet with edges will do the trick just as well.

Pour about 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in to your pan and spread around - be generous because your dough will stick otherwise.

Take your dough and gently roll it out on the counter with a rolling pin until it is just about 1/2 - 3/4  inch thick - if it is thicker - no big deal - your foccaccia will just be thicker.  Or you can divide it in half and make two small ones or one foccaccia and one loaf of regular bread.

Place it in your oiled pan and let it rest for about 5 minutes, then using your fingertips, spread it out a bit more until it is more or less even.

While it is rising, crush a generous amount of  garlic (3-4 cloves), have ready some grated Parmesan, black olives (sliced or not), some basil - dried or not, thinly sliced tomatoes, red onions, chunks of feta cheese.  Your topping will vary each time but the parmesan, garlic, basil and olive oil are always consistent. 

Remove the towel from the dough and press your fingertips into the dough to make indents.  Generously pour some olive oil on top along with the crushed garlic.  Spread gently with your fingers. You can always re-dent it if the dents disappear.

Add your basil and then add whatever toppings you want to on top of these.  You can always substitute some pesto for the basil.  I love the kalamata olives but generally just use a brined black olive - I just warn everyone about the stones in them. Arrange your toppings in a pleasing way and finally top with the Parmesan cheese.

Re-dent.

Bake at 375F until the edges are a nice medium-dark colour (a bit darker than your loaves).  Remove from the oven and cut into wedges, fingers, diamonds, whatever strikes your fancy.  The bottom will be nice and golden and slightly crisp. 

Again - this can be baked on the barbeque when summer temperatures stop you from heating up the oven. I would still put it in the pan though because it gives such a nice crust.   Just remember to rotate it occasionally!

Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

E is for eggplant!

Eggplant is one of those vegetables that make you say "mmmm-mm" when it is cooked properly.  We literally fight over the leftover eggplant in our house because it is just that good.  It is delicious cold the next day or reheated.  If eaten cold, you mash it up and spread it on some of that fresh bread I told you about four letters ago or nice rustic crackers!

Eggplant comes in all shapes, sizes and a few colours.  Using fresh eggplant is so much better than buying it in the store.  It just seems that it is never bitter when it comes out of the garden.  Last year I accidentally grew eighteen plants of eggplant.  (How did I accidentally grow that many?  Simple, there was more than 4 in each flat I had purchased so I wound up with extras and couldn't bring myself to throw them out.)  It was a good thing that I did plant them because it was so cool all summer that my crop was small and it seemed like we were always waiting for some to come off the garden.  I grew some small white and purple striped ones, some larger conventional ones, and some long narrow oriental style eggplants.  All were great baked or grilled.

Grilled/Barbecued Eggplant

garlic
eggplant
olive oil (preferably extra virgin because you want the flavour)
salt
lemon

If you are using a large store-bought eggplant, cut it into rings about 1/2 inch thick (I leave the skin on for this.) and salt generously.  Let sit in a colander for about 20 minutes to drain and then pat dry or spread on some towel. 

Crush some garlic (I am very generous with my garlic for this dish.) and mix it into some olive oil. Brush this well on both sides of the eggplant.

Barbecue slowly until they are a light golden brown and very tender.  Remove from heat and put into a bowl.  Squeeze a lemon over the slices and cover the bowl with a plate.  (I use plates to cover things because it means less plastic in the environment.)  They will become very limp - this is what you want.

Salt very lightly and serve.


Enjoy!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

OOPS!!

Looks like I jumped the gun and posted my C and D too soon.  It is that dam "Publish Button" location - just too easy to hit once I've written something....lol  I'll get a hang of this eventually.

Such is life.

We are back to winter here - had/having a huge spring storm.  Besides looking like a winter wonderland, it is a bit of nuisance as I have a turkey ready to go into the smoker....grrr!


D is for dressing - creamy Tofu Dressing

This is a wonderful dressing to use on a salad or even on baked potatoes instead of sour cream!

Creamy Tofu Dressing

1/2 lb. regular tofu
3 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp veg/olive oil
 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp salt
1 dash hot pepper sauce or a pinch of cayenne
1 pinch of black pepper
4 tsp. Parmesan cheese
about 1/2 cup milk

In a blender, combine tofu, lemon juice, oil, garlic, salt and peppers. 

Blend until smooth.

Stir in Parmesan.

Thin with milk until desired consistancy is reached.

This recipe is easily converted to a vegan recipe just by substituting the milk and cheeses for vegan products - flavour is still great!

Enjoy!

C is for carmelized bananas

I can't take credit for this wonderfully sweet, decadent dessert.  My daughters concocted this one for dessert one day...

It is so simple and so good!  This is super fast when you wind up with unexpected company and don't have a dessert to serve.

Caramelized Bananas

You need:

bananas - generally one per person
butter
brown sugar
pinch of salt
Rum or pure vanilla extract

Using a frying pan, melt 1 part butter and 3 parts brown sugar over medium heat until it is no longer grainy and looks silky.  Add flavouring and stir gently.

Peel bananas and cut in half lengthwise.  Add bananas to the pan and gently heat.

Dish some vanilla ice cream into bowls and top with bananas and sauce.

Enjoy!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

B is for Breadmaking!

If you have been following my posts for a bit, you know that making bread is one of my all-time favourite things to do!  I can wax poetic about making bread - what is not to like about a fresh loaf of bread that is golden, warm, and aromatic right out of the oven?  It is so relaxing and nourishing for the soul and later, for the empty nook in our stomachs.

I have been making bread it seems forever.  I made bread occasionally when I lived at home with my  parents and continued to make it when I lived alone.  My mother  made wonderful bread that still makes my mouth water thinking about it. I find it easier to make a quick loaf of bread than to run to the grocery store (that is four blocks away) to buy one.  (truly not logical!)


Using olive oil gives a wonderfully moist bread.  I have tried many different types of oils but have found that the olive oil gives a much nicer loaf of bread.   Your dough should feel soft but not sticky and dry but not hard.  You will know that you have it right when it feels like on of those soft stuffed toys that flatten out easily when you squish them.  The other reason I don't use exact measurements is because flour can be drier or moister depending how fresh it is and the amount of humidity in the air.

And yes, there are days that the bread just won't rise properly for love nor money - I personally think it has to do with the barometric pressure but who knows?   Thank goodness those days come only once every year or so.

 There are so many types of breads out there - from limpa to flat bread to oatmeal bread.  I generally make a simple white or oatmeal bread because it is quick and I can just whip it up.  I recently taught a breadmaking session to a group of teachers.  It was a lot of fun and I think they all came away with a good feeling about making bread.

The measurements are not exact measurements because making bread is a pleasure not a science. It is also remarkably forgiving.  I prefer smaller loaves so it will fit into my toaster after it is sliced.

Here are the instructions for a wonderful loaf of bread:

Basic Bread Dough Instructions for one loaf 

You'll need:

warm water
sugar
traditional Fleischman's yeast
salt
olive oil
flour

Pour about 1 cup or so of warm water into a large bowl - it should feel like a good warm bath but not hot.

Add about 1 tsp. sugar - you can also use honey.

Add about 1-2 tsp. traditional Fleischman's yeast.

Proof for about 10 minutes or until you see most of the yeast has "bloomed," or risen to the surface.


Using a fork, stir lightly.

Add about 2-3 tbsp. olive oil, 1 small tsp. salt, and start adding flour.  Mix enough in so that when you stir it it becomes like a super thick pudding.

(If you want, you can add about a handful or so of barely warm cooked oatmeal at this point.  Dry oatmeal will make your bread dry out quicker because it will absorb the moisture from your bread - cooked oatmeal won't do that.)

Clean  your fork off well under running water.  (It will adhere like concrete if you don't clean it right away.)

Continue to add flour and start to knead the dough while in the bowl until it  has a soft but not sticky or tacky consistency - you don't have to do this for a long time.  If your dough is too moist, you will get a large air bubble just under the crust - just add about 1-2 tbsp more flour to correct this.  If it is too dry, it will feel hard to knead -in this case, make a hole in the dough and add about 1-2 tbsp of water and gently knead it in.  It will be gross and sticky, at first, then will incorporate itself in.

Cover with a clean tea towel and let rise in the same bowl for about 1/2 - 1 hour - more or less. If time is an issue, this first rising can be shortened up as much as 40 minutes without much effect on the final product.

Punch down the dough and form into a loaf.

Drop into a well-greased breadpan, cover with clean tea towel, and let rise about an hour.  An hour or slightly more is the most desirable during the second rising as it will make your bread nice and light - if the room is cool let it rise a bit longer.  You don't want it to rise so much that it is wobbly though because it will not have enough strength to do it's final rising in the oven.

Preheat your oven just before the hour is up.  (350F)

Bake about 20 minutes for white bread and a bit longer for whole wheat.  Check it when the top is a nice very light golden colour.

Remove from oven if it sounds hollow when tapped and when the bottom is lightly browned. Bread is best if it is not over-baked and hard.

Place on wire rack and brush with butter.  Buttering the top and covering it will create a nice soft, flavourful crust.  Cover immediately and let cool at least 10 minutes before slicing.  (If you can!)


Note:
This bread can also be baked on the barbeque by heating one side of it and placing the bread pan on the unheated side.  I would lower the temperature to 325F because barbeques seem to run hot, at least mine does. Also - rotate it once so that the side adjacent to the barbeque burner doesn't burn.  Making it into two small loaves will also shorten the cooking time, which is best for the barbeque.

Enjoy!