Tuesday, February 24, 2015

orange jelly with chantilly cream

In her headnote in Dinner Chez Moi, Laura Calder says this jelly is both sexy and wobbly.

That description was enough to draw me in. Two years later, I must have made this jelly ten or twelve times, and it still comes out sexy and wobbly, and just exactly the way jelly must have been before commercial Jell-o came along.

It also tastes pleasingly like a creamsicle with the delicate taste of real oranges and a very soft chantilly cream settling into its wobbly nooks and crannies.

It's a very forgiving recipe for having just four ingredients  as long as you do the gelatin right. Sometimes, I don't have enough oranges and I throw in some freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice, and that also makes a lovely orange jelly.

Lately, it has also occurred to me that these jelly ratios would work with almost any fruit juice. Come summer, I am most looking forward to trying Saskatoon berries and black currants. Oh, and what about rhubarb juice in the spring? Imagine a pale pink wobbly spring jelly. Sigh.

But for now, it's winter and oranges are abundant. This particular jelly used a combination of navel and tangelo minneola oranges, as well as one lonely Seville that didn't make it into this year's batch of whisky marmalade.

It set softly into its wobbly self and makes me dream of sunshine and places where oranges grow.

one year ago: eating out in japan
two years ago: panna cotta with red wine syrup
three years ago: caramel chocolate mousse
four years ago: turnip puff to the rescue!
five years ago: olympic mint nanaimo bars

orange jelly with chantilly cream
from Dinner Chez Moi by Laura Calder
serves 6

2 1/2 c. (625 mL) freshly-squeezed orange juice (from about 8 oranges)
4 tsp. (20 mL) gelatin
1/4 c. (55 g.) sugar
Lightly sweetened vanilla-scented whipping cream, loosely whipped (for serving)

Set out a 3-cup (740 mL) bowl.

Strain your freshly-squeezed orange juice through a fine-mesh sieve. Set aside.

Get out a small glass bowl and pour 1/4 cup water into it. Sprinkle gelatin over. Set aside to soften.

In a small pot, stir the sugar into another 1/4 cup water. Boil about 3 minutes to dissolve. Whisk the sugar syrup into the orange juice. Set aside.

Boil an inch of water in a small saucepan and turn the heat off. Set the small bowl of gelatin in the hot water for a few minutes. Stir to melt it into liquid. Once it's fluid and clear, whisk into the orange juice mixture. Strain and pour into your serving bowl. Refrigerate until set, about 4 hours.

Serve in small bowls with runny chantilly cream.

Monday, February 16, 2015

breakfast: peanut butter quinoa oatmeal

Now that we're on the new breakfast routine of oatmeal and granola, I've found myself missing peanut butter.

For years, I particularly looked forward to my toast with peanut butter and honey in the morning. I am an Adams peanut butter fanatic, and have been known to have family members import Adams when I live in a province where it's not sold (Ontario, I'm looking at you).

Luckily, Adams is sold in Alberta, so I use it in everything I possibly can: homemade granola bars, peanut butter crispy balls, you get the drift.

Well, it finally occurred to me that I didn't have to miss eating peanut butter in the morning just because I was eating oatmeal. I could make peanut butter oatmeal!

And because you can't have peanut butter without some kind of sweetener to keep it from being too sticky, I threw in some raisins to plump up while it cooks, and later some maple syrup. And because smooth peanut butter and oatmeal could use a bit of crunch, I threw in some quinoa.

You might look at this recipe and think the technique looks funny. I know, it looks funny, but it's actually brilliant. Megan Gordon came up with this way of toasting oats in a bit of butter and then letting their liquid soak in, so they taste toasty and keep some of their shape. It is genius. Trust me.

There you go: peanut butter quinoa oatmeal with maple syrup and raisins. We keep it in a Tupperware container in the fridge, and heat up small bowls every morning in the microwave. Splash a bit of milk, drizzle a little extra maple syrup, and my peanut butter breakfast is all ready to go  in less than a minute.

one year ago: gluten-free crêpes
two years ago: korean food in jasper
three years ago: eating out in vancouver, vancouver island and edmonton
four years ago: bacon-wrapped dates with olives and almonds
five years ago: little lemon cakes

peanut butter quinoa oatmeal
inspired by Megan Gordon's oatmeal technique in Whole-Grain Mornings
serves 2 for a work week of breakfasts

1 tbsp. butter
2 c. rolled oats
1/2 c. quinoa
1 c. milk
2 1/2 c. water*, heated in the microwave to hot
1/2 c. raisins
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt or 1/4 tsp. regular salt
1/3 c. salted peanut butter
3 tbsp. maple syrup

Heat a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Melt the butter. Add the oats and stir every minute or so for about 4 minutes. Stir in quinoa and cook 1 more minute. Keep a close eye on the oats and quinoa to make sure they don't burn, just get a bit golden.

Stand back and pour the milk in. Stir. Stand back again, and pour the heated water in. Stir in the raisins and salt. Ease it back to a light boil, and turn the heat off. Put the lid on and let it sit 15  20 minutes.

Open the lid and see if the oats are now tender. Stir the peanut butter and maple syrup in. Taste for seasoning. Serve immediately with a bit more maple syrup and milk on top, or keep in the fridge and microwave little bowls to eat each morning.

* I like my oatmeal quite thick. If you like yours a bit runnier, try adding another 1/2 cup of water.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

tomato soup with two fennels

I am having a bit of a moment with A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg.

Before The Never-Ending Flu of 2015 struck a couple weeks ago, I made espresso-walnut toffee, stewed prunes with citrus and cinnamon, and fennel salad with Asian pear and Parmesan.*

Now, A Homemade Life is due back at the library and I'm finally getting over The Never-Ending Flu of 2015, so I thought I could sneak in one more recipe before returning it  and before I go out and buy the book. (I am very strict about not buying cookbooks until I've a taken them out of the library at least three times. I'm ready to commit.)

I thought a pot of soup would be good to have on hand this week, and the Italian store has been wooing me with its cheap, fresh fennel bulbs. So I pulled out a couple cans of San Marzano tomatoes, and set about making Sunday lunch.

This soup has two fennels  those luminous crisp bulbs and crunchy little fennel seeds. It makes for a hearty soup, especially considering it could be vegan if you use water instead of chicken broth. The sliced fennel softens but keeps its shape and every so often you get a fennel seed like a jewel of intense anise flavour on your spoon.

We ate ours with toasted bread with homemade garlic butter and Parmesan, and it made for a fine post-recovery Sunday lunch.

And if you're wondering what I want to try next from A Homemade Life? Pistachio cake with honeyed apricots, buckwheat pancakes, fruit-nut balls, and coeur à la crème with raspberry purée. To name a few.

* We actually made that salad three times in five days. What can I say? It's a fennel and Asian pear revelation.

one year ago: chocolate coconut macaroons
two years ago: Dutch babies and turning 3
three years ago: gumdrop cake and turning 2
four years ago: whisky marmalade
five years ago: creamy celeriac soup and muesli

tomato soup with two fennels
very slightly adapted from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg
serves 6  8

3 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, quartered and sliced thinly
2 medium fennel bulbs (about 11/4 pounds), trimmed, quartered from root to stalk, and sliced thinly  and if there are fennel fronds, chop them finely and set them aside to garnish
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with a string*
2 tsp. fennel seeds
2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes, best quality you can get
water or chicken stock
3/4 tsp. sea salt or to taste**
very small dollop honey, to taste
a splash or two of red wine vinegar

Heat a large Dutch oven up over medium heat. Pour the olive oil in. Add the onion and fennel and stir. Stirring occasionally, cook for 5  6 minutes, until the onion starts to soften. Stir the garlic in and cook another 5  7 minutes, stirring often, until the onion is very soft. Stir the thyme and fennel seeds in and cook about 2 minutes, until you can smell them.

Pour the two cans of tomatoes in. Fill one can with water or chicken stock (I used chicken stock) and stir in. Bring to a steady simmer, and cook uncovered for about 45 minutes, until it tastes like soup and the fennel is softer but still holds its shape.

Add some salt and taste. Add more salt if necessary. Add a very small dollop of honey and a splash of red wine vinegar. Taste and decide if it needs any more salt, honey or vinegar. Add the reserved fennel fronds. Serve.

* Molly calls for 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves chopped, but I find stripping thyme stalks to be the most tedious task in the world. You could, if you like that sort of thing.
** I just got a bag of very inexpensive sel gris and tried it  worked very well

Sunday, January 25, 2015

cheesecake in a jar with passion fruit sauce

The birthday tradition around here is that the birthday girl or boy can choose whatever they like for their birthday dinner  often a brand-new recipe  and the non-birthday spouse will make it.

This year, the birthday boy chose his menu from Japanese Farm Food: fat little teriyaki hamburgers, Japanese rice, carrot and cilantro salad with citrus, and napa cabbage salad with sesame seeds.

Sure, I said, but what about dessert?

He scratched his head and thought for a while.

Then he remembered the perfectly smooth cheesecake and passion fruit sauce we were served in a fancy glass while we sat out on the patio at Cafe Julia in Honolulu a few years ago.

And thus began the great hunt of January 2015 to find passion fruit in Edmonton.

I called the grocery store.

I asked my friend whose parents are from the Caribbean.

I asked my other friend who is an accomplished dessert maker.

Eventually, a little bird called Twitter tracked the elusive passion fruit down, and I was full-steam ahead to make this little dessert.

I've never made a no-bake cheesecake before  essentially, mix some whipped cream cheese with some whipped cream - and it seemed too easy to be true.

But people: it is divine. Light and smooth with a little tang from the cream cheese, and flecks of vanilla seeds rounding it out.

And then the passion fruit sauce.

It is a thing of wonder. Tart and sweet with a few crunchy seeds, it's the perfect thing to sit atop that cloud of cheesecake. (Not to mention so cute in that little jar.)

The birthday boy was pleased, and I'm pleased to have a new go-to dessert recipe. Actually, it was so good that it almost feels like it was my birthday.

one year ago: tuscan white beans
two years ago: pan de yuca (colombian tapioca buns) and black-eyed peas with kale and bacon
three years ago: tomato sauce with onion and butter and lemon syllabub
four years ago: glorious hummus and rosemary gruyère baked eggs

cheesecake in a jar
slightly adapted from Canadian Living and Charcut
half-fills six jars (leaving you room for sauce or fruit)

1/2 vanilla bean
150 ml. whipping cream
50 g. icing sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
250 ml. (1 c.) cream cheese, at room temperature

Use a small paring knife to slit the vanilla bean lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds using the dull side of the blade.

In a mixing bowl, combine the vanilla seeds, whipping cream, icing sugar and vanilla extract. Beat until soft peaks form, and set aside in the fridge.

In another mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until it's smooth and lightened, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Plop in one-third of the whipped cream and fold it in. Repeat with another third of the whipped cream, and then again with the final third of whipped cream.

Use two teaspoons to carefully spoon the cream cheese mixture into the 6 jars. Cover and put in the fridge until chilled, about 1 hour. Serve with a sauce or fruit tossed with a bit of sugar and liqueur.

passion fruit sauce
adapted from Easy Brazilian Recipes

1 c. passion fruit juice
1/2 c. water
1 c. sugar
2 passion fruit

Heat the water and sugar over medium heat in a non-reactive pot. Once the sugar has dissolved, cook 3 more minutes. Stir in the passion fruit juice and simmer at a good rate. Stir occasionally until the sauce begins to thicken, about 8  12 minutes. If it doesn't seem thicker after 12 minutes, remove from the heat and let cool for about 10 minutes. Stir to check on it. If it's still not thick enough for you, simmer for 5 more minutes. Again, let it cool and decide if you need to do another 5 minutes.

Once the sauce has cooled completely, scoop out the passion fruit seeds and flesh and stir them into the sauce. Put a few teaspoons on each little cheesecake in a jar and serve immediately.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

chipotle & rosemary spiced nuts

I love fancy nuts.

By fancy, I mean nuts that are lightly glazed and roasted. Oh, and that are exciting enough to make me look forward to them as a mid-morning snack.

Spicy cajun almonds and Gramercy Tavern bar nuts have been favourites around here, but after Christmas, I felt like the new year deserved a new nut recipe.

I found this: Ina Garten's chipotle and rosemary spiced nuts. I had a little bag of fresh rosemary in the fridge and so it felt like fate.

I adapted the recipe to suit my nut tastes (and budget) and I feel particularly pleased about the pistachios I added. They are like little gems of concentrated flavour nestled around the bigger cashews and pecans.

On first glance, the recipe looks a bit odd: chipotle, rosemary, orange juice? I know. But trust Ina here. They are a trio I am now very glad to meet.

So here you are  a new nut recipe for the new year. Feel free to adapt it for the nuts you find in your cupboard.

one year ago: tuscan white beans
two years ago: happy things in the new year and carrot and fennel soup
three years ago: glory bowl
four years ago: naomi's granola

chipotle and rosemary spiced nuts
adapted from Ina Garten on The Kitchn

275 g. (2 c.) unroasted cashews
100 g. (1 c.) unroasted pecan halves
200 g. (1 1/2 c.) unroasted almonds
100 g. (2/3 c.) shelled unroasted pistachios
50 g. (3 tbsp.) maple syrup
25 g. (2 tbsp. + 1 tsp.) brown sugar
2 g. (1 tsp.) ground chipotle powder
32 g. (2 tbsp.) freshly-squeezed orange juice
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, minced
18 g. (1 tbsp. + 1 tsp.) neutral oil, such as canola or grapeseed
1 1/4 tsp. Kosher salt (or 3/4 tsp. regular salt)
later: 1 tsp. Kosher salt (or 1/2 tsp. regular salt)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and get out a sheet pan or two regular cookie sheets.

Brush the pan(s) a bit of neutral oil. Get out a very large bowl and mix up the cashews, pecans, almonds, pistachios, maple syrup, brown sugar, chipotle powder, orange juice, rosemary, oil and 1 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt.

Spread the nuts out on the pan(s) as evenly as possible and slide into the oven. Roast for 25  28 minutes, stirring twice, until the nuts look glazed and golden brown. Put the pan(s) on a rack to cool and toss with the other 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt.

Stir sometimes as they cool to help prevent the nuts sticking together  although they will anyway. Don't fret: you can break them up later when you put your precious nuts in an airtight container to store. Keep them at room temperature, all the easier to snack upon.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

we eat well in edmonton

Edmonton is a little big city of about a million way up on the 53rd latitude (north!).

There is a real pride here in what we can grow, including sweet, crunchy carrots and creamy Mozart potatoes for mashing.

But what I love is how many talented chefs we have in this city who dream up rootbeer brisket sandwiches and Grizzly Gouda perogies in white onion cream with bacon and warm dill slaw. And – the list goes on.

I was honoured to be part of CBC's recent round up of the best places to eat in Edmonton, along with Twyla Campbell from Weird Wild and Wonderful and Adrienne Pan, a serious diner and fellow CBC journalist.

Our comprehensive list is here . . . and if you want to see even more of my favourites, remember you can always hop on over to hop & go fetch it.

Hop & go fetch it is a lot bigger than just Edmonton  I've got cities all over Canada, U.S.A., Germany, Greece, Scotland and Japan.

What are your favourite places to eat  wherever you are?

Here's to eating well in the new year!

Monday, December 15, 2014

peppermint lavender balm

I have never made a cosmetic balm before.

When I pull out the double-boiler, it's usually to melt chocolate.

But I kept coming across these recipes for homemade vaporub and I couldn't get over how nice it would be to make a balm where I could pronounce all the ingredients.

After a little research, all I needed was one trip to the health food store to get the ingredients.

I decided on peppermint and lavender essential oils because they are intriguing and I thought they would make an intriguing little balm.

Then I found little travel jars at the drugstore, and set them out as potential vessels.

That's all the prep I needed. I chopped up the remains of a clean white beeswax candle from the farmers' market and fired up the double boiler.

Soon enough, I was melting coconut oil and olive oil, and watching the beeswax melt into translucence before dropping in my essential oils.

And that was that. My very own peppermint lavender balm that took all of ten minutes to brew up.

So far, it's been cool and comforting on a scratchy nose and dry knuckles.

And you know the best part? I made it myself.

one year ago: jane's pecan puffs
two years ago: hot lemon honey tea
three years ago: spiced ginger mounds and cheesy grapes
four years ago: butter lettuce for a break and tipsy rum balls

peppermint lavender balm
slightly adapted from oh lardy

5 tbsp. extra virgin coconut oil
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil*
2 tbsp. beeswax, chopped up
10 drops peppermint essential oil
12 drops lavender essential oil

If you're using a glass jar, sterilize it by washing it, rinsing it and then pouring boiling water into it. Let sit 10 minutes before pouring the water out.

In a double boiler or metal bowl suspended over simmering water, melt the coconut oil and olive oil together. Add the beeswax and stir to melt. Remove from the heat. Stir in the peppermint and lavender oils.

Either pour directly into your prepared jar or use a little spoon to pour into smaller clean plastic or metal containers. Let cool. Use on dry skin or rub on your chest or soles of your feet to help you sleep. Store at room temperature if you'd like it softer.

*Oh Lardy says you can also use another carrier oil, such as evening primrose or sweet almond.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

shortbread peppermint pattie cookies

This cookie is undeniably messy.

You'll just have to get over that.

I mean, let's think about shortbread. The best shortbread has so much butter packed in that it's just waiting to scatter all over your best black sweater. But we deal with that because we love that buttery taste.

So you take that buttery, scattery shortbread and you use it as a sandwich to hold a creamy, dense, chocolate-covered peppermint patty. And what do you get?

One of my very favourite Christmas cookies.

Also: a cookie that must be eaten on a plate.

I remember encountering these at my grandma's house when we were visiting for Christmas. I think I looked at it for quite a while, dumbfounded. I mean, this was a brilliant, brilliant idea. How had I never seen it before?

I made it my business to eat as many as I could. I don't know how Grandma came up with it  maybe it was suggested in a magazine or maybe she thought it up herself. I don't think she used a special shortbread recipe, just her regular, no-nonsense shortbread that also got topped with little bits of maraschino cherries in other forms.

Somehow, I forgot about these cookies for almost 20 years, but this year I ate a chocolate-covered peppermint pattie at work last week and suddenly realized it needed a shortbread sandwich around it.

So I went into my gluten-free kitchen and whipped these up. Don't tell  they look so fancy  but they were very quick to make. Now I also know why Grandma, who was a very practical woman, liked making them.

one year ago: annie's sundried tomatoes
two years ago: potato chip cookies and cheese ball
three years ago: roasted tomato soup and asiago lace and dominosteine and christmas treats
four years ago: walnut slugs and spicy cajun almonds

gluten-free shortbread peppermint pattie cookies
inspired by my grandma, elizabeth mitchell
bakes 13  14 sandwich cookies

note 1: Here's the gluten-free shortbread recipe, but if you don't need to be gluten-free, go with your favourite basic shortbread recipe. Make sure you do the sandwiching while the cookies are still warm, so they slightly melt the peppermint pattie and make it stick.

note 2: I'll try to get you weights soon!

1/2 c. cornstarch
1 c. brown rice flour
1/2 tsp. xanthan or guar gum
1/2 c. icing or confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 c. butter
13  14 small chocolate-covered peppermint patties (I like York)

Prepare a pan with parchment paper or a silicone lining.

Stir the cornstarch, brown rice flour, xanthan gum, icing sugar and salt together to form one flour. Cut the butter into 6 or 8 pieces and drop into the bowl. Blend together until it forms a dough.

Shape into balls that are slightly smaller than 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter. Place on baking sheet at least 1.5 inches apart. Press down with a fork slightly to make a fat pattie. Chill at least 10 minutes.

Bake in 300 degree Fahrenheit oven for about 18  20 minutes, until the edges have just the tiniest hint of colour. Don't overbake.

Leave the cookies on the pan but place the pan on a rack. In about 4  5 minutes, get out a cutting board and carefully put the cookies on it upside-down. (They are in a fragile state right now.) Gently press a peppermint pattie down on one shortbread cookie and gently press another shortbread cookie on top. Place on rack to cool.