Sunday, December 26, 2010

Mandarin Champagne Jelly

Christmas has come and gone once again. So much preparation, planning, shopping, baking, cooking, wrapping, and in one glorious, food-filled day, it's over. This year I had bronchitis to tend with while I celebrated, luckily my antibiotics kicked in just in time to allow me to enjoy the day. My Christmas was filled with delicious food from morning until late at night, family and friends and some lovely gifts, given and received. But this post, of course, is all about the food.

Usually, I plan more elaborate and rich Christmas desserts like cheesecakes, tortes and ice creams, but this year I wanted something a little more refreshing, and seeing as my brother and A were coming to our place for not only their second dinner of the night but their fifth meal of the day (!), I didn't want to make their last bite of the night painful. I had been watching Jamie's Christmas shows over the past few weeks, and one of his desserts appealed to me more than the others, Clementine Jelly. The only thing is, I'm not a huge fan of gelatine. I'm not going to go vegan on you, don't worry, and I'm not sworn off gelatine entirely, it has it's place, I just have a hard time getting past that very wet-dog/barnyard-y smell it releases when it's soaking. I've been wanting to try cooking with agar agar for a while anyways, so I thought I'd take Jamie's idea and make it my own. I also liked the thought of incorporating some champagne, to make it feel a little more grown up and festive and hopefully a bit bubbly. The result? A light, refreshing, delicious, and mildly bubbly, post-feast treat.

Mandarin Champagne Jelly

3 cups mandarin orange juice, freshly squeezed (I didn't count, but it was about half a box of Chinese mandarins)
1 cup champagne (Ok, I used sparkling wine)
2 tsp agar agar powder
pomegranate seeds for serving

Put the juice (and pulp) into a saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle the agar agar over top and whisk in. Bring to a gentle simmer, whisking, for about 5 minutes, until the agar agar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes while you decide what glasses you want to serve the jelly in. Pour the champagne over the warm mandarin juice and give a gentle whisk. Pour into glasses, (you can strain it into the glasses if you like. I only did this for one person, not naming names) cover and pop into the fridge to set for about an hour, they don't take long to set. I made mine the day before and they were perfect and made my life much easier on Christmas day! Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds before serving. Serves 6-8 depending on the size of your glasses.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Marmalade (the dorky jam)

I once overheard a conversation in a shoe store between two people about my age that went something like this: "Marmalade is gross", "Yeah, it's like something my Grandma eats", "I don't even know why they still make it, nobody really likes it, except Grandmas". I restrained myself from jumping in and explaining to them the virtues of marmalade, it's citrusy sweetness and versatility. But that might have made me look crazy.

Marmalade is kind of like a dorky kid in high school that nobody likes, but that ends up being cool and successful later on. I put it in the same category as raisins, prunes and pickled onions. I feel the need to stick up for these underloved but delicious ingredients. Raisins, in particular, get a lot of flack. I get the slime factor, when they sit inside cinnamon buns and just get wet and ruin the whole experience. But when they are the star of the show, like in a really well basted and aged fruitcake, they become delicious and complex, with notes of caramel and molasses. But standing up for raisins is for another post. Today I'm working on converting marmalade haters, and I know this cake will do the trick! This one's for my shoe buying peers, and their Grandmas.

Citrus Yogurt Cake

I have adapted this cake from a recipe I found in Cooking Light a few years ago. I've made it many times and everyone always loves it, even marmalade haters (my husband included).

2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Sift dry ingredients together in a medium bowl.

1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 egg white
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1/3 cup olive oil (or you could use canola oil)

Whisk these ingredients together in a large bowl.

zest of one orange and one lemon
1 cup freshly squeezed orange and lemon juice (I usually squeeze one orange and one lemon and make up to the cup mark with water)
1 tbsp orange flower water

Add juice and zest to the wet ingredients. Then add the wet into the dry and give it a whisk to combine, stopping when the ingredients are just about combined. Finish mixing gently with a spatula. Pour into a greased and floured 8 inch round baking pan (I line the bottom of mine with a circle of parchment paper just to be on the safe side) and bake for about 50-60 minutes. Check at the 50 minute mark. A toothpick should come out clean and it will be lightly golden on top. Remove from oven and cool about 10 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack.
While the cake is cooling, get on with the glaze.


1/3 cup marmalade
2 tbsp Grand Marnier

Place the marmalade and liqueur in a small saucepan and warm on medium heat until it just starts bubbling, remove from heat. Put the warm, but not hot, cake onto the serving dish and poke it with a toothpick to create lots of little holes. Pour the glaze over the top. Allow the cake to cool to room temperature before serving.

To make the cake ahead of time, bake the cake, cool completely, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze. Remove from freezer and thaw for a few hours, make the glaze and pour over top before serving.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

November is a month that I come into with a certain amount of dread. I'm not a cold weather person and the first month that has the real potential to feel like winter just doesn't appeal to me. But every year, I'm reminded that there can be nice days in this transitional month. There are not many leaves left, but there are a few hangers-on, there is the odd day that the mercury creeps tentatively up to 13 or 14C, and have I mentioned my love of scarves? So November is not all bad. It is also a great cooking month. There are still pumpkins and squash around, and I just ate my last garden tomato this week (with a tear in my eye). I pulled all my swiss chard and multicolored carrots the other day, before the big frost, as well as what was left of my parsley, chives and mint. So there has been a last bowl of my favourite summer dish, taboulleh, in my fridge this week and parsley on everything. Now I must move forward into this inevitable season of cold whiteness and enjoy the flavours it brings.

My last post was all about pumpkins, and I do love them so! On Halloween as I was carving a funny face into a big pumpkin, I decided to make roasted pumpkin seeds, and since JS doesn't like them, I made them spicy. They are so easy to make, and are delicious and really healthy too! Here's what I did....

Spicy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

2 cups pumpkin seeds (washed and dried)
2 tbsp olive oil
good sprinkling of Maldon salt and black pepper
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp piment d'espelette
1/2 tsp ground ginger

Toss the pumpkin seeds in a bowl with the oil, salt and pepper and spices. Spread onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place in a 350C oven for about 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temp to 250C and continue baking, stirring occasionally for about 45 minutes or until they look toasty, dry and golden. These are best when they are warm from the oven, but you can keep them in an airtight jar for about a week.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ten things to do with pumpkins

There's something about October and pumpkins. The very word October conjures images of the big, orange squash. They are so versatile, healthy and delicious. October is such a crisp, cool and crunchy month outside and that has me yearning for warm bowls of smooth pumpkin soup; toasty, golden, salted pumpkin seeds; cinnamon and clove spiced cakes baking in my oven and creamy pumpkin risotto on the stove. Forget about carving scary faces in your pumpkin, put it in the oven instead!

Here is my top ten list of things I've been making with pumpkins these last few weeks:
1. Roasted pumpkin and goat cheese salad (pictured above)
2. Glazed pumpkin cookies (recipe below)
3. Spiced pumpkin whisky ice cream (pictured above, I made this for Thanksgiving and it was delish!)
4. Pumpkin risotto
5. Creamy pumpkin soup
6. Pumpkin and feta quiche
7. Pumpkin pecan loaf
8. Pumpkin spiced breakfast oatmeal (To die for!)
9. Toasted pumpkin seeds
10. Pumpkin spice squares

I'm not going to give you ten recipes, but here is the recipe for the Glazed Pumpkin Cookies that I got from the new Canadian House and Home. They are so amazing, you have to try them!

Glazed Pumpkin Cookies
adapted from Canadian House and Home, November 2010

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup softened butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups cooked, mashed pumpkin
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F.

Whisk flour with spices and salt. In the bowl of a mixer, beat butter with sugar. Add egg, pumpkin and vanilla. Slowly add flour mixture into butter mixture until just blended. Drop with a tablespoon onto parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for 13 minutes, they should look like they are just cooked in the middle, but not over baked. Cool on a wire rack.

1 cup icing sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup almond milk (or regular milk)

Whisk together in a small bowl adding more almond milk or icing sugar to get the consistency you need. When the cookies are cool, dip the tops in the glaze and put them back onto the rack to drip and dry. Makes about 3-4 dozen cookies depending on how big you make them. I got 3 1/2 dozen. If you're serving these to friends, make sure you keep a stash in your freezer because they will be gone and when your friends go home you will wish you had just one more to get you through the dishes and clean-up (not that I'm speaking from experience or anything)!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Healthy Granola Cookies

I'm always on the quest to make cookies that are a little healthier. I'm not saying that cookies full of butter and sugar and chocolate shouldn't be enjoyed, but I prefer to leave those cookies to special occasions and holidays (especially Christmas, when a few extra pounds are expected). On an average day, when I want cookies, I want to feel just a little bit virtuous about it.

The other reason I've been thinking about trying out some healthier cookie recipes is because my Dad is a cookie addict. I know people who like cookies, but my Dad's love for the little round discs of buttery goodness goes beyond almost any love for a food item I've ever seen. My Mom has spent 41 years of marriage trying to keep up with his demand for a full cookie jar. When she makes cookies, it's like a factory in the kitchen, there are jars and tins slowly being filled and racks and trays covering every surface. She has "healthified" her cookies over the years, but one of the ways she does that is by using soft margarine. I'm not a proponent of chemically produced "healthy" fat. I've been trying to get her to switch to butter for years, but to no avail. Their Doctor told them that margarine is good for the heart, so it stays. But these cookies use canola oil, and a small amount of it, which in my opinion is much better for the heart, but I'm no Doctor.

I came up with these cookies this morning, and they are my rough draft, but I must say, they turned out so well, I don't think they need any editing. You can definitely play with them to make them your own by putting different nuts and seeds in them, or by using a different type of granola.

My Healthy Granola Cookies - Rough Draft

I use my homemade granola ( for these, which has gone through quite a number of drafts itself, and is now the best it's ever been. I will post the newest version soon. The one I made yesterday has almonds, hazelnuts, dried apricots, dates and golden raisins in it, but you can really use any granola you like.

Preheat the oven to 350C.

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (I think spelt flour would also work great here)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup ground flax

Whisk together in a large bowl. Add:

2 cups granola
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1/3 cup shredded coconut
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds

In another bowl, whisk together:

1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
3 egg whites

Pour this over the dry ingredients and stir in with a spatula until everything is combined. Spoon onto a parchment lined cookie sheet (they should be about the size of a ping pong ball), and make sure you space them apart so they have room to spread. Bake for about 12 minutes or until they are golden brown around the edges and the centres don't look pale and doughy anymore.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Scarves, socks and Sunday night soup

I'm not a fall person. I love the barefoot, carefreeness of summertime. I love the sticky, sleepless nights, the hot, humid afternoons. I love sitting by the lake, going to the beach, swimming in cool water and heating up afterwards with the hot, summer sunshine. But, inevitably, fall makes it's appearance. It's not that I can't appreciate the beauty of fall, it's the imminence of winter that I can't get past.

Something I can embrace about fall though, is the food. I love warm bowls of soup after many months of crisp salads, bread baking in the oven, spicy cakes made with apples and pumpkin (there is one in my oven as I type this).

I will also admit that I love wrapping a cozy scarf around my neck and wooly socks on my feet and going for long walks, watching the leaves changing colours and crunching beneath my feet. The sun seems to cast a more golden light and every day when I get up I'm happy for any plant in my garden that has survived a night a little cooler than the last. It's always exciting to see which ones hold out the longest until they get covered up with their white blanket of snow to have a long nap until spring.

So I guess I'm coming around to fall. And a warm bowl of soup sure makes it easier to embrace.

Sunday Night Soupe Maison

This recipe is so easy I struggle to give you an exact recipe, so I will just give suggestions. It is pretty much impossible to screw up, and it will always taste good. My Mother-in-law is the master of this soup, and when I make it, JS is in heaven. He could eat just this soup all the time and be happy. His Mom used to make it for him every Sunday night. When I made it the other day, the only veggies I had to hand were potatoes, onions, carrots and some swiss chard in my garden. It was delicious! You can also add celery, garlic, turnip or any vegetables you like.

3 medium red potatoes
2 small or one large onion
5 medium carrots
1 zucchini
A few Tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp dried herbs (I use herbes de provence, but any mixture of thyme, oregano, sage and/or rosemary will do)
Salt and pepper to taste
A few large leaves of swiss chard, spinach, kale or other leafy greens

Roughly chop the vegetables into fairly large chunks. Tumble them into a large soup pot with the olive oil and herbs and turn the heat to medium. Toss them around for a few minutes to heat and release some of their aroma.

When they are beginning to soften, but not brown, pour water in to cover them. Add a little bit of salt and pepper, stir and bring to the boil. Once it's boiling, reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes.

At this point, the vegetables should be cooked. If you stick a fork into a carrot and it's soft, that's perfect.

Add your chard leaves and let them wilt for a few minutes.

Puree right in the pot with an immersion blender, or you can use a blender or food mill (if you want to be really traditional). Add more water if it is too thick. Taste and correct seasonings. Serve in a big bowl with some chopped fresh herbs, a grating of parmesan cheese and some good, crusty, whole grain bread. Eat and feel happy about the changing seasons.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Back to blog

Well, I have been on hiatus. I don't really have any great excuse except that I got married in July and leading up to that took a great deal of planning, plus we had 8 house guests for the entire month of July which actually took more planning than the wedding itself.

But with the start of the school year just around the corner, I always feel inspired to start something new (or in this case, re-start something old). I also get this funny urge to buy nice new fall clothes, but that's for another blog.

This time of year is bittersweet for me. It's still summer, and I am constantly reminding myself of that, but everyone is acting like fall is already here and that means that winter is around the corner (ugh!). But the sweet part is that in reality, we still have several weeks of summery weather, cooler nights that just beg for another blanket and someone to snuggle with (lucky me, I have two!), and a bounty of beautiful summer vegetables from the garden and the farmers markets! This is, without a doubt, my favourite time of year to cook.

Today was warm and muggy and I wanted a healthy lunch made with garden vegetables. My friend Steph called last night from the west coast to say that what she was making for dinner (couscous with chickpeas and olives) made her think of me. I wish I could have shared it with her. Instead, I made a lovely bulgur salad full of fresh herbs and tomatoes from my dear friend Dave (mine are still green on the vines!?!). It fit the bill for a late summer, Sunday lunch for one.

Summer bulgur salad

1 cup bulgur wheat
2 cups water
1 tsp salt

Bring water and salt to the boil in a medium pot, add bulgur, stir and cover. Turn off the heat. Let the bulgur absorb all the water for about 20 minutes while you prep the vegetables.

a good handful of garden herbs, finely chopped (I used parsley, chives, basil and mint)
a few tomatoes, diced (I had a really lovely variety of heirlooms, you can use any fresh tomatoes)
half a cucumber, diced (I used a really lovely Armenian variety that I planted this year, it is so delicious and crisp, without a trace of bitterness, plus, the seeds are tiny!)
juice of one lemon
a few glugs of olive oil

When the bulgur is cooked, spoon it into a large dish and let it cool a little bit. Add the vegetables and herbs, squeeze the lemon over (catching the seeds between your fingers) and drizzle with olive oil. Taste and see if it needs a little salt or more lemon or oil, and add as needed, tasting along the way. This dish is so flexible and easy. You could add pine nuts, olives, capers, feta, any other vegetables you like. And it keeps well for several days in the fridge and makes a perfect lunch to go. Eat outdoors with a cold glass of rose and a good book!

Monday, February 15, 2010

The sweet side of the avocado

For a while I've been meaning to experiment with avocados used in sweet things, but every time I buy avocados and they are sitting, perfectly ripe on my counter, all I can think about is a squeeze of lime, Maldon salt and a drizzle of the basil infused oil I brought back from France. Needless to say, until today, I hadn't gotten around to all my sweet avocado ideas!

My first idea came to me a while ago when I began making matcha lattes with almond milk, which I keep a stash of in my pantry. I love the slightly sweet, slightly almondy, creamy smoothness of almond milk to tone down the grassiness of matcha. I love starting the day with matcha, but sometimes the intensity and the greenness is a little much for me first thing in the morning. Matcha is super healthy and contains lots of antioxidants, the reason why it's better for you than regular green tea is due to the fact that you consume the whole leaf when you drink it rather than just the infusion of the leaves. Anyways, it occurred to me to combine avocado with matcha in a morning smoothie, to play on the green colour, but I wanted something with a little more flavour. Banana came to mind, as it has the power to make any smoothie sweet enough and gives great body and texture when pureed.

So this morning was test time. I decided to try frozen banana, avocado, almond milk and matcha. It worked! It was so creamy, cool and sweet, without being cloying and it felt just right for a morning pick me up. Plus, isn't everything green cool right now?

Green Sunrise Smoothie

1/2 an avocado (rub the other half with lemon, wrap tightly and save to throw in a salad later)
1 frozen banana (I freeze mine, peeled, in ziplock bags when they start to get brown and spotty)
about 1/2 cup of almond milk
1 tsp honey
1/2-1 tsp matcha powder (if you've never tried matcha, use a small amount to start, it has a pretty intensely green and slightly bitter taste)

Whizz everything in the blender and pour into a glass. Drink immediately, before it has the chance to turn a not so appealing khaki colour. Feel great about starting your day in such a healthy way. Serves 1.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mon pain a moi

The bread baking has been continuing here. I've been really excited about the pain au levain, which I've played with a little bit to make it my own. It's a very dense loaf, maybe because my starter is not quite mature enough, but it has a crispy, hard, caramelized crust that I love and a chewy interior.

Clotilde of Chocolate and Zucchini has a great recipe that I have mostly followed, but changed a few things.
I have just slightly adapted this method.

Rustic Pain au Levain

The night before you want to bake:
Feed your starter, scoop out 1/2 cup starter and put in a clean glass bowl, stir in 1/2 cup plain flour and 1/4 cup filtered water. Remember to stir with a wooden spoon. Cover and let sit overnight.
If you don't have a starter, have a look at Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Bread Bible. There are fairly clear instructions on starting your own from scratch.

The next morning:
In a stand mixer with the paddle or dough hook, mix together:
600g flour (I use 300g whole wheat, 100g rye, 100g spelt and 100g white, all organic)
400g pure water
200g starter
1 Tbsp gluten flour

Mix until a rough dough is formed. This dough will be very sticky. Cover the bowl and let sit for about 30 minutes.

Add 2 tsp sea salt and allow the mixer to mix the salt in. Then transfer the dough to a floured countertop and knead by hand until the dough is less sticky. This might take about 10 minutes. Put dough into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set in a warm, draft free area and allow to rise. After about an hour, fold the dough over, cover it up and allow it to continue it's slow rise. The bread should just about double in size after about 8 hours.

Oil and flour a cast iron or glass pot with a lid that is safe for the oven. Place the dough in the pot, make a few slits in the top and sprinkle with flour. Put the lid on and place the pot in the oven. Turn the oven on to 450F and set the timer for 1 hour. At that point, take the bread out and check it. Mine is usually not baked yet, so I uncover it and place it back in the oven for at least 15 and up to 25 minutes. If you stick a knife in the middle of the loaf it should come out pretty clean. This extra, uncovered time in the oven will allow for deeper caramelization of the crust. When the bread is baked, take out of the oven and carefully (don't burn yourself!) remove from the pot onto a wire rack. You really should wait for this bread to be cool before you cut into it, otherwise the middle can be gummy.

Enjoy and revel in the fact that you made a loaf of bread that is so rustic and beautiful! It is amazing what flour, water and salt can make when we treat them right.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Brioche and Pain au Levain

Today was a successful day on the bread front. In between clients, I kneaded and turned and gently set my doughs in bowls to rise. I peeked in on them, deflated them when they needed and finally tonight baked them, separately, each waiting their turn, in a hot oven until they were both golden and puffed. They are possibly the two most different types of bread, so let me start with the brioche, which I promised I would tell you about today.

I used Rose Levy Beranbaum's Basic Brioche recipe. It required lots of steps and seemed a bit daunting, like many of her recipes I must admit. But when I broke it down and actually looked at the steps, I realized it wasn't that difficult.

The soft, golden yellow dough that I had set in the fridge last night puffed until the plastic wrap around it was really tight. When I looked at it this morning it reminded me of a chubby woman squeezed into a mini skirt. All I had to do today was fold it and leave it to rise. I decided to make it in a big loaf pan with white sugar crystals on top, my favourite topping for brioche. Then it baked for about an hour and voila! A real brioche made in my own kitchen. I tried to be patient, but patience is not a great quality of mine, so I sliced it carefully while still a bit warm and spread it with apricot jam from last summer. It was lovely, mildly sweet, golden from the free range eggs, rich from the butter and with a softness that I was surprised and delighted by. All in all, the brioche was a winner.

Now for my pain au levain. I was skeptical about the life of my starter. I again used Rose's recipe for starter and I realized after about a week or two that I had been stirring it with a metal spoon. Apparently that is a big no no, but in all my reading about starters, I couldn't figure out why. Some people claim that metal is warm and will kill the bacteria, others say that metal contaminates starter. I wasn't sure. So I kept dumping out a little each day and feeding it with flour and pure water. It was smelling like a starter, acidic, maybe even a little cheesy. It was bubbling a little bit, like a good starter should. It was a nice even colour, with no streaks. I decided to name it (as both Rose and Clotilde did) and came up with Yuki. So I set out to try Clotilde's recipe for Pain au Levain using my very own Yuki. Basically I used 600g flour (red fife, whole wheat and white), 400 g water, 200 g yuki, 1 tbsp wheat gluten and 2 tsp sea salt. This got mixed, rested, kneaded and rose all day. The baked in my beloved red cocotte. It didn't give away how lovely it was going to taste with much of a smell wafting from the oven the way the golden brioche did. I tried to wait patiently by distracting myself with the end of a captivating book, but I was dying to see what was going on inside the lidded cocotte. Finally an hour passed and I opened it up, only to find it a little bit pale and not as high as I hoped. So I took the lid off and popped it back in to get a bit more colour and hoped for the best. I still wasn't sure that the starter had done it's job very well. So with a bit more patience I waited for the miche to cool and then, finally, cut into it. Well, let me tell you, I needn't have worried. If I dare say this, it was almost as delicious as my favourite bread, Pain Poilane! It had a lovely, chewy, compact interior, a hard, carmelized crust and that nice, mildly acidic tang that a starter lends to bread. I can't believe that I was able to create such a nice bread in my own kitchen!

Sunday, January 24, 2010


I decided to try my hand at a real brioche. Plain and simple. A rich dough full of butter and eggs, baked until golden and eaten just a little bit warm from the oven. It started last night when I got the sponge together and put in the fridge. this morning all I had to do was mix the dry ingredients together and cover the sponge and let it sit for a few hours. Then I mixed them together in my mixer and added the cold eggs then the soft butter bit by bit. That gave me the most beautifully sticky and soft golden coloured dough, which spent a couple of hours rising and is now resting in the fridge. It got deflated once, went back into the fridge and will get folded tonight before spending a chilly night in the fridge. Tomorrow it will rise once more before being baked and then enjoyed with some good butter and apricot jam. I can hardly wait!

I will post a photo tomorrow to let you know how it turns out....

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Grapefruit Avocado and Feta Salad

The weather is tricking us into thinking spring is on the way, which I guess it is, but truthfully not for another 10 weeks. Snow is melting off rooftops and the streets are mucky and brown. I felt like having something bursting with flavour for lunch today. Something light, fruity and healthy. I had a few ripe avocados, tons of citrus fruit in the fridge and some feta cheese, so there was my lunch. It was just what I wanted, the silkiness of the avocado and the burst of pink grapefruit with some salty feta and a drizzle of sharp lime juice and basil infused oil. Perfection! I think some good black Kalamata olives tossed into the mix and a few fresh basil leaves might have taken this to the next level, but I thought of the olives after the fact and I had no fresh basil. I ate it with my homemade olive bread from last night's dinner (which is possibly better the second day) and sauteed tofu and spinach. I hesitate to give you a recipe for this, as quantities should vary according to your taste, but here's what I put in mine.

Grapefruit Avocado and Feta Salad

1 pink grapefruit
1 avocado
feta cheese (as much or as little as you like)
juice of half a lime
basil infused olive oil for drizzling
Maldon sea salt

Segment the grapefruit and remove the membrane and pith. Cut each segment into two or three pieces. Cut the avocado into small cubes. Cut the feta cheese into small cubes. Toss or arrange on a plate. Squeeze a fresh lime over top and drizzle with the oil. Sprinkle with Maldon sea salt. Eat!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Honey Cakes

Thursday night is girls night, and with two about to have babies, we may not have many Thursday night get togethers for a while. So while we still can, I want to make some pretty, delicious and healthy homemade treats to share.

Today as I thought about what to make for tonight, I decided I wanted to use some mini bundt pans that I got last Christmas from my Mom and that still had the labels on. I found a recipe for little bundt type cakes and completely changed it to suit my taste and what I had on hand. They turned out delicious! With a dark, almost crunchy exterior and a moist, honey scented crumb.

I am making an apple compote with a touch of cinnamon and honey to go along with them and, as always, we will have a pot of honeybush tea to share as we nibble.

Honey Cakes

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour 12 mini bundt pans, or use non-stick ones. Alternatively you can use a muffin pan.

1/3 cup canola oil
2 eggs
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup dark runny honey
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla

Whisk together in a large mixing bowl until smooth.

1/3 cup hazelnut flour
1/3 cup red fife flour (or whole wheat flour)
1/3 cup white flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
pinch vanilla bean powder (optional)

Whisk together to blend. Add to wet ingredients and stir with a spatula just until incorporated.
Pour into prepared tins and bake for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire rack and cool. Serve with home made apple compote or plain.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Pain Quotidien

For Christmas, JS always knows that cookbooks are my favourite gift! This year he got me two that I had on my list. One of them is Rose Levy Berenbaum's The Bread Bible. I decided that as one of my New Year's resolutions, I would start baking bread. Not the same old bread that never has a great crust and is just kind of bland, but real, crusty, artisanal breads with a more complex sourdough taste and a chewy crumb.

Bread baking seems like such a basic and old fashioned skill that few people today really have. The process of creating something so wholesome and belly filling with 4 ingredients, flour, salt, yeast and water, is pure alchemy. People today are so worried about eating too many carbs, but I feel strongly that bread is the pillar of any meal. We should all be eating bread, not the horrible, white, spongy loaves that sit on the shelf for weeks, but real, homemade loaves that fill the house with an unbelievable smell. So onwards with my new years resolution, and my mission to fill my house with the aroma of yeast and flour baking in my oven.

I started with the recipe for Hearth Bread. I was a little sceptical because she always uses instant yeast (I buy my yeast in the bakery of my supermarket in a large brick. It's the moist, pressed kind of yeast and it's what they use in France so I assumed it was the good stuff). This bread started with making a sponge, which I had never made before. It's basically a dough made with flour, water and a tiny smidgen of yeast and left to sit for the day. Then you mix the sponge into the dough when you're making the bread. I followed her recipe step by step (a feat for me, who likes to improvise and adjust) and the bread came out beautifully! It had a crisp crust and a moist, chewy crumb. The only step I ignored was at the end when Rose advises to leave the bread to cool on the rack before eating. I think we ate about 3/4 of the loaf before it was even warm!

Next I made a ciabatta bread, which started with a biga, similar to the sponge I made for the hearth bread. It also turned out lovely. It had a nice crust and a chewy interior with lots of little air pockets.

Yesterday I made her Flax loaf, which is a straight dough bread, no starter, sponge or biga required. It may have been the biggest success yet! It had a nice, wholesome flax flavour and a soft and chewy crumb. Best of all it was the fastest bread I've made so far in terms of rising time, which means I can think about it at 3 pm and still have fresh bread for dinner! We enjoyed some last night with cultured butter sprinkled with Maldon salt alongside sweet potato and vegetable soup. Yum!

I also tried her pizza dough which was a success. It doesn't require much kneading, which produces a softer crust and was very much enjoyed by the crowd at JS's birthday dinner on Sunday night.

My other project is the sourdough starter that I started from scratch. It has taken longer then indicated and required a lot of love and persistence, but it looks almost ready to bake with. I can't wait to see how my first loaf turns out! I have been advised to name my starter, maybe because it is a living organism that requires daily care (it eats flour and bottled water for dinner every night), but I've had a hard time coming up with one seeing as it doesn't really look like your typical pet. It's a jar full of bubbling, acidic smelling goo. Gooey, Bloop, Yuki? Any suggestions? I'm kind of liking the sound of Yuki....

As you can see, so far so good on the bread baking front. I have been successful with each loaf, although there is always room for improvement. I would like to get a pizza stone to bake the bread directly on, as Rose recommends in many of her recipes. I also want to try my hand at baguettes, but maybe after I feel a bit more confident as I think they are one of the more difficult breads to master. In the meantime I will tend to Yuki, maybe try a loaf using some of her this weekend and enjoy the delicious smells wafting about my house during the cold, dark days of this new year.