Monthly Archives: November 2015

On Baking (& Cooking!) Binges, Plus a Mango-Pear Roll-Up Tart

Flaky and fragrant and nom nom nom!

Flaky and fragrant and nom nom nom!

Do you ever rush home after work and try to run around pulling dinner together? I really can’t be bothered, to be honest. Aside from the fact that I eat yoghurt for dinner, I’m not going to stress about dinner for the DH. I’ll make it the night before! (Or he can make it himself. *grin*) And when I cook, I tend to do more than one dish; I like to spin all the plates at the same time! Turn up all the burners! Use all the mixing bowls! (Not so much do all the dishes, but needs must.) Tonight was one of those nights.

I came home, steamed some broccoli, made some cheese sauce, ate some, packed some cheesy broccoli for lunches tomorrow (having run out of my IBS-friendly lettuce), then went on to the next dish: the Cranberry Pear Roll-Up Tart from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi, that my bake-a-long group is making this week! While that was in process (the dough had to rest), I prepped some vegetables for roasting that I plan on serving tomorrow with (store-bought) veggie meatballs and homemade gravy, and then moved on to making a pizza, which is currently rising on my kitchen island. I thought about making some wine jelly, but decided I should probably call it a night, since I still have to finish making the lunches, do a load of laundry, possibly put together a photobook for a Christmas gift to send overseas, and write up this blog post. And of course, I can’t forget the most important bit…eating the fruits of my foodie labour! *insert nom-ing noises*

The Cranberry-Pear Roll-Up Tart is a strudel by any other name. Ish. Basically, as opposed to a thin and flaky pastry as in a strudel, one uses a pie crust. And in my case, as opposed to cranberries, one uses chopped mangos. And the odd chunk of cantaloupe. Mostly because I didn’t want to go shopping to buy a bag of cranberries, plus I felt the dried cranberries that I always have in my cupboards just didn’t appeal to me. And I had a ripe mango that was looking at me beseechingly. (The cantaloupe I threw in because I thought I wouldn’t have enough filling. I was wrong. So I added the leftover filling to my fruit salad for lunch tomorrow. #wastenot!) Dorie’s recipe calls for raspberry or strawberry jam, plus dried and fresh ginger. Me being me, I swapped out the raspberry jam for wine jelly. Again, partially because I had some lying around, and partially because I didn’t want to go shopping.

Good enough to eat by itself (I confess to snacking as I baked).

Good enough to eat by itself (I confess to snacking as I baked).

So. You make up the pie dough, and shape it into a rectangle; you mix up the filling and let it sit to draw out the juices, which you then discard; and then you spread the filling in the centre of the dough and roll it up like a jelly roll. You end by pinching the seams closed, brushing with an egg wash, and sprinkling with sugar. I used pearl sugar because I don’t have sanding sugar, and again, I didn’t want to go shopping. (Are you sensing a theme here?)

The verdict? Deeeelicious! Although I have to say, the pear-mango fruit mixture was interesting with the ginger. My taste buds were a tad confused. Thanksgiving in the Caribbean is the best flavour description I can come up with. But it worked!

The verdict from the DH?

  “Mmm! Mango strudel! Can I bring it to work tomorrow?”

Which no, he cannot, because…it’s all gone! I packed it into our lunches and we each ate two slices tonight when it was warm out of the oven. Because it’s just so good! I’d definitely make it again. It’s something that would be nice to serve with coffee. Retro 70’s coffee klatsch, anyone?

Yummy, yummy, get in my tummy!

Yummy, yummy, get in my tummy!

Next Post: Maybe the Grind-Your-Own Garam Masala that I’ve been teasing you all with lately. Or…maybe something else! We’ll see what I’m craving later on this week.

 

Healthier-For-You Peanut Butter Cups & Wine Bonbons

Want! Omnomnomnom!

Healthier and chunkalicious!

When I was but a youngster (to differentiate from my advanced years now?!?) I belonged to the Girl Guides of Canada and during one of the meetings, we learned how to make peanut butter cups. It was something like 25 years ago , but what I remember is that it was really easy. Mix icing sugar with peanut butter for the filling and use melted chocolate wafers for the chocolate coating. As for the quantities, well, obviously I wasn’t going to remember them over 25 years later. But also, I’m big on flexibility in the kitchen, so I decided to mix up my own batch recently. (Or maybe not so recently, given that I’ve been posting about posting this recipe since at least this post).

Rambling aside, it really is easy to mix up a batch of your own. Plus, wayyyyy healthier than the (admittedly delicious) store-bought kind, since there are three ingredients and no preservatives. Let’s begin!

Healthier-For-You Peanut Butter Cups

  • X tbsps. of peanut butter (X being the number of peanut butter cups that you want)
  • icing sugar
  • chocolate chips (or molding chocolate wafers. I just used what I had at home at the time of the craving, which was chocolate chips!)

Mix peanut butter and icing sugar to taste. Seriously, I cannot give you an exact amount, because everyone likes a different amount of sweetness. I used chunky peanut butter, but you can use all-natural or already sweetened or hey, why not almond butter! Add enough icing sugar to the peanut butter that it becomes a sort of dough. It has to be able to be rolled into little balls of about a tbsp. each. If you put in too much icing sugar, it will crack, but too little icing sugar and the peanut butter will stick to your hands.

Step 1

Step 1

Roll the peanut butter mixture into little balls, the size of the molds. I happen to have a candy mold that I bought on sale in a craft store, but frankly, you could use the molded plastic that chocolates often come in, when they’re in layers in boxes. Or even a mini muffin tin in a pinch.

Melt chocolate chips or chocolate wafers in a mug in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until fully melted. Paint the inside of the molds, and set the mold in the freezer until the chocolate is set. Push a ball of the peanut butter mixture into every mold. Brush the top with the melted chocolate and return to freezer (technically, a fridge is better, but my cravings have no patience). When set, pop out the peanut butter cups from the molds, and voila! Healthier-for-you peanut butter cups!

Next step

Next step

These are really easy to whip up! I was craving them late one evening, so I started making them. The DH popped his head in to the kitchen and was all it’s-late-what-are-you-doing and I was all ‘I’m making peanut butter cups, obviously! I mean, what else would I do in the kitchen at midnight?’ Circadian rhythms. My cravings do not follow them.

Final step

Final step

I also made up some wine jelly bonbons. These are great for a more adult end to a nice dinner, to serve with coffee! I used some wine jelly that I had lying around the kitchen, possibly from this recipe. You follow the same instructions as above in terms of the chocolate coating, but just use the wine jelly as an alternative to the peanut butter filling. Easy-peasy homemade fancy chocolates! Can we say holiday entertaining? *grin*

Next Post: Maybe a Memories of Meals Past post. I did make some Chicken-Fried Tofu recently that was unbelievably delicious! Or maybe that grind-your-own garam masala that I’ve been teasing you with. Any preferences?

Chocolate-Covered Toffee Breakups aka BEST. CANDY. EVER!

So yum! Make it, eat it, thank me.

So yum! Make it, eat it, thank me.

In case you haven’t noticed through my blog posts yet, I have a bit of a sweet tooth. And by “a bit of a sweet tooth”, I mean I have a hollow leg or three when it comes to sweets. I could eat dinner and be completely full, and still find room for dessert. I mean…it’s dessert! Some people crave savoury things, some people crave sugary things, but I like to eat the savoury things and then follow them up with all the sugary things.

Speaking of delicious, sugary things, this week’s recipe in my on-line bake-a-long, is Dorie Greenspan’s Chocolate-Covered Toffee Breakups, from her Baking Chez Moi cookbook. Basically the recipe makes a sort of toasted almond toffee/brittle, covered in chocolate and more toasted, chopped almonds. And it’s sooooooo good!

There’s a book out there somewhere, called “Salt Sugar Fat”, that talks about how addictive those substances are for the human body. This may explain why I cannot stop eating this candy.  It’s got a cup of butter, and one and a half cups of sugar, plus other ingredients including salt. And it’s sooo omg good! Mass-produced toffee is just not as tasty as these toffee breakups.

Oh sugar! So good, I even licked the spoon.

Oh sugar! So good, I even licked the spoon.

It’s surprisingly easy to make. You melt the butter and add in the sugar and other ingredients and bring to a boil until the candy reaches the hard crack stage. I had to borrow my mum’s candy thermometer as I don’t have one of my own (after tasting this candy, though? I’ve put one on my Christmas wishlist!) and I have to say, you do need one. If I hadn’t had one, I would have pulled the candy off the stove too soon, as I thought it turned awfully brown before it had hit the required temperature.

Once it’s at the hard crack stage, you stir in the toasted almonds and salt, and spread it on a parchment paper covered tray. Let cool, wipe down with a towel to get the excess butter off, and spread melted chocolate over it.

Dorie says to press some more chopped, toasted almonds on top, before flipping it and spreading the rest of the melted chocolate on the other side, but I forgot that part. Oops. So I only have nuts on one side. But that’s ok — now I know which side is up, right? *grin*

Just eat it already!

Just eat it already!

The hardest part of the recipe, aside from waiting for the sugar/butter mixture to reach the necessary temperature, is not eating the whole batch. Seriously. I often halve the recipes in this cookbook as it’s just my husband and I eating the fruits of my foodie labour (although I do sometimes bring them in to both of our workplaces), but this recipe looked so good that I a) did not halve the recipe and b) do not plan to give anyone anything. Except the DH. Because he’s cute. He popped his head into the kitchen as I was licking the toffee-covered wooden spoon (what? I couldn’t let it go to waste!) and when he realized the candy wasn’t ready, he fake moped off to bed. It’s like I always say: the midnight baker gets the spoils! Or in this case, the majority of the candy!

My version next to Dorie's version. Twinsies! #soproud

My version next to Dorie’s version. Twinsies! #soproud

Next Post: More candy! This time I really, really, REALLY will post my homemade peanut butter cup recipe. And the wine bonbons. I tried doing a mashup of the two and hello! Needless to say, they’re all gone.

Foodie Book Review: Some Reflections on Rice, plus Jennifer Klinec’s “The Temporary Bride”

This is the only rice that I have in my cupboards, and it's been there forever and a day. Why? Because...gird yourselves...I don't like rice.

This is the only rice that I have in my cupboards, and it’s been there forever and a day. Why? Because…gird yourselves…I don’t like rice.

Today’s post is a leeeetle bit of a departure from the usual, but it’s about a book about food…so close enough, says I! The book? Jennifer Klinec’s “The Temporary Bride: A Memoir of Food and Love in Iran”.

Let me start off by saying that I don’t like rice. Never have, not even as a child. To me, rice is just unappealing. I do like a few bites of steamed sticky rice, and rice is sushi is a-ok, but otherwise…blech.

So for me to say that after reading this book, I wanted to go out and eat some rice…well, that says a lot about the power of the book.  But not just any rice! No, just the Iranian rice, the rich, buttery, crunchy, golden rice crust at the bottom of a dish of Iranian-style rice. This is not just any rice, and after reading Jennifer’s description of this rice, I really want to eat some

The Temporary Bride is the first book from this author, and I have to say, I was pretty impressed with the writing. Want to know more about the book? Here’s my version of a synopsis:

Growing up as the daughter of hard-working Canadian immigrant parents who ran a successful but demanding business, Jennifer was very independent from a young age. Studying in Europe as a teenager, she taught herself how to cook, and never looked back. After working in the banking industry in England for several years, she quit the corporate life to start her own cooking school. While successful, this was a big departure from the sort of work (and lifestyle) she previously had. (Btw, the pomegranate martinis she talks about? I want one. Now, please.)

Wanting to learn new cooking techniques, Jennifer travels to Iran, where she meets up with Vahid, a young Iranian, whose mother teaches her how to cook traditional Iranian dishes. Over the course of the weeks that she visits with his family, she and Vahid learn about each others cultures, and a slow-burning but strong flame sparks between them. Jennifer extends her stay in Iran, and Vahid joins her, and they sneak stolen moments together, trying to hide from the censorious eye of the government.

But how to be in love and express it? This is where an old custom/law comes into play: the temporary bridal contract. I first heard about it years ago, as a way for people to have sex within the religious and cultural laws of traditional Islamic countries. Of course, I read about it in a feminist context, which saw it as a way for men to have sanctioned sex, while the women were seen as blemished for not being a virgin if they then got married, permanently, later. Or, you know, if anyone ever heard about it. The way I learned about it, it was almost sanctioned prostitution, with concomitant social judgements. Like I said, I first learned about it in a feminist context.

So it was interesting to see how Jennifer and Vahid, two modern people from such different cultures, used this old custom/law/what-have-you, and made it work for them. I don’t want to spoil the book for you, but I will say that it was not what I expected, and it was interesting to see how their relationship started and grew.

That said, can I talk about the food? Oh, the FOOD! Jennifer writes about food in a such a way that you not only know that she loooooves food and loves everything about it, but you really want to eat the dish that she’s making, right now, because OMG it sounds sooo gooood!

Like that rice dish. I mean, really. Me, wanting to eat rice? That’s some powerful foodie writing, right there!

My recommendation? Five whisks up! Read this book and enjoy the descriptions of the food. Ah, food — glorious food!

Next Post: More glorious food! Homemade peanut butter cups and wine jelly bonbons? Or Grind-Your-Own Garam Masala? Subscribe and find out!